Monday, May 15, 2017

TDN Round Table: Schatz vs Gravel; Draft a Driver; Is Tyler Erb Human?; Bloomer's Revenge?

Welcome to TDN Round Table....whatever number this one is! We're just past the quarter poll of the season, and to this point, it's been pretty much business as usual. On the surface anyway. However, there's been some points to ponder other than should you have fried oreos or double cheese nachos at the concession stand.  Is this the year Donny Schatz has another string of WoO titles broken? What should Scott Bloomquist do in victory lane the first time he wins a wins a WRG sanctioned show now that Tiregate is over? And who is Tyler Erb and where did he come from, and will he take the World of Outlaw Late Models as his prisoners?  Also, we've been noticing some short counts in weekly Super Late Model we need some adjustments to keep it Super so to speak?

Patrick Miller Photo

We're going to tackle all of those points, and then some as well as discuss our favorite fondue recipes in this episode! Enjoy!

Okay, we're not yet into Donny Schatz's prime season yet, it's early and he's not shown any signs of getting slower. However, David Gravel appears to have taken another step forward in his development this year and is headed towards double digit wins himself this year.  Tell us the likelihood of Gravel being able to be in position to challenge for the title this year?  Is this just another tantalizing season on the way to that goal one day, or has he now arrived as a true title contender throughout an 80+ race schedule?

Kyle Symons - As good as David Gravel is running I don't see anyone being able to challenge Donny Schatz yet for the championship.  Although in saying that we have to remember back to when Jason Meyers beat Schatz for a title when nobody thought it was possible.  Gravel has greatly improved over the last couple of years, and is clearly the second best car in the country after finding a home with CJB Motorsports.  I look for Gravel to pick up a lot more victories this season, but in the end, he will fall well short of Schatz's championship pace.

Tyler Beichner - As my all-time favorite sprint car driver out of Connecticut, I've always rooted for David. I hate to say he's the underdog, but when you consider where he was based out of for so long you can't help but pull for the guy. I still think Schatz will have his number this year, and there's a decent chance it will be wrapped up by The World Finals. But in two to three years, I expect Gravel to be collecting his first series championship.

Rachel Wynkoop - I've always loved watching David Gravel and truly think that if not this year then in the next three years he'll be down Schatz's throat challenging for the title. I think the time that will really tell if he' going to be contender this year will be July into August. It seems that Schatz tends to hit his prime time during the Month of Money and we all know what happens at Knoxville Nationals.

Aaron Clay - Being that I prefer shots over Schatz, the fan "in me" wants to say that Gravel will contend for the World of Outlaws Championship this year!  However, thinking logically, I just cannot commit to this.  I'm extremely impressed with Gravel's progression this year and I think there's no doubt that he ends up with 10+ feature wins.  I just can't see him contending with Donny the whole way though, especially through the rigors of the long WoO Sprint Car schedule.

 How surprised are you with Lance Dewease's start in 2017? Could he have a better year than Hodnett and Dietrich had last year?

Kyle Symons - I'm not surprised by Dewease's start at all.  You could argue they were just as successful as Hodnett or Dietrich last year, they just did it in a lot fewer races.  They run a limited schedule, but the team of Dewease, Davey Brown and Donnie Kreitz has proven to be very formidable.  Much like the Stevie Smith/Fred Rahmer combination was for a few years they have found a setup that works for them and are a dominant team right now.  I predict they will in victory lane at least once next week with the World of Outlaws at Williams Grove and may sweep the weekend.  Now whether or not you believe they should run at Lincoln or not is a different story.

Tyler Beichner - I'm just as surprised this year as I was last year. I expected strong runs, especially given the trio of minds they've got working on the car. But still, technology is always advancing in our sport and even within a two-year span you should need to race regularly to stay on top of things. That's what makes this string of runs this year, and last, all the more impressive.

Rachel Wynkoop - Not surprised in the slightest. You just simply cannot have that much talent, history and knowledge on one team and expect anything less. I think the chemistry is there for them to have a stellar year but only time will tell.

Aaron Clay - Being that I'm from the West Coast, I must admit that I'm not entirely familiar with the history of the 69K or how dominant Hodnett and Dietrich were, last year.  That being said, based on everything that I've heard and read, it seems no surprise that Dewease is putting the 69K in the number 1 spot on a regular basis!  Regardless of whether his season is as successful as Hodnett's or Dietrich's 2016 campaigns, Dewease has proven to be a true contender in the Kreitz 69K!

