*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideDirtRacing.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the dirt racing topics of the day from east Tennessee and beyond.
The latest edition of the Turn 2 Blog is presented by the American Crate All-Star Series.
The second half of the season and the heat of summer are here. What should we looking forward to?
Richard: This is the time of year in which the pretenders are separated from the contenders whether it be on the national, regional or local level. Anyone who is going to contend for a touring series title or a track championship must be ready to overcome some adversity amid tough conditions.
It is this time of the season in which equipment will be pushed to the breaking point after already having been used for half of a season. Keeping everything fresh and up-to-date is probably more important now than at anytime during the racing campaign. And that’s not just on the car itself as the transporters and the tools will also be under their greatest stress to date.
Perhaps most of all, the people involved, whether it be drivers or crew members, will be pushed to the limit as they look to perform at their best and maintain their equipment during the oppressive heat that is gripping much of the country right now.
No one has ever said that racing is easy and this portion of the year confirms that for almost everyone involved.
Michael: This is the time of the year we see some grueling scheduling that will test man and machine. We’re in the middle of the Summernationals tour. They have a little under two weeks to go. Then starting with last weekend’s racing at Muskingum County and at Portsmouth, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series has 14 races scheduled over a 3-week period. And that doesn’t count those who will go to Fairbury for the Prairie Dirt Classic and/or the USA Nationals at Cedar Lake.
Frankly, I don’t see how the people on the race teams do this type of traveling at any time, let alone in the summer months with scorching temperatures. Even remembering back to when I was in my 20’s it is something I probably couldn’t have done back then. It takes a special breed to take on these challenges.
Has the talk of tire shortages dissipated some recently?
Richard: Maybe I just wasn’t in the right circles but I attended two separate racing events this past weekend(Boyd’s Speedway & Tazewell Speedway) and did not hear anyone bring up the topic of tire shortages. After having heard about this subject since last year, it was refreshing to not be reminded of it, at least for one weekend.
Again, it might have been simply because I wasn’t talking to the right people but it’s a subject that wasn’t on my radar at either place. As I have said all along, the real impact, if there is more impact to be felt, will be at the lower levels. The series and the manufacturers will make sure that the bigger events go off unimpeded with as little disturbance possible. Those at the weekly racing level may not have those same assurances.
This is not to say that we are out of the proverbial woods as the shortage of tires did not just magically go away. But at least the conversation about it seems to be lessening.
Michael: The tire shortage is still out there. I think most people have accepted that’s the current reality and are managing the best they can.
Regional series are trying to help by allowing other compounds and other manufacturers to offset the shortages. This is a good move. The national series haven’t done this and I don’t think they will. As you say, those drivers find a way to get theirs.
Will anyone unseat Brandon Sheppard or Dennis Erb Jr. from their perches atop the two Dirt Late Model national tours?
Richard: The Lucas Oil late Model Dirt Series points battle is far from over as Brandon Sheppard holds only a 55 point advantage over Tim McCreadie with still much more of the season remaining. And it would not be entirely inconceivable that another driver such as Ricky Thornton Jr. or Tyler Erb could play a role. The series lead could change very quickly and multiple times before the season reaches its end at the Dirt Track World Championship and I expect the issue to still be in doubt at the time of that finale.
As we discussed earlier, this time of the year will separate the pretenders from the contenders, but both Sheppard and McCreadie have demonstrated that they know how to win championships. And more, they have great teams who consistently produce competitive cars week after week. This battle is going to be fun to watch play out.
On the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series side, Dennis Erb Jr. holds a slightly more comfortable lead of 148 points over Max Blair and 170 over Tanner English. The really interesting thing about this battle is that none of these drivers has ever won a national touring series title. However, Erb has a decided advantage when it comes to experience on the national stage having toured for many years.
Even though he has been around for quite some time, Erb is piecing together what is likely the best campaign of his career winning both on the WoO tour and off of it. Blair has long had success in and around his home state of Pennsylvania but this is his first time of running full-time nationally. English has done the national touring thing a couple of times but this is probably his first serious run at a championship.
In the end, Erb will be much tougher to unseat than Sheppard because of his lead and who is chasing him.
Michael: I agree with that. Erb’s lead seems more unsurmountable considering the lack of experience in the touring world for those chasing him.
Everybody was wondering what was wrong with Brandon Sheppard. Not only has he not been winning, he wasn’t really in contention for any wins until he won at Muskingum County. There is a report out there that says car owner Mark Richards held a team meeting. If that was true, it worked this past weekend. Time will tell if that was a short-term fix or it carries until the end of the season.
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