Ask any dirt Late Model driver for a list of goals and you'll find most of them have included the Show-Me 100 at West Plains (Missouri) Speedway. This race is considered the start of the "big race" season. It has always been held in late May and generally draws nearly 100 quality Late Models from around the country. The track is a 31/48-mile red clay oval, slightly banked with a wide racing surface.
Seven drivers have been victorious in Show-Me efforts, led by Billy Moyer with three victories, and Freddy Smith with a pair. Single wins have been recorded for Ray Cook, Rick Aukland, Scott Bloomquist, and Terry Phillips. Wendell Wallace of Batesville, Arkansas, will be the defending champion for this year's chase.
Most of the race winners were using the GRT Race Cars chassis at the time of the win. Based in nearby Greenbrier, Arkansas, Joe Garrison's company utilized the knowledge of the nearby racing tracks in the car's designs.
Payout Is Unique There are Late Model races that pay higher amounts to the winner, but this race is unique in its pay structure. From the beginning, the Show-Me 100 was noted for its pay throughout the field, all the way to the last-place finisher. The trend continues in 2003. The winner will receive $37,000 while last place will get $3,700, so making the race generally means a substantial payday.
Track Conditions While racers seldom completely agree on anything, there seems to be a consensus about the track at West Plains: It offers competitive racing, and that thrills fan and competitor alike.
"I think the greatest thing about my win was that Terry Phillips, Davey Johnson, and I were three-wide for the lead for about three or four laps in a row," recalls Cook of Brasstown, North Carolina.
"The track was great to race on," says Wallace. "There was a lot of two- and three-groove racing. We started on the pole and didn't have to do a lot of passing in that event, but I know a lot of cars came from way deep in the field."
"It's a multi-groove racetrack," adds Wallace. "You can't use the track as an excuse if you don't win."
Despite the side-by-side competition, there have been at least two occasions where the race ran the full 100 laps without a caution, a testament to track and driver. It's also a salute to track owners Don and Billie Gibson.
"If you go to the Show-Me 100, you'll see Mr. Gibson out there when the races are over and he works on it all night long," Cook says. "It's nothing to get up real early and see him still working. That guy puts as much effort into his racetrack as we do in our race cars."
Strategy This is one race where the names and numbers mean less than the track itself. "We just try to drive a smooth momentum line there," says Cook. "You have to race the racetrack. It's so slick, if you get to racing your competitor, you end up spinning and using up the tires."
Geography The quest for chassis builders is to build a car that is competitive anywhere in the country. Characteristics of the tracks make this a difficult chore, so it's not surprising when a chassis company can do well in its own area. In the case of GRT, West Plains is very important in the grand scheme.
"I've got a lot of feedback from drivers who've raced at West Plains," says Garrison. "Wendell has always been comfortable with that style of racetrack because it's so racy. You can race two- or three-wide there and it's slick, so it takes some finesse to race there. That's what makes our drivers and our cars successful there."