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.
In what may be a first ever,...
In what may be a first ever, Wayne Anderson as the promoter wins the very first F.A.S.T. series race at Inverness, Florida. The concept of allowing cars built to several sets of rules to race together is not entirely new, but this is one series determined to make it work to save short-track racing in Florida. Photo by Michael Fettig
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.
Our flame-wrapped tour bus...
Our flame-wrapped tour bus stands out in the crowd. This will be home for me as I travel across the Southeastern U.S. and visit with racers and track promoters. Our goal is to promote circle-track racing and to provide information to you, the readers, which will enhance your racing experience.
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.
The practice day on Friday...
The practice day on Friday provided an opportunity for the teams to enjoy a relaxed atmosphere and get to know each other. The "free" dinner and gathering further enhanced the family concept. This approach makes coming to race something to look forward to, not only for the competition part, but also for the friendships that are formed.
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.
Race director Gary Salvatore...
Race director Gary Salvatore goes over all of the rules of competition for the F.A.S.T. series. He has been around the sport for many years and raced in most of the divisions we know. This gives him a very good perspective on how the rules should be dictated and enforced.
RJ Scott, the managing partner...
RJ Scott, the managing partner for CRA (Champion Racing Association) Super Series, speaks to the racers about the importance of this type of series to the future of circle-track racing. He made a strong point that the very survival of racing depends on the promoters and track owners being willing and able to conform to the needs of the racers so that our numbers will increase.
Mr. Bill Desmond is a veteran...
Mr. Bill Desmond is a veteran of short-track racing across the country and has served on numerous series' leadership teams including the NASCAR AllPro Series and the national Weekly Racing Series. He was thrilled to have been asked by Wayne Anderson to be the announcer for this prestigious event.
Our project test team of Zehr...
Our project test team of Zehr Racing, with Marty and Dalton Zehr, was in attendance for the first two races in the series. Dalton made a strong showing, running in the Top 2 in the first two races of this series before circumstances caused problems for them. We will again be working with this team for our Project G.R.E.E.N.
This made for some exciting racing and the crowd was treated to both the race at the front and the race to the front. Dalton Zehr provided some excitement by hounding the leader in the early laps. When he tried to move underneath going into Turn 3, both cars spun moving them to the rear. In this series, anyone involved in a caution must move to the rear of the field.
Wayne had his way with the rest of the field and eventually moved into the lead and won. Once everything settled down, I cruised through the pits and noticed a conversation between Dalton and Scott Grossenbacher, the driver he had come in contact with and was sent to the rear with. I moved closer to see how that would go.
Scott was explaining to Dalton that his dad was his spotter and that he hadn't told him Dalton was underneath his car going into the turn. Without knowing he was there, he had turned down on Dalton and both spun. He said his dad felt really bad about it and hoped that Dalton understood. That's the good stuff.
Wayne Anderson, noted Florida...
Wayne Anderson, noted Florida racer who has run and won many championships throughout the Southeast, founded the F.A.S.T. series along with his dad, Dick, and Alan Bruns. With input from racers and promoters, they were able to put together a package that was attractive to both the competitors as well as the tracks. It was time for the teams to take charge of their future if there was going to be short-track racing in the future.
I really believe that the way this event is handled, with the Friday night get-together, promotes the kind of sportsmanship that encourages racers to communicate with each other and work out situations like this without having anger and confrontation rise up. It's healthier for the racers and it's the kind of environment that we want when our families are included. If the way this series is run does nothing more than create this type of atmosphere, then it will have been a huge success and what the racers in Florida have long needed.
This is truly what this Great American Tour is all about. We will be visiting racetracks, around 25 in all, across the Southeastern U