Across all the series, all three of the major tire brands can be found with one or more group. Also, all the groups allow quick-change rearends, and have similar engine set-back and transmission rules.
The Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor...
The Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway is a marquee track that hosts late-model racing, both crate and open. Jeff HuneycutT
It's interesting that a number of top Super Late drivers have run with the Crate series. Such drivers as Jeff Purvis, Ronnie Johnson, Mike Head, Mike Boland, Jimmy Owens, Rodney Melvin, Steve Barnett, Dennis Franklin and others, have competed with the lower-powered models. But don't get the attitude that it's just the Dirt Late Models that will experience this engine transformation. Several groups are looking at other series for crates and at least one other organization has already gone that direction with a lower series.
Following are the how's and why's of these growing series:
Fastrak Racing Series This organization was the first of the crate engine series with its first race held in April 2004. Since then, the organization, which is headed by Stan Lester, has grown into a national group with nine self-operating Regions.
At season's end, a series champion is crowned at a national competition. The group sanctioned 26 local tracks in 2006 and more than 50 in 2007. The Fastrak tire is Goodyear with either the G45 or G50 types.
Lester pointed to the economic advantages of these cars from his point-of-view. "Most of the guys that run with us are using cars that are 2 to 3 years old. In fact, our 2006 Champion won with a 1999 car." Lester also noted that many of the drivers in his series were former Super Late drivers who couldn't afford to continue at that level. "We have even had some former Super Late drivers come out of retirement to run with us," he explained.
Lester added that he tries to make his series a fun thing with no pressure to win as well as involving fans as much as possible with his shows. "We don't have any guys doing this on a fulltime basis, they've all got 8-5 jobs."
Eventual feature winner Chris...
Eventual feature winner Chris Ferguson coming through Carolina Speedway's turn two in a mid-september Fastrak event. Big Mack
The pay-offs from Fastrak are about $600-to-win at the numerous local tracks, $2,000-$10,000 for the national events, and an amazing $50,000 to the National Champion. Also, $5,000 will go to each of the Regional Champions.
In addition to the Late Model division, Fastrak also runs a successful Modified division using the 602 engine. "You could really go racing on the cheap with that combination," says Lester.
Stormpay.com Dirt Late Model Series This organization is headed by Mike Vaughn and sanctions crate Late Model racing in the Southeastern and Midwest U.S. He explained his thinking on the new class of Dirt Late Models, "These cars are an alternative to the Super Late Models at weekly tracks. With our group, we figure a crate Late Model costs about $25,000 less than that of a Super Late. Therefore, the promoter at a weekly track can pay half the purse, or in some cases even less, and stand a better chance of staying in business."
According to Vaughn that's a big deal. "Weekly dirt tracks are shutting down across the nation at an alarming rate. Race fans are showing that they will pay a high-price ticket for a special Super Late Model show, but they won't pay a higher ticket price for a weekly Super Late Model show. It's a vicious circle because the Super Late competitors won't race for the lower purse that keeps the promoter in business."
The weekly shows are the backbone of the short-track. "We had several StormPay.com Weekly Racing Series tracks this past season that replaced the Supers with the crate Late Models as their top division," says Vaughn. "They all made money. The fans liked the competition. It was a good situation because since the engines are all the same, the competition is more about car setup and driving ability."
2006 was the second year for the StormPay.com National Tour, and the first for its Weekly series at 20 tracks. That number jumped to over 30 sanctioned tracks with 700-plus drivers in 2007. "I think that the interest was very evident at the East Bay Winter Nationals when we had 96 cars for the three-day event," says Vaughn.