Turn 2 Blog: Winter Racing & the Xtreme DIRTcar Series

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The latest edition of the Turn 2 Blog is presented by the American Crate All-Star Series.

*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.

Richard: It used to be that when the calendar hit the months of November through January there was time for racers to go into hibernation inside their shops to prepare their cars for the next season and also to sit by a warm heater while doing a little “bench racing”. That is far from the case now. Just because the World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte just brought down the curtain on the World of Outlaws family of racing series does not mean that racing is over.

In recent years there has been an ever-expanding movement toward racing all year long, particularly in the southern and western states. The Ice Bowl at Talladega Short Track has been a wintertime fixture for quite some time now but other tracks have also gotten into the mix.

411 Motor Speedway has for several years now offered off-season racing with their annual Leftover and Hangover events held around the Thanksgiving and New Year’s holidays. The Gobbler and the Cabin Fever races at Boyd’s Speedway have long been fixtures as well. And the Wild West Shootout held each January in Arizona has become a go-to happening for many racers and fans. Now, series racing is starting to become a thing during the colder months.

The Xtreme DIRTcar Series has been re-branded in a sense and is going to serve as a full winter series of races beginning in late November. The tour has six shows slated across the southeast with features to be held in South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. Racing is set to begin on November 24th, 2019 at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC and end on February 29th, 2020 at South Carolina’s Modoc Speedway.

The race slated for Tennessee will be a $5,000-to-win affair at the Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap on December 7th.

There really is no such thing as an off-season in racing anymore, is there?

Michael: No, there isn’t much of an off-season. With packed schedules, promoters and some race series look to capitalize on more racing to be had during the months when not much is going on. Some of these events work because they can run day races that can produce some decent racing.

Add to the ones you mentioned, the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series will be making a trip to a new track in New Mexico in January. I haven’t seen if these events will actually be points races or not. Regardless, I worry about over saturation. We’ve seen it with NASCAR where too much of a good thing tends to burn some people out.

Richard: The over saturation possibility is something that has to be considered along with the thought that having races go in a continuous cycle all year long can put a strain on the budgets of race teams and fans. At the same time, however, track owners and promoters know for a fact that their facilities will not make any money as long as sit idle. Adding races to an already full calendar definitely has potential drawbacks but a potential upside as well.

I do think there is some degree of difference between dirt racing and NASCAR in regard to the possibility of having too much of a good thing. In NASCAR, every event is televised to the entire nation. And not only that, virtually every practice and qualifying session is available for viewing as well. Furthermore, there is never any variation in the drivers who are racing as the major players who raced at Phoenix last week will be the major players in Homestead this weekend.

Dirt racing doesn’t have nearly so much exposure. And unlike NASCAR, each event could have an entirely different set of participants … or at least a significantly different set.

As far as burnout is concerned, that is a possible issue for drivers, crew members, and fans. At the same time, the payouts for the Xtreme DIRTcar Series races will make them difficult to ignore as each will offer between $5,000 and $10,000-to-win purses. And more, the championship payoff is quite generous at $20,000.

With the money available while at the same time racing at an unusual time of year, it is going to be interesting to see what the car counts will be for each race and how many teams will follow the entire series, won’t it?

Michael: I think the car counts will depend on which local racers are still in the position to race during that time. I have already talked to a few race teams and they said they have no plans to enter any of those races, including the one in their own back yard. All of them said they need the time off to get ready for next year, which includes building a new car or two, and the lack of desire to prepare for a race where the weather is always a crap shoot.

I think what you will see is a good number of smaller teams and those that may not race a true Super Late Model make up the majority of entrants in those races. We tend to see that with some of the late season races around here.

Richard: I expect that those who get off to a good start in the first race or two will stick with it throughout. A $20,000 points payout is no small amount. Several regional series that run for an entire season don’t pay that kind of money.

To change the subject a bit, this past weekend 411 Motor Speedway hosted the Crate Late Model Nationals which did not run under the sanction of any series that normally contests races in this area. The car count in the race ultimately won by Riley Hickman was outstanding as 41 cars signed in for competition in a race that paid $3,000-to-win.

411 typically does a very good job in terms of its tech inspections for Crate Late Models and I believe that helps car counts as racers understand that the funny business that can sometimes go on in this division before at tracks all over the country won’t be allowed. But more, the sanctioned crate series seem to have somewhat restrictive rules regarding the type of tires that can be used or a particular brand of fuel that must be in the car or some other quirky rules that in the long run wind up costing teams money to adhere to.

It’s such a fine line when it comes to Crate Late Model racing in that fans and most teams want reasonable rules that are enforced fairly which is something a series can provide, but at the same, racers don’t want to be backed into a corner in terms of buying mandated products from a series sponsor.

Crate racing can be quite a quandary, can’t it?

Michael: This isn’t just for crate racing. We used to see more of it in Super Late Model racing. It boils down to somebody not liking the specific rules regarding tires or fuel, so they go out and start their own series. And more times than not, those new series end up with some type of tire rule or mandated fuel like the others. It comes down to that person’s original intent or a tire company, usually Hoosier, come in with some kind of sweet deal the series promoter finally agrees to.

If we look back to the revival of the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, it was because the only national series, at that time, decided to make all its drivers use Goodyear tires. The drivers who had lucrative deals with Hoosier didn’t like that. So those drivers, along with Hoosier, helped get the World of Outlaws revived. Any time a new series gets created on any level, just follow the money. Tire money or tire deals are usually behind it.

I think 411 has success with that particular event because they aren’t as restrictive to the tire rule and there isn’t much going on. Other tracks and series should take note why an event like this gets so many cars and is so successful.

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