*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.
This past weekend saw a lot of regional series racing, and for the most part, those races drew good car counts and appeared to have good attendance as well. The fact that the car counts were solid with several different races going at the same time and considering that there are shortages of tires and other parts is encouraging, right?
Richard: From just the three Schaeffer’s Oil Spring Nationals races and the lone Southern All-Stars Dirt Racing Series event, the counts averaged approximately 23 cars for purses in the $4,000 to $5,000 range with the exception of $10,053 payday at Clarksville’s Spring Nationals feature. I have to admit that I was a bit surprised to see 26 Super Late Models and 37 Steel Block Late Models signed in the Smoky Mountain Speedway on Saturday night. I was thinking on the way to the track that there could be car counts in the teens for the night. I was glad to be wrong.
Part of the reason I was expecting lower car counts than what was actually seen was those mentioned shortages. We have heard that the top teams are getting first dibs on the tires that are available with those who race regionally getting what’s leftover. I, of course, have no way of knowing if that is actually what is happening but it is something we’ve heard.
It is no secret that there are shortages in some areas of racing. Unless something is done to correct that, the results will almost certainly cause lower cars counts at some point during the season. Drivers can’t race without tires and other key parts and pieces. But yes, for this past weekend I was encouraged by the numbers in the various pit areas.
Michael: The car counts are encouraging at this point. I’m hoping drivers have taken the attitude they better race while they can if the forecasted tire shortages are to come.
I had one car owner tell me last week he anticipates tire shortages will be a part in late May or early June. I also asked Ray Cook, last week, about how things are with American Racer, since he’s dealer. He said AR is fine right now, but said as more Hoosier drivers are buying AR’s to be able to race it will be a strain on them too.
It’s not just tires. I had another car owner tell me he has spent months waiting for a new car. This particular car builder was supposedly over 30 cars behind on order. Sounds a lot like buying a new street car.
Another encouraging aspect of Dirt Late Model racing that was further revealed this weekend is the continued emergence of young drivers. Drivers are getting into racing at younger ages and many of them are quite talented. The under 20 crowd is definitely on the rise, isn’t it?
Richard: Garrett Smith is one of those under the age of 20 drivers who has been on the rise during the early part of this season and that came to fruition on Thursday night in the Spring Nationals feature at Tri-County Race Track when he picked up a win. At the same time, Payton Freeman scored three top-5 finishes in three races and looked very much like he could have earned a couple of wins had the breaks gone just a bit differently.
Another driver we have highlighted this site who has won already this season is Sam Seawright. Eli Beets also shows a great deal of promise for the future. These are just the drivers who we see regularly in the southeast. There are some promising young drivers in other parts of the country as well.
All in all, the future looks bright.
Michael: You know a sport is healthy when the younger participants are showing to be the best in that particular sport. It’s no different in racing, no matter the type of racing. East Tennessee is blessed with some young drivers that are emerging as potential stars of the future. We are seeing that in a lot of other areas of the country.
Not that this comes as any surprise to anyone, but not only did young drivers have good weekends, the star veterans also rose to the occasion. The young guys may be on the rise but the top dogs aren’t ready to be pushed aside yet, are they?
Richard: Tim McCreadie, Jonathan Davenport, Tyler Erb and Brandon Sheppard all won this past weekend. While those drivers may not necessarily be old, they have been winning for a good while now and it’s no surprise to see them do so as the money begins to increase.
We all know who the favorites are in the bigger races. Being listed as one of those favorites is something that is earned, not given.
The young guys are talented and are giving every indication that they will be there someday, but the top stars say “not yet”.
Michael: Jonathan Davenport was winless coming into this past weekend. I’m sure the win was a sense of relief and we’ll see if that kick starts him to more victories in the coming weeks.
Things are going to get interesting over the next several weeks as the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series returns to racing regularly along with the World of Outlaws and other regional series will be running pretty much at the same time. Some of these veteran drivers are likely to get some wins. But don’t count out those young guys. Both national series have a number of young drivers running for rookie honors. I won’t be surprised to see some of those drivers pick up some wins.
Another interesting aspect is the drivers that never fully committed to one of the particular series they have previously followed. Will some finally hop on the series train, will some pick and choose, will some take some weekends off? The next few weeks will be interesting from that standpoint.
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