 It's too late for 2017, but for next year, should Rico Abreu consider doing the full WoO tour? Or does it make more sense for him to stay more of a true outlaw?

Kyle Symons - If he's going to be back in Sprint cars full-time it would make sense for him to do so.  Abreu has higher aspirations than just dirt racing, but after his first dive into NASCAR didn't work so well, he finds himself full-time in Sprints again.  I don't see him ever running WoO full-time though.  He enjoys running midget races for Keith Kunz too much for him to commit full-time to the busiest schedule in all of dirt track racing.  If he were to go with the WoO full-time I think he would do very well, but just don't see him making that leap.

Tyler Beichner - I don't envision Rico ever running with WoO full-time. I think he enjoys staying around home when he wants and running their big '410' and '360' shows, and hopping in for the occasional midget race for Keith Kunz. If he were to run, I think he could win 8-12 races on a regular basis, but his checkers-or-wreckers mentality would make it nearly impossible to content for the points.

Rachel Wynkoop - I think fans of his would be more than thrilled to see that happen but I just can't say that I ever see it going that way. I completely agree with Tyler about his checker-or-wreckers mentality. Unless he was doing it purely for fun or experience I don't know if it would go well.

Aaron Clay - I LOVE that Rico is a "true outlaw", literally running anything with wheels, wherever they want.  However, he has proven to be extremely competitive in all of the WoO races that he has raced this year, even winning in Arizona!  I hope that he considers running the full WoO schedule, for at least one season.  Better yet, while I'm in the "wishing mood", it would be great to see Rico compete in the full WoO season for Larson-Marks Racing!  Hopefully not to replace Shane Stewart, but maybe as a second car out of their stable.  It's been a real treat to see Rico and Larson "climb the ranks" over the past few years and it would be really cool to see them teamed-up, together!

With the NFL draft just completed, it got me thinking.  If you were a team owner and could field a WoO team with more or less unlimited funding, or nearly so, name one young driver who is not currently traveling with any tour, that you would select for the seat as a growth draft pick so to speak. One who will pay dividends in years three, four and five and so on.

Kyle Symons - I would go with Logan Schuchart.  He has the talent to get the job done, and has a few WoO victories to his credit already.  The Shark Racing team does an amazing job with the equipment they have running against who they run against on a nightly basis.  If you put Schuchart in the type of equipment that some of the bigger teams have, I think he would win a lot more races.

Tyler Beichner - I see Kyle cheated by taking Schuchart who's in his third year of touring. Since I play by the rules, I'll select Aaron Reutzel. He's been in his own stuff from what I can remember, and still has had some great runs (Cocopah 2015, for starters). If you get him in the best equipment and pair him up with a great wrench, I think he could seriously content on a national stage.

Rachel Wynkoop - I'm snagging DJ Foos. He's flown under the radar a bit this year but has improved greatly just in the first month of Ohio racing. He's got that understated driving style that is often overlooked but usually pays off in the end.

Aaron Clay - Here's a name that mostly only West Coast racing fans will know, but Colton Hardy is a young man with great amount of talent!  He won several features in the Lucas Oil ASCS Southwest Series in 2016 and gave "The Real Deal" Rick Ziehl a run for the Championship!  Hardy has not missed a beat in 2017 and looks to un-seed Ziehl as the only Champion, in the many year history of the ASCS Southwest Series.  I know Hardy would likely tear-up a lot of equipment, especially at the beginning, but I feel like he would be a household name in 2 - 3 years, if he is in competitive equipment!

Tiregate is officially over! And while we're just happy everyone can be at all the shows now, with the exception of those that have failed drug tests by not taking them, tell us where does Scott Bloomquist get his fill of revenge and what event? Will he sweep the Eldora majors?  What will he do in victory lane to throw a jab at World Racing Group?

Kyle Symons - Bloomquist is always a threat whenever he unloads the car, and I'm sure he would like nothing more than to find himself in victory lane when the Dream rolls around.  If I had to take Bloomer of the field though, I would go with the field.  The Dream will have the most competitive field in a Late Model show this season thus far when it rolls around at the beginning of June, and let's remember that the last time Bloomquist was at Eldora, he did not qualify for the feature at the World 100 that Tiregate took place at.

