Wednesday, May 4, 2016
So, it's that time of the year when I do this thing I do with the super late model racers in Pennsylvania. If you're unfamiliar I rank them according to their finishes with points and stuff. Then, after Labor Day weekend,the racer with the most points wins the title. Pictured above is 2015 champion, and Bedford and Selinsgrove regular Jeff Rine. He's very fast around his way. I'd expect him to be a major contender for the title in 2016, too. I know he's switched from MBH race cars, to the vaunted, and very popular, Longhorn race cars for 2016. It's a bold move, Cotton, let's see how it plays out for him.
Anyways, let's get to particulars and what not.
I have always completely excluded specials from my poll. I have always felt it took away from what I'm doing. I scored the top 5 at weekly tracks with the winner getting 5 points, second getting 4 points, and so on and so forth down to the racer that finishes fifth getting one point. This year, I'm switching that up a bit, with the increase of specials on regular race nights.
From now on, if a weekly racer (and I'll admit, that's completely going to be a judgement call on my part) makes a show at special on the regular race night for one of the tracks I score, they're going to get three "show up" points. If they manage to win the show, they'll get the full five points if it's 5000 to win or less, and ten points if it's a show that's 5001 or more to win. It's gonna make a little but more work for me, but whatevs, I do this poll because it's fun.
Scoring starts this week, and will run through Labor Day weekend in September.
The tracks involved this year are pretty much the same as previous years, except I'm putting PPMS back on the team, because they're running super lates pretty much every week again in 2016. For those that are uninitiated, the tracks I score are Lernerville, Dog Hollow and Bedford on Fridays, Selinsgrove, Marion Center, Roaring Knob, Port Royal, and PPMS on Saturdays, and Eriez on Sundays. Basically, all the tracks in Pennsylvania that run super late models on a weekly basis.
The standings, as always, will be updated every Monday evening. Maybe even a bit earlier every Monday, because I no longer work Mondays. I stay home with my daughter to save some money on day care. I'll do my updating for this poll while the little one naps.
And that's it. Come back Monday, as my first standings of the year will be posted.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Two different races, two completely different drivers, and two great stories emerged from the weekend that was across dirt nation as Willie Milliken and Billy Decker won their respective national touring feature events in two different fashions.
We start in Fayetteville....
|Daylon Barr Photo|
There are several compelling reasons to buy a ticket for a national touring event. To see the best of the best among the country's top drivers, to see how well they do against your weekly favorites, and also the slim to none chance that maybe, just maybe you'll actually get to bear witness to one of them beating the touring regulars. Willie Milliken served that last particular reason and then some on Saturday night at Fayetteville Motor Speedway in World of Outlaw Late Model action.
And not only did he pull off the miracle, he did so with the complete hat trick earning quick time, winning his heat, and then crossed the line first at the end of 50 laps to earn the $10,000 plus payday. There were some breaks, sure. He managed to pull the #1 pill in the redraw. And the track was said to be challenging to pass on. Also at work for him were some cautions that kept him from entering thick lapped traffic. And absolutely none of that really matters.
It just so turned out that the Lucas Oil Series was rained out and a couple drivers made their way to Fayetteville to join the Outlaws on this night with the likes of Jonathan Davenport and Earl Pearson Jr. competing. So the competition level factor was definitely turned up a level. Oh, and let's not forget Josh Richards was there of course. To win any race with those three drivers in the mix not to mention a hungry pack of Outlaws that could use a win (Other than Richards) is an achievement in an of itself. To win in those circumstances takes complete concentration, you've literally got to make sure to hit your marks every lap and never make a mistake, you've got to almost drive flawlessly. And Milliken did that. And to be fair, when the stars of the sport pull a number one pill in a redraw and win from the pole, most people just say, they couldn't be caught anyway. Neither could Milliken and the fans went wild!
And the best part about it, is it gives us one more story in the book of racing that fans in attendance will remember forever, we could use more of those nights, the night when the local driver bested the field in front of a packed house. It's what we love about the Outlaw vs Home Track driver concept. The miracle almost never happens, but we still have to be there...just in case it might. Well done Mr. Milliken!
