In the last issue we continued our debate on crate motor racing and offered some suggestions that could create a happy medium between all parties. Our three suggestions were:
1. Just Tech It: aka enforce the rules.
2. Ditch the bolts: by unsealing the engines you keep tech inspectors from assuming the engine is legal just because of the presence of the bolts.
3. Spec It: create a list of approved aftermarket components that any racer or engine builder can use.
Reinforcing the fact that there is a problem with crate racing, shortly after the last issue went to press two-time StormPay.com Dirt Late Model Series National Champion
David Gentry of Lewisburg, Tenn., was suspended from series competition for one year. The reason? An engine rule infraction found by StormPay.com Dirt Late Model Series Technical officials on a warm December Saturday during the Third Annual Crate Racin' USA World Championship Race at East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa, Fla.
When Gentry requested to change engines after he had won his heat race, officials agreed to the engine change provided that they could inspect the engine that was used in the heat race. When they cracked the motor open they found a valve in the left cylinder head that was not machined into spec, and ruled the engine illegal. Gentry appealed the decision, and StormPay.com technical officials looked further into the cylinder head and valvetrain components, where they found the ports on the cylinder head had also not been machined into spec.
Gentry's engine had the correct "RM" seal bolts at the time of the inspection, which indicated it had been previously worked on inside the sealing bolts of the engine. At press time, the Gentry-StormPay issue is still open and is going to take a lot of hard work on StormPay's part to determine exactly what happened.
You know you have a good crowd...
You know you have a good crowd when the seats are filled to the railings. Photo by Jeff Huneycutt
The incident is arguably the highest profile penalty to hit the crate racing scene since its inception five years ago. But as we dissected the actual crate racing situation, we kept coming back to the same conclusion, which goes back to something Scooter Brothers, part-owner of Comp Cams, said in our initial interview on this subject back in November of 2007.
"My fear is that racetrack promoters see this crate engine as a gift from heaven that will automatically double their car counts," said Brothers. "The only thing that I have ever seen to double car count is to roll up the sleeves and go to work."
Hmmm, hard work, what a concept.
Let's face it, crate or open, the days of opening the gates on Saturday, collecting the money and going back to your day job on Monday are long gone, if they ever existed at all.
While a legitimate concern to engine builders and part manufacturers from a competitive standpoint, the crate motor issue is a symptom of a much larger problem facing the motorsports industry-the bozo promoter.
You know him. He's the bulls--- artist who likes to bad-mouth other promoters, tries to squeeze every penny out of his racers while ignoring the front gate and does little or nothing at all to involve the local community in the track. He's the reason short-tracks around the country are closing, not NASCAR broadcasting races on Saturday night.
But while there are plenty of those bozo promoters around, there are also a whole host of guys and gals attempting to do it the right way. For this story we talked to a few of them in different areas of the country.
Sitting on 50 acres in the center of Florida is Ocala Speedway, a dirt track for 45 years before it was paved in 1997. For the next eight years, the track remained asphalt but went through several different owners before former driver Mike Peters bought the 3/8-mile semi-banked track two years ago. Peters heard the rumblings of Ocala's former dirt glory. "I ignored it the first year, but then I started talking with the folks at DIRT about eight months ago," says Peters, a lifelong asphalt racer and admitted dirt beginner. So after conversations with the sanctions, racers from all over Florida and beyond, as well as other dirt track owners, Peters made the gutsy decision to dump 350 truckloads of prime Florida clay on the track.