Tyler Beichhner - I picture Bloomquist charging from a double-digit starting position to win The Dream at Eldora in June, and following that up by winning Friday and Saturday night of The Firecracker 100 at Lernerville Speedway. Of course, he won't win the Thursday prelim because he'll be mysteriously "running-late" and pull in the pit gates just at the conclusion of the first feature, as has happened multiple times in the past.

Josh Bayko -I don't know that Bloomer sweeps the Eldora biggies, but I do believe he'll get one of them. I also think he's likely to win the Firecraker and USA Nationals. He's going to have a fire under his ass at every WRG event he happens to run, and determined Bloomquist has to be the favorite at every WRG sanctioned he attends from here on out. I also look for some colorful victory lane interviews when he does win those races.

Aaron Clay - "Paging Scooter McCrotchchop":  Bloomer will definitely win several big shows in 2017 and Eldora seems like the perfect place!  Not only since this was the Site of "Tiregate", but who can forget him having a win "stripped" after weighing-in just a few pounds light, a couple of years ago?  I'm sure he feels like Eldora owes him one and I won't be surprised to see the patented "crotch chop" in victory lane!

 Tyler Erb.......where, how, and how high is his ceiling GO! 

Kyle Symons - Tyler Erb has a very high ceiling.  He has finally began to settle down as a driver.  I remember last year when I was at Fairbury when he flat took out both him and Ryan Unzicker by just driving over his head in the B-Main, but he's come a long way.  It's only a matter of time before he's winning a few WoO shows here and there.  He's currently sitting second in points right now which surprises me with the amount of talent he has to beat for that spot, but it seems like Brandon Sheppard is just too fast right now for anyone on the WoO tour to reel him in points wise.

Tyler Beichner - It seems like most star's journeys begin with being too fast for their own good. Once they temper their driving style down and have more control, they're that much closer to contending on a nightly basis. It seems like Erb has gotten through that first step as quickly as anyone else I can think of.

Josh Bayko - The kid has made incredible strides in a rather short time, and went from taking provisionals most nights to contending most nights. I mean,  he was fairly competitive in SUPR stuff down in Texas before he decided to go WoO racing, but it wasn't like he was dominant. He's matured an absolute ton as far as his driving goes since making the jump. I feel he's going to get better from here, and if he sticks with the touring, he'll eventually be the champ.

Aaron Clay - Really nice young man, from Texas.  I've been fortunate to meet him in Arizona, as he's competed in the Wild West Shootout the past 2 years.  "Party Animal" comes to mind, as he's not shy from staying up late and having a few cold ones, after the races.  However, he's truly blossomed into a serious contender in the WoO Late Models Series!  While Erb hasn't been extremely competitive in Arizona, I think we can all agree that it's only a matter of time before he nabs his first career WoO Late Models feature win!

Daylon Barr Photo

Which is more surprising, McCreadie in 2nd place in Lucas Land, or Richards in 3rd?

Kyle Symons - I'm not surprised by either really.  McCreadie has followed the Lucas tour before and knows the tracks, and has been very fast in a Longhorn Chassis.  McCreadie is one of the best pure drivers in the sport, but has struggled the last few seasons  before landing as the Longhorn house car driver.  While Richards is definitely one of the best, he is with a new team and racing on a lot of tracks he hasn't been to, or at least hasn't seen in a long time.  At the end of the year though I expect to see Richards finish the season as the series runner-up behind Bloomquist.

Tyler Beichner - I'm with Kyle here. While many consider the Best Performance Team to be Rocket House Car #1A, Josh still has to get comfortable with a new team. He should pick up speed in the latter portion of the year as they begin to gel.

Josh Bayko - I'm not really surprised at either. McCreadie is now seeing the tracks on the Lucas tour a second time, so he knows what to expect as far as driving. He finally has a great support system behind him, something he was lacking he last few seasons. Put the two together, and it's going to make for a much improved performance. As far as Richards, he and Randall Edwards are still getting acclimated to each other and the both have to figure the out the new Lucas tire deal, and he's seeing some of these tracks for the first time.  By the end of the season, Richards and Edwards will be on the same page and they'll get the tire deal figured out and and they finish the Lucas season at places Richards is familiar with and make a seriously dominant late season run for the championship.