For our own Daylon Barr's photo album of the WoO Fayetteville Show Click HERE
Now then...in Fulton
|Photo Courtesy of Brian E Walsh|
Back in December, times were not so good for one Billy Decker. He'd enjoyed a career that had seen hundreds of weekly and touring wins. Many of those came in a very familiar looking car, the Gypsum Express #91 entry, the red and yellow beast that tortured drivers at tracks all over the north east modified geography. How many times have we seen that car lurking at the start of the race in the front to the middle of the pack running down the top five drivers en route to victory? Too many to count frankly! It was a great team to be sure, great equipment, great crew members, and lots of support. And in December, it released Mr. Decker who very nearly went on to back to back Super DirtCar Series titles just a month beforehand.
|Brian E Walsh Photo|
It's business we suppose. And businesses are allowed to make tough decisions. But Decker's SDS tour victory at Fulton on Saturday night had to make you feel great for him. Decker took his new car, the familiar blue machine from Page Trucking/Mike Payne Racing entry, and parked it on a track he has dominated at for years, besting his good friend Tim Fuller in the process as he battled through intense lapped traffic on a changing surface en route to victory.
For Decker to win the first race at Fulton, in front of those who'd moved on from him was a sweet dose of vindication. Even the team Gypsum guys had to like it. Okay we're being a bit facetious there, but still, there was something that was just so right about the moment which was actually foretold by our own Daylon Barr here.
Two great stories unfolded this weekend, and they're some of the reasons that we love coming to the track, sometimes better scripts couldn't be written...
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
As all of us race fans look ahead to the first race of the 2016 SDS tour in just a few short days (April 30th at Fulton Speedway), I’d like to start the season preview off with a nod to the past.
We mark this as the first year in the post-Moody Mile era of northeast dirt modified racing. Yes, it definitely won’t be the same Super DIRTweek that we are all accustomed to, but it is in my opinion that we welcome the thought of a new venue for SDW 2016 with open arms. I’ve seen a lot of the varying thoughts on the new facility, including where it should have, could have, would have been under certain circumstances.
It can be argued all day long, but at the end of the bickering, SDW will be at a new venue, and it should NOT stop everyone from supporting the sport itself by attending this year. I am fully aware of how the New York State Government did the racing community wrong, and being a stubborn person, I don’t want to accept the fact that we won’t go back to Syracuse anymore. I have had those thoughts on not attending because it won’t be the same.
But then I thought to myself, what good does that do? The last Syracuse 200 at The Mile brought the entire racing community together in celebration. Those stands were PACKED. Now we have the first at a new track. Now let’s celebrate the start of a new era the same way we celebrated the ending of one. Let’s open up to the new SDW, and pack the new stands the same way.
(For lazy readers, in summary: Move on from the past and sell out the new SDW venue.)
First order of business is drivers. What a shake up this silly season brought. Some moves left me in shock and awe, some left me puzzled, and some had me recognizing true, potential greatness. It just goes to show that anything and EVERYTHING can happen, and it did. As of March 18th, there were 17 drivers dedicated to competing on the entire SDS schedule.
This number is outstanding compared to recent years in which the number of drivers attending all points events was right around 10-12 drivers. I’m anxious to see some of the young and upcoming talent on the list of drivers take on the seasoned veterans and champions of the sport. Guys like Mat Williamson, Mike Mahaney, and Max McLaughlin taking on the top dogs of Brett Hearn, Matt Sheppard, and Billy Decker. There’s an awesome mix of new and old talent among the 17 drivers that you will see at the 29 SDS events this year. For the first time, Stewart Friesen is taking a swing at the title, and hopes to hit a homerun in his new Halmar International ride. There’s no question that he has the talent to win races, but the SDS takes durability and stamina for the entire season, something that we all have been waiting to see from him for a while now.
All in all, it will be a fun season with a tight points battle that I predict will come down to The World Finals weekend, which is at the end of October this year.
Here are the 17 regulars in alphabetical order by last name.
Here are the 17 regulars in alphabetical order by last name.
|Stewart Frisen in his new Halmar International ride at Volusia.|
Credit: Daylon Barr
- Peter Britten
- Frank Cozze
- Billy Decker
- Keith Flach
- Stewart Friesen
- Tim Fuller
- Brett Hearn
- Mike Mahaney
- Max McLaughlin
- Eldon Payne
- Jimmy Phelps
- Erick Rudolph
- Rich Scagliotta
- Matt Sheppard
- Pat Ward
- Larry Wight
- Mat Williamson
Mike Perrotte has done a phenomenal job with expanding the series since he took the reins. This year the schedule expands to 29 points races, coming close to the record number of races run in 2007 at 32. This year we see the addition of The House that Earl Built, Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. This is one that I have circled, starred, and highlighted on every calendar I own, and I encourage you to do this as well.
