Dennis Strickland (90) and...
Dennis Strickland (90) and Jack Varney (116) race hard for position at Toledo Ohio Speedway.
The Outlaw Super Late Model could be best described by saying, "Bad news travels fast"-and I mean "Bad" in a good way like teenagers would use the word to describe something that "totally rocks." These low-cut, flat-sided, sleek, mean machines rock like no other race car in the stock car world. At one time in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana these cars were the pavement superstars at many local Saturday night tracks.
Once a weekly show, the last several years have seen the Outlaw Super Lates class go the way of special events and a traveling series. Some folks questioned their relevance and believed the cars would eventually head the way of the dinosaur. How untrue, Outlaw SLMs are not fossils yet, far from it. Just as the Supermodified race car is the pinnacle of radical in the Open Wheel world the same could be said of the Outlaw SLM in the stock car world.
The field of Outlaw-bodied...
The field of Outlaw-bodied Super Late Models for the 2008 Glass City 200 at Toledo Speedway in Ohio.
Still a crowd pleaser, the division draws many hungry race fans and competitors, producing a lot of side-by-side, hard racing. Being a non-weekly division has probably done more to keep the division alive than anything else-helping both car and fan counts.
So, why did the division leave the weekly ranks and go to specials only? It was simple economics, expense, and car count. To race weekly became very expensive for the Outlaw SLM. To stay competitive one had to spare no expense and that began to impact car counts. Like many divisions before them, Outlaw SLM rules became so loose at various weekly tracks that spending went out of hand and through the roof. With falling car counts and the word "extinction" written on the wall, along came Chris Tolloty. Tolloty, then promoter of Ohio's Midvale Speedway, had the answer in the form of a sanction soon to be known as the Main Event Racing Series (MERS). The year was 1988.
"I saw what the Dirt Late Models where doing as far as unity," notes Tolloty. "I got together with Larry Boos, then at Sandusky Speedway, and we put together a $10,000-to-win, $1,000-to-start race and it went from there. I really enjoyed putting these races together, I love the Outlaw-bodied cars and did not want them to go away."
At first, growth for the series was a little slow as it took time to get everything in order. But by 1994, Tolloty had some sponsors in place and was able to put together a four race schedule. The 2009 season will represent the 16th season of competition with 11 races on tap. While tracks far and wide would like to host a MERS race, the series regulars are mainly Saturday night racers with a weekly job so the travel distance is held to an average of three to four hours drive time.
"We started to branch out a little far with some five or six hour tow times," says Tolloty. "With our racers being more of a local type, I decided to cut back and keep our travel time down to also help with expense. There are plenty of tracks that can support us here in our area. These are some of the same tracks that used to run the Outlaw Super Late on a weekly basis."
MERS made its mark by putting on about 10 shows at various tracks each year in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, wrapping each season in the fall at Columbus Motor Speedway (OH). The finale race is a who's who of the Late Model world, and in 2008 the 100 lapper saw more than 50 entries in front of a packed house. Impressively, there has never been a repeat winner in that event, demonstrating the level of competition in the MERS world.
Kalamazoo Klash Even as MERS continues to put together a series and points fund for its faithful racers each year, there are numerous special events featuring the Outlaw Super Late Models throughout Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Arguably the Granddaddy of them all just may be the Kalamazoo Klash at Kalamazoo Speedway in Michigan.
The look of the Outlaw car...
The look of the Outlaw car is all its own. Here, Ohioan Tim Ice (65) in a Howe chassis and Michiganer Joe Bush (101) in a Port City chassis race for position at the Main Event Racing Series (MERS) finale in Columbus Ohio.
Veteran racer and Champion...
Veteran racer and Champion driver Dick Dunlevy Jr. (11) threads the needle in a three-wide pass at Kil Kare Speedway moving by Don Harvey Jr. (12) and Joel McKnight on the outside in a MERS event.
Even though the rules state...
Even though the rules state steel block, the Super Late Model engine dons plenty of aluminum additions like the heads, and a set of 180-degree headers, all topped off by the mandated four-barrel carb, this one's a Holley.
Tire managment is something...
Tire managment is something of utmost importance for the Outlaw Super Late Model. The Main Event Racing Series, the primary sanction for the Outlaw SLM, requires spec Hoosiers.
The Klash turned 16 years old in 2008. Originally started as a 200-lap, $10,000-to-win race in 1993, the format now features a two segement race of 150 laps. After the first 100 laps there is a short break before the final 50-lap dash.