Aaron Clay - I'm extremely impressed with Tim McCreadie's start to the 2017 season!  It seems that a Chassis change was all he needed, to "light the fire" that is inside him.  That being said, it's rather surprising to see "Kid Rocket" not completely dominating, like he always has in WoO Late Model competition.  However, I'm not terribly surprised to see Richards "coming down to Earth", as he is with a new Team, running against new competitors regularly and on some new tracks.  I think it's only a matter of time before Richards "ignites" his 2017 season, but McCreadie has surprised me more, at this point.

Daylon Barr Photo

Is anyone getting a little bit nervous over weekly Super Late Model car counts yet? Are we really looking at Crates passing as "Late Models" at weekly shows and Supers only available at National or Super Regional touring shows?  What's the answer to getting them more plentiful?

Kyle Symons - Weekly car counts have been an issues all over the country in pretty much all divisions other than Central PA sprint cars.  There just aren't enough cars anymore to make it on the weekly purses.  The cars are too expensive and the average Joe can't afford to race weekly, and if he can, it's only one night a week.  The answer could be increasing the purses.  That seems to be the only thing, but Winchester runs great purses compared to a lot of tracks, and still struggles to gain a lot of cars. I don't think Crates will completely take over, but I think we will see less and less weekly Super Late Model shows across the region, and more special events paying $4,000-to-win or more.

Tyler Beichner - It's hard to tell with this one. I'll use the local sprint car scene at Lernerville Speedway as an example. Just a handful of years ago, we were getting 14-16 cars a night. Nothing has changed since then (including the purse), and last year we had a B-Main most nights. Now this year through two shows, we've had counts of 31 and 26. I think divisions just go through ebbs and flow, and maybe we need to ride out a few down years before the division picks up again.

Josh Bayko - I'm not all that concerned. Racing has ups and downs, but always manages to persevere. 

Aaron Clay - Being from the West Coast, we only have "open-style" Late Models, as there is no separate Crate divisions.  That being said, there is quite a large amount of disparity between the front-runners and the 8th - 15th place cars, in Arizona.  It's great seeing a field of nearly 20 Late Models tear-up the Dirt, but realistically,  only about 5 or 6 cars truly have a chance of winning.  However, I'm not alarmed at all with the health of Late Model racing, on the West Coast.  While things may be a bit down now, with slightly lower car-counts and smaller schedules, I feel like these things are cyclical.  I believe the health of Late Model racing is fine and we'll see it pick back up, before very long.

Aaron Clay Photo

Same as #4 above, Draft a young driver for a touring series currently not running a series for growth, not for immediate impact.

Kyle Symons - I would have to go with Timothy Culp here.  He has been very impressive running the Lucas Oil tour early season this year after he made the switch to a Rocket XR1 chassis.  He's a little wild in his driving style, but when he gets settled down he will be very fast, much like Tyler Erb this season.  Culp is running regionally again and I bet he picks up a ton of victories this season.  If I had a top level team, I'd put him behind the wheel.

Tyler Beichner - Hate to go with a homer pick here, but my easy answer is Michael Norris. We know that so much of the national touring shows relies on qualifying, and the kid already has that down (see: World 100, Pittsburgher 100, DIRTcar Nationals). The rest is already beginning to come, and getting him on the road with top-level talent will only expedite the process.

Josh Bayko -  Hmmm. If I had to chose, I think I'd go with Jared Hawkins. He hasn't had a stable ride for a few years now, and the equipment he's been running during that time has been less than stellar. He's always been fairly competitive in the random trips he takes, too. I think in some high end stuff he could really open some eyes. If I were to pick a tour, I'd get me some XR1s and a stable of Cornett motors and go WoO racing.

Aaron Clay - Ricky Thornton Jr.  Granted, he's already competing regularly with Gressel Racing, it does not appear that they are sticking to a full schedule.  Ricky has already proven to be a solid contender, no matter what kind of car, or equipment that he straps-in to.  I expect to see him competing for wins with Gressel Racing, all year!  Given nearly unlimited finances, I would tour either with Lucas Oil, or WoO Late Model Schedule, to see what he can do against the "big dogs"!

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