The AMSOIL Great American Circle Track Tour is off and running. After much preparation, we are on the road and coming to racetracks across the Southeastern U.S. Our very first stop is one that is both close to home and at the same time very significant. It represents a somewhat new way to promote short-track racing and kicked off at Citrus County Speedway in Inverness, Florida.

In years past, and even mostly today, when you look around at the racers who gather for a night's event, some teams mingle, but most stay within their pit boundaries much like encampments of armies preparing for battle, and that is exactly what this game of racing is all about. But here, we saw a different attitude and pattern that I hope catches on and grows.

First off, the F.A.S.T. (Florida All Stars Tour) schedules a test/practice day on Friday afternoon and early evening before Saturday's race. The teams, for the price of admission to the entire event, can come to dial in their cars and there is even a special session set aside for rookies in the series to practice on their own.

This time is very relaxed for all of the teams because they won't be doing battle until the next day. I do know that the teams were appreciative of the chance to dial in their setups without the pressures associated with race day. And it will be this way for every race, not just the first race of the season.

I saw lots of mingling among the teams and an overall "getting to know each other" atmosphere. This would come in handy later on when they started racing. And then that night, the Tour put on a dinner complete with a band playing. Sonny's BBQ provided the spread and there was free beer and other refreshments, all paid for out of the proceeds of the admission fees. Again, this will be the norm for all races.

The overall cost of this night of fun was relatively small, but the benefits were huge. All of the competitors were seen talking and relating past experiences and generally becoming better friends. We like to say that racing brings families together, and this process was the beginning of the development of a racing family within the confines of this series. This can be one of the primary reasons why we race, to build friendships and gather around people with similar interests. The first race of this unique series attracted some very interested and important individuals. Bill Desmond Jr., the Director of Public Relations for Montgomery Motor Speedway, was asked to come down to be the series announcer for this race and RJ Scott from the CRA Super Series was on hand to lend support and observe the processes. At the drivers' and crew chiefs' meeting, both spoke and provided their opinion that this type of series with its expanded class entry rules, would truly be the forerunner of things to come across the country.

Where before, races could only run at select tracks where their configuration of car body and engine fit the rules, in this series, different classes and engine combinations can come together, equalized by weight, and race and have fun. We covered the rules for the series in a previous issue. Look that up and re-acquaint yourself because the success we anticipated was realized.

And the numbers were good for a first event. Twenty-six cars qualified here; 31 cars qualified for race two held at Orlando Speed World. Word has gotten around Florida and the numbers are growing. As I type, I'm preparing to attend the third race at Auburndale. These numbers represent a marked increase in car count from what we've seen to be a trend in Florida and across much of the country.

Declining numbers of race teams have tracks concerned about the future of short-track racing. What we need are rules and promotions that enhance the experience of racing and which will allow a more diverse field of cars and motor combinations, not more restrictions. It's the restrictive nature of the progression of rules in racing that stands to deplete the numbers, and eventually kill short-track racing in America.

For this race, Wayne Anderson qualified with the fast time and after the draw, including the top six qualifiers, was to start the race on the pole. Steve Dorer drew second position. Before the introductions on the front stretch, Bill Desmond asked Wayne, and then Steve, if they would take a chance at $500 extra pay for starting from the back and winning. Both accepted the challenge and took their positions at the rear.