A midweek show (July 19th and 20th) tag teamed with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is without a doubt primed to bring national attention to our beloved northeast mod. On the way home from Eldora, the teams head to Sharon Speedway for the first time in series history. You can catch this race on Thursday, July 21st. Also back on the schedule this year for the first time since 2006 is Williams Grove on June 22nd. Missing from the schedule this year is Ohsweken. I always hate to see a track gone from the schedule but it happens. Some other highlights this year are the Mr. DIRT Track USA race at Lebanon Valley Speedway which is always a great one to go to as it is $17,500 to win, Brett Hearn's The Big Show on June 28th which features former NASCAR driver and dirt track fanatic Kenny Wallace, the return to Utica-Rome Speedway on July 3rd in hopes of better weather than last year, and the Five Mile Point Speedway on July 12th which featured a last lap pass of Friesen over Pat Ward in one of the most thrilling finishes of the 2015 season.
View the whole schedule by clicking here.
View the whole schedule by clicking here.
Billy Decker steals the opener at Fulton. Billy has said that he loves the track, and it wouldn't surprise me if he got back to back Highbank Holdup wins.
Matt Sheppard wins at least 5 races. In his own car now, Sheppard can have it his way 100%. He already won in Florida, but I'd be willing to bet he captures at least 5 more.
A non series regular wins at Lebanon Valley and/or Malta. I'm looking at Kenny Tremont specifically. He racked up an enormous amount of wins at both tracks last season, and is already winning there again this year.
We see 75+ cars attempt to qualify for SDW. With the track being a half mile synthetic SYNDI surface, it becomes much more affordable. The small blocks will see roughly the same amount.
Four drivers will have a shot at the championship going into Charlotte. I have no prediction for who these four will be, but it will make the World Finals a lot more intense.
Heard the grumblings lately and couldn't believe the mindset still exists. Yes, there are folks out there that actually believe that internet and digital tools like Race Monitor and social media keep people away from the dirt track. At first, we kind of snickered on the inside. And then, it stopped.
|Pat Miller Photo|
Some of these folks are serious about it. They weren't kidding. They had no clue about what things like that can actually do for dirt racing interest. And interest creates butts in the bleachers. That's the dirty truth behind the scenes.
Look, we're not naming any person, track, or entity, we're not here to take anybody to task. But the one question we want to ask, is does that anybody consider the customer service aspect that these things bring?
Next, we'd like to ask you all a question. Does anybody reading this not want to go to a dirt track when they have the opportunity? We're betting no, or else you've got no reason for reading anything on this site at all! Okay, next question. Does anybody frequently use social media updates or race monitor to see what's going on where, whether you're at a dirt track or not? We're betting yes, since you're reading a page on the internet and probably have a mobile device that you've learned to master. (The author here has just recently learned how to use his). Have you ever looked at the fans sitting around you and noticed they've got Race Monitor up and are watching lap times at the race they're actually at, trust me, they're out there as it's possible to look down at your cell phone when there's a caution on the track. Know what else, they also check out who's winning where at tracks they're not at, because they're at your track. When they're at another track, they're probably checking out your results during cautions. Funny how it works..
Here's the rub. the people that believe that these things harm attendance at the track (fans, promoters and owners too) fail to realize a couple of things. First, that tracks that engage and update on social media do so many times as a customer service courtesy with a marketing purpose. We won't list the tracks, but have you ever noticed how many of the most popular tracks in the country are on Race Monitor and do live or nearly live time social media updates? They've already learned that their fan base can't always be there in person but still want to be in the know. Secondly, those tracks have plenty of fans in the stands more often than not. And thirdly, they fail to realize that keeping their facility off of these things on a race night encouraged not one person to come out to the track that wouldn't have been there to begin with. We're dirt fans, we live to be at the track, to take the sport in through the senses is what we live for! It's not as if any fan actively believes "we'd better get our butts to the track because we won't know who won until tomorrow!!" Folks, if you run a good show, you're fans won't miss when they have time to be there, it is a known fact, there's almost no way to be a "ho hum" or "could take it or leave" it dirt racing fanatic.
Guess what? Most of us use these things and have this stuff, and we're at the track religiously. Want to know something else? Most of us have seen video, or updates from races on social media and follow along Race Monitor...and planned ROAD TRIPS to come to that track! These things help more than they hurt. They're marketing tools, they help spread the word, they help keep the dirt racing information flowing. And if people are interested in the information, they're actively interested in being at the track and they're enjoying the experience of being a total dirt head, and to be quite honest, we need to be making more of these fans, the future of the sport's health will be in part bettered by embracing how others make for a great racing experience and culture.
The mindset's gotta change for some of these people, and trust me when I say, the people saying these things hurt attendance or are purposely avoiding social media on race night or Race Monitor are probably at a track that looks closer to slowing down or closing, than they are to thriving.