The Klash routinely draws big names like it did in 2006. Nearly 70 cars took time for the event that would pay the winner a cool $25,000. In the mist of nearly $300,000 in earnings for the '06 Dirt Late Model, Scott Bloomquist, took the wheal of Randy Sweets' car for his first asphalt appearance since 1992. Bloomquist was in contention until mechanical troubles put an end to his night. Meanwhile, NASCAR's Johnny Benson went on to grab the victory over a star-studded field.
Over the years, and in addition to Bloomer and Benson, NASCAR stars like Kenny Schrader, Matt Kenseth, and David Stremme, plus ARCA Champion Tim Steele, and ASA Champions Butch Miller and Mike Eddy are some of the marquee drivers who have taken their shot at the Klash cash.
Glass City 200
Every successful Outlaw Super...
Every successful Outlaw Super Late Model utilizes the quick change rearend along with the rear tube clip frame. You can just see the 22-gallon fuel cell sitting behind the rear axle and low to the ground.
Back in Ohio on the high-banks of Toledo Speedway, the ARCA Glass City 200 came back to life in 1999. Originally started in 1968, Joy Fair was the winner, followed in 1969 when Joe Ruttman nailed down the victory. Under ARCA sanction, the reborn 1999 event was very well received with 56 cars entered. Tim Felver piloted Dean Hudson's and Larry Zent's No. 5 car to the win and it's been a marquee event ever since.
Just like Kalamazoo, the list of racers gracing the starting grid for the 200-lap race is nothing short of a list of bona-fide superstars. Current NASCAR Nationwide racer Brad Keselowski and his brother Brian are just two of the many examples of racers who have chased the Glass City checkered flag.
The Summer Sizzler At the New Paris Speedway in Indiana what would become known as the Summer Sizzler was introduced to the Super Late Models in 2002. With $20,000 on the line for the winner at this quarter-mile facility it's no wonder that the Sizzler has become another of the most sought-after prizes in the Outlaw world. The 2009 season will represent the eighth annual Summer Sizzler and as of yet there has not been a duplicate winner.
The Stan Perry Memorial The 3/8-mile high banked track known as Angola Motor Speedway also in Indiana has offered the Stan Perry Memorial race just the past few seasons. Named for the Super Late Model racer from Edgerton, Ohio, the 110-lap event pays $10,010-to-win.
NASCAR Nationwide racers and...
NASCAR Nationwide racers and brothers Brad (L) and Brian Keselowski (R) made several races in the Outlaw Super Late Models to help propel their racing careers.
Other Michigan tracks that entertain the Outlaw Super Late include M40, Berlin, and Dixie Speedways. Back in Ohio, MERS makes stops at just about every local paved track in the state including Shady Bowl, Kil Kare, Sandusky, Midvale, and Barberton Speedways, as well as the season-ending Columbus event. So, in the end, the combination of the traveling series and these special events have defiantly kept the Outlaw Super Late dream alive.
Anatomy 101 The true beauty of the Outlaw Super Late Model lies within in the rule book. Or more to the point, the single page list of 19 bullet points that resides on the sanction's website. The relatively sparse rules allow for creativity on the car builder's part-particularly in the area of the body. Basically, four sheets of aluminum are bent up to form the body configuration. For asphalt cars, those four sheets of metal are a serious cost savings compared with a traditional template-
bodied Super Late Model.
The Outlaw body width must measure 82 inches at the front tires, 76 inches at the rear axle, and 72 inches at the rear spoiler. The track width of the car, (outside of tire to outside of tire), is 82 inches. The rear quarter-panels must carry an overhang of 47 inches from the center of the axle and the rear bumper has a height of 12 inches from the bottom of the bumper to the ground. There is an 8 inch spoiler across the back which includes a maximum 1 inch wicker bill along its top.
Typically, the ground clearance on a MERS car hovers just around 3 inches. By MERS rules the left side weight can go up to 60 percent while pre-race weight is a minimum of 2,700 pounds with the driver. The body configurations alone make the 102-inch wheelbase MERS car an animal that looks wickedly fast just sitting still.
Engines Not just the look but the sound also makes the Super Late Model Outlaw-bodied car stand out from the crowd. Sounding more like an Indy car than a traditional stock car the MERS Outlaw Super Late does not have a cubic inch rule. In fact, the engine rule reads "any V-8 steel block engine with one four-barrel carb." Talk about Outlaw! With that type of open rule, engines do get exotic. Some cars are running a 9:1 ratio engine while others will utilize the high compression engine.
Regardless of the type of engine, racers must have working mufflers to stay within compliance of the decibel rating mandated by the tracks. Running the traditional Sunoco Racing gas (a Series sponsor), and an occasional alcohol car, these rockets of speed all have 22-gallon fuel cells. The larger fuel cells insure enough gas to reach the finish of the 75- to 100-lap contests, especially important when you consider that MERS does not count caution laps.
Tires The Mers sanction evens out the competition with a very tight tire rule. The rubber that meets the pavement is of the Hoosier type. More precisely a compound of 3035 left sides and 3045 on the right side. Using a 10-inch steel wheel, the tires must be purchased and mounted at the racetrack, after which they are stamped. Each race has a separate stamp as some teams may run a set of tires from an event from earlier in the season. Most top teams will get qualifying and 100 laps of racing out of a set of new tires as well as hot laps at the next event. After each race, the top three finishers will have their tires broken down by the officials to ensure that no altering of the tires has occurred.
What The Racer's Say
"Sandusky (OH) was the very first time I actually did anything other than sit in a Super Late Model since I was a kid," stated winning Supermodified racer Charlie Shultz. "Until we went out for practice that day I had never turned a wheel in a full-bodied car. It was a completely different feel compared with the Supermodified. The car felt heavier and the steering inputs, throttle, and braking felt different. But, the car was surprisingly easy to drive."
Shultz went on to say the big difference was in the corners. "You could feel the difference in the downforce in your seat as well. When you run a Supermodified off in the corner you can feel the car being pushed into the track, with the Super Late Model it's almost like running on ice. I loved it! It was something new and challenging, which I really enjoyed. I'm looking forward to racing the division some more in 2009."
Ryan Tedesco has raced just about every type of Late Model around at one time or another. "I love the Super Lates, they are a lot of fun," stated the Ohio native. "The power is just indescribable, and the flat-sided bodies, simple, four sheets of aluminum, bend it and hang it, build it yourself!"
Along with the great speed...
Along with the great speed that the Outlaw Super Late Models carry comes the school of hard knocks when things get out of hand.
Tedesco also likes the motors. "The horsepower is just amazing and when prepared properly these things stick like glue to the racetrack. In this area the purse for the Outlaw-bodied car just started declining. Not that any one track's purse went down, but the cost of the car vs. purse just got out of hand for weekly racing. I wish some of the track promoters would put as much effort in the front gate and the fans as they do the back gate."
In one of the most amazing...
In one of the most amazing displays of driver displeasure Michael Simko went after Don St. Dennis after St. Dennis dumped him into the Toledo Ohio wall two years ago. While this kind of display is rare in the Outlaw SLM, it gained the division national fame as the 2007 incident was caught on tape and broadcast across the country.
Jack Landis is probably one of the best known Outlaw racers with a reputation to show up at any time, any place racing between 40 and 50 times per season. He'll run his traditional-template body as well as his Outlaw-bodied car. A former winner of the Summer Sizzler and the Glass City 200, as well as the first-ever Stan Perry Memorial, Landis is very familiar with the Outlaw Super Late car. "The Outlaw Super Late offered many more options in my area when I first started racing Late Models, versus the template-body cars. It was a lot of hard work and gaining the experience was a unique process as time went on. It used to be a lot of power, speed, and some really good sticky tires."
Landis says that the spec tire rule changed all that. "Now it seems you need to use a lot of finesse as a driver and not quite as much engine. The tires are a lot harder (compound) now than they used to be and that takes a little more driver. As far as the future of the Outlaw car goes, you always wish it could be better. The key is getting and keeping fans in the seats to keep the purse money up."
Outlaw-Bodied Future The future of the Outlaw-bodied Super Late Model is a tricky answer. Just as the economy is struggling so are many of the weekly local bullrings. Everyone seems to have an idea of how to make it better for the Super Lates, but in reality these economic issues are the same for every division.
In the past few years, there have been some great races in the Outlaw SLM division with tons of passing and great competition. This has translated into a class that has very solid support from both fans and racers, thanks in large part to the appearance and signature sound of an Outlaw SLM which sets it apart from its cousin, the ABC-bodied, crate engine car.
Perhaps the future success of the Outlaw SLMs lies within that open engine rule, keeping the creativity of the division alive will keep the competition high and the fans in the stands. If that happens, the Outlaw-bodied cars will do just fine as a marquee draw at the local track or with the traveling MERS group. Either way their fast paced Super Late groupies will no doubt continue to support their local heroes, the backbone of American motorsports.