Both Dean Clattenburg (09)...
Both Dean Clattenburg (09) and Ricky Marshall (44), who eventually finished third, bear the badges of tight racing on their sheetmetal midway through the race.
Concord Motorsports Park (Midland, North Carolina) is in a unique position, both geographically and figuratively. Located just outside of Concord, North Carolina, the track is 15 minutes from Lowe's Motor Speedway and less than an hour's drive from approximately 85 percent of the Winston Cup and Busch Series race shop currently competing in NASCAR's highest series. The result of the track's unique geography is that for years crewmen with an itch to drive and wheelmen looking to break into the upper divisions have spent their Saturday nights "playing" at Concord.
Some pretty big names banged fenders on the track's 1/2-mile trioval (imagine a shrunken Pocono), including Ernie Irvan, Bobby Labonte, Jack Sprague, and Rich Bickle, racing in Concord's top series: Late Model Sportsman. Unfortunately, rising costs caused more and more racers to drop out until the series was fielding less than 10 cars week-in and week-out. In 1997, the track's management made the painful decision to drop the series.
Now, seeing a resurgence in racing, Concord Motorsports Park has reinstated its Big 10 Series with the hopes of drawing some of the fastest racers around back to the track. Now known as Super Late Models, the rule book for the cars is nearly identical to the one governing the Late Model Sportsman cars when the series closed up in '97. That consistency, in fact, allowed some racers to bring their old cars back to the track for the first race in late March.
Carnell Lee Jr. looks to be...
Carnell Lee Jr. looks to be fighting a push in his Pontiac as he powers out of Concord Motorsports Park's sweeping first turn.
Jeff Meendering got out front...
Jeff Meendering got out front early and stayed there to avoid several mid-pack wrecks-the perfect recipe for winning the first race of Concord's revived Big 10 Series.
Several multi-car pileups...
Several multi-car pileups were the unfortunate result of extra-competitive racing.
Preliminary results were promising. For the first of the season's 12 races, 29 cars took the green flag. Unfortunately, the first 100-lap event was slowed by an extraordinary number of cautions. Larry Thomas, Concord's public relations director, attributes much of that to many of the racers' desires to win their first time back to Concord. "It's the old adage," he says, "I know I can't win the race on the first lap, but I'm sure going to give it my best shot."
The Super Late Model cars look a lot like a typical Late Model Stock on the exterior but are quite different under their fiberglass skin. Chassis can be either perimeter or offset straight-rail (with a weight penalty), and weigh a minimum weight of 2800 pounds. Engine rules allow ported aluminum heads, dry-sump oiling systems, high-rise single plane manifolds, and laid-back radiators to produce additional downforce. To be competitive, the typical racer spends $30,000 on his car and $20,000-$25,000 on his engine.
A pit crew hurries to make...
A pit crew hurries to make repairs to a damaged front end while the rest of the field cruises by under caution.
To try to bring down those costs a little, Concord Motorsports Park has instituted a special engine rule called the "Concept Engine." "The idea behind the concept engine was to give an engine a chance to be competitive without costing an arm and a leg," Thomas says. "The rules for the concept engine allow a little less compression, but a little more displacement, and a little more flow through the carburetor. Hopefully, racers wanting to get into the series can get in and be competitive without spending all that money on a full-out racing engine.
"We are looking at everything that we can to lower the cost of racing in every class," Thomas continues. "We were excited about bringing the Super Late Model class to Concord Motorsports Park, and after the first event with 29 participants, we are even more excited about these cars. We want to give it every chance to be successful.
"For example, we are not running the Super Late Models as a NASCAR-sanctioned division. We decided to run it as a kind of outlaw division. The reason why is so that NASCAR cannot discourage upper-level drivers from coming down and racing their cars here. Because it is not a NASCAR race, anybody that wants to come play can come and play. If it is an off-weekend in their series, and they happen to have a race car that they can get a hold of, then we'll welcome them. It would be a treat for our regular drivers to get a shot at racing against some big-name drivers, and I think the fans in the stands would enjoy watching the action, too."