*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.
Richard: We have just completed the second of two double-feature weeks at Eldora Speedway. In June there were a pair of Dirt Late Model Dream races held to not only contest the race scheduled for 2021 but also to make up for that which was lost in 2020 because of the pandemic. And this past weekend we saw two separate World 100 feature races play out meaning, of course, that two of the much coveted Globe trophies were handed out.
Watching from afar on FloRacing.com, it certainly seemed as if the four-day series of events that included the two aforementioned World 100 races, but also two nights of double preliminary features, was a success. The crowds appeared to be large at the track and the entertainment value was high for the streaming broadcasts.
There are a number of things in racing, in other forms of sports, and in everyday life in general that we learned to differently as a result of Covid-19. Could it be that monster race weekends might be one of those things?
Please keep in mind that I have no inside information and have not even heard any rumors of this sort. This is just a thought that came to me during the Dream week and resurfaced in my mind during the twin World 100s.
I have only been to Eldora once and that was for a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race so I have never attended a Dirt Late Model Dream nor a World 100 weekend. But from what I understand, these are happenings as much as they are races. Camping and celebrating are as much a part of those events as the races themselves. In other words, people tend to take an entire week off and use the time as a vacation.
What I wonder is, if in fact the two Dreams and World 100s were successful financially and otherwise, might the Tony Stewart-owned track consider repeating these double-feature weekends in the future?
They wouldn’t have to call one of the primary features each weekend the Dream or the World 100. The Thursday races could revert back to the names used last year and might not pay the same amount of purse money. Still, they could offer crown jewel level payouts with at least some of the prestige of winning at the sport’s most famous track.
What do you think? Could Eldora making weeks like we have seen this year into regular happenings be a possibility?
Michael: I was thinking about that very thing over the weekend, especially when I saw the crowds. It would be a way to get more fans to come for more days, and therefore, more money in the promoter’s pockets.
Actually, I don’t think it’s a good idea. What we don’t know is how many fans that attended Friday’s and Saturday’s portion already had tickets since it was technically last year’s edition. Many have held onto these tickets for over a year. The question I have is how many that came on Wednesday and Thursday, that didn’t already have tickets for Friday and Saturday, bought tickets for the extra two nights? I don’t know and could only guess. My guess is the number may be on the low side.
The other thing is, I’m not sure if the drivers and race teams would be receptive to that idea. It would only be an extra day, since the usual format is Thursday-Friday-Saturday. But both national touring series have races scheduled the weekend before the World 100.
Because of the extra day, car counts seemed to be lower than usual. Then again, the tire shortage may have played a role in that. Still, drivers and team owners I have talked to are not in favor of these multi-night marquee events aside from Eldora and maybe a few other tracks. Many of these events have been two-night affairs, but these have been increasing to three nights and some four nights. That’s a lot of extra time away from home. These teams are being run into the ground with the travel.
Richard: I’m not entirely sure about the teams spending more time away from home because there is always a lot of travel for them during this time of the year. And what would seem more enticing to me as far as the travel goes is that, once there, it would be four days at the same location. And more, the amount of money up for grabs would be far greater than it would be for smaller shows run at multiple tracks.
The teams that I think would be most likely to miss one or both portions of the events would be those like that of Kent Robinson. He did not compete in the Wednesday/Thursday portion of the program this year because of work commitments but did race on Friday and Saturday.
I think the real issue in terms of putting a strain on people would be in the areas of support positions at the facility itself. I assume that Eldora Speedway does not have a lot of full-time employees. But to put races of this magnitude on, dozens and dozens of workers are needed for parking cars, working in concession stands, cleanup and maintenance, ticket takers, security, souvenir sales, and numerous other positions that I am not even thinking of. Running an event like this three or four times per year every year could be quite difficult.
But as we know about so many things when it comes to racing, money would ultimately decide the issue. FloRacing.com would almost certainly love to have the content. And if the track sees that they generated enough revenue this year with two Dreams, two King’s Royals, and two World 100s, they may be willing to put up with a few extra headaches.
Do you see any other pros and cons that would warrant consideration?
Michael: Another con I see is the weather situation. Should some of the event be called off for rain, do they run a condensed version and be back where they usually are with these events or would it lead to a postponement should weather impact the Saturday portion? The schedules are already tight as it is. I think they were fortunate for all of their events, to get every one of them in even if there were a couple of really late nights.
Richard: To turn in a bit of a different direction, Brandon Overton had been on a roll rarely seen in the Dirt Late Model world. Two Dirt Late Model Dream wins, a North-South 100 win, the Firecracker 100, and the Rock Gault Memorial had already been placed in his winner’s column before the World 100 week even began. Then, he won the Thursday version of that crown jewel race.
Picking Overton seemed an easy choice when predicting the winner of the 50th World 100 on Saturday night. And for much of that feature, it certainly seemed as if the No. 76 car would again be rolling onto the victory lane stage at Eldora Speedway. However, Jonathan Davenport and Mike Marlar had other ideas as both of those pilots passed by ‘Big Sexy’ late in the going leaving the pre-race favorite to finish third.
While Davenport winning the World 100 certainly does not count as shocking news considering that made the fourth time he had done so, but it was certainly noteworthy for anyone to pass Overton right now.
One has to wonder what has happened. Has the competition stepped up its game and closed the gap between themselves and the Well Motorsports team? Has Overton slipped back into the competition’s clutches? Was this an odd case somehow related to tires or track conditions or some other issue?
Which of those theories seems the most likely to you?
Michael: My guess is the competition has elevated its game. Any time a driver is so dominate, especially at a particular track, that driver has a big target on his back. After a while, the other drivers get tired of it.
Even though Overton has won all the races you mentioned, let’s not forget about the big money Davenport has won himself. If not for the wins Overton has this season, Davenport would easily be the driver getting most of the headlines. Just look at the big paydays he has already won – Wild West Shootout, Bristol Dirt Nationals, Little Bill Corum Memorial, USA Nationals, and others.
Richard: I agree. One driver having success in any form of racing seems to motivate others to step up their game. We’ve seen that this year in NASCAR as just a few weeks ago many were picking Kyle Larson to win ten races or more. Instead, his rate of winning has slowed down during the second half of the season.
Sometimes staying on top can be harder than getting to the top. That said, though, I believe Mr. Overton still has some wins in his future.
Michael: What will be interesting is the Dirt Track World Championship race which will probably decide the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series title. Brandon Sheppard has had a lot of success in that race. But with a title battle going down to Tim McCreadie and Jonathan Davenport, and possibly Hudson O’Neal, it will be interesting to see if the race win comes down to the title contenders or someone else will spoil the party.
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