How Do We Bring In New Blood?

When talking with racers and track managers, the subject of bringing in new and young racers to the sport comes up frequently. There are many opinions about how to get this done, but we need to come to a consensus fairly soon. And we need to promote whatever it is that we think can work to bridge the gap between the generations.

The very existence of short track racing depends on growing the numbers of new racers. Right now I see several ways that this is being done that I think work well. The small car programs like Karts, Micro and Quarter Midgets, Bandoleros, Dwarf cars, and Legends cars do provide valuable experience to the younger wanna be racers.

Just this last week I saw a good example of this progression. This year's new Late Model track champion at All American Speedway in Roseville, California, is a 15-year-old who has been racing since he was 5 years old. So, he now has 11 years of experience and demonstrated that as I watched him dispatch several much older drivers on his way to the Super Late Model win the night I was there.

James Bickford started out in Quarter Midgets and accumulated over 150 A-main wins, 15 championships, and 1 national championship. He moved on to Bandoleros, then up the ladder to Late Models. This win record is extremely impressive in and of itself. But he was just getting started.

On this night, he put several moves on his rivals coming from the third row at the start and picking off the cars in front one by one. His best move, when he just could not gain momentum going into the turn, was to go high into Turn 1, cross over underneath the car in front and gain the inside going into Turn 3 to make the pass.

I can't tell you how many times I have seen young and older drivers "dive bomb" into the turns only to lose momentum and speed as they get pinched in the middle and lose ground coming off the turns. It just does not work. This kid got it. And it was so much fun for me to watch.

So, getting back to the subject, the current sequence of going from Quarter Midgets or karts up through the Bandoleros, four-cylinder classes, Street Stocks and Sportsman divisions before getting into Late Models or even more advanced classes works. But I believe there is more to do.

James Bickford started out in Quarter Midgets and accumulated over 150 A-main wins, 15 championships, and 1 national championship. He moved on to Bandoleros, then up the ladder to late models. This win record is extremely impressive.

So much for the future drivers, what about building the numbers of our pit crews and crew chiefs? Most young people only know computerized ignitions and fuel injected motors. Many tracks have resorted to calling the mini-stock cars the Tuner division. Tuner is a more modern word for a high performance street car that is usually a four-cylinder, fuel-injected, and computerized ignition car.

Is there more we can do? Some thoughts I have heard involve creating a four-cylinder Late Model Car. Or, should the tracks be renting cars out to potential racers so that they can get the feel of short track racing. It wouldn't take long for them to develop the fever and become "addicted" like so many of us have.

I think we still need to incorporate more modern engine systems that are computer controlled and fuel injected. But the industry needs to support that with quality racing parts that are more durable than stock parts. How about it, can we get that done?

If you have comments or questions about this or anything racing related, send them to my email address: Bob.Bolles@sorc.com, or mail can be sent to Circle Track, Senior Tech Editor, 9036 Brittany Way, Tampa, FL 33619.

Drive Straight and Go Fast Young Man

I'm new to dirt track racing but have been getting some seat time in a great man's car who can't drive it himself anymore due to his failing eyesight. It's a 1934 Chevy sedan with a 355 with all the goodies Santa Clause can bring. We run nostalgia races with DAARA and we are currently building a 1936 Chevy sedan with a straight six to compete at East Bay in your neck of the woods.

Sorry for rambling, but I read an article you wrote in Circle Track about braking into corners instead of pitching sideways! I was racing at a bullring when between heats a rear caliper froze and locked the left rear wheel.

We got it freed but if I hit the brakes in the main event it would stay locked so I stayed in the rear of the field just to get more experience and what do you know, I started getting faster! Instead of trying so hard and sliding I drove straight and repeatedly had to turn to avoid going into the car in front of me!

I know the saying, go slow to go fast, but dang. No one will believe me, and they all want me sideways in the turns and since it's his car I need some proof. I've been searching online and found only one video on Youtube of Smoke in a Super Late Model driving this style.

I'm just starting out and would like to learn once the right way and not learn someone else's bad habits because it looks so cool with that rear swung out. Thanks for the advice. This is the most fun I've ever had.

—Nathan Bush

Nathan,

Yes, it is fun to go faster than your competition. What you have discovered is one of the best kept secrets in dirt racing. I know when I speak about this, many top racers probably wished I'd just shut up, and I understand that. But it's my job to discover these things and pass them on. It can be by far the fastest way around, if the conditions are right.

Just in the last three weeks on my Tour of the U.S. on the West Coast, I saw both top Dirt Late Model and Sprint Car drivers use this driving style. In one race, everyone ran a very straight ahead line and a few ran hard into the corners and sideways, and lost a lot of ground.

I will say this, there may be times when the fastest way around is to run the cushion and hang the rearend out and use throttle to keep the car turning, but for the most part, do it the way that produces the lowest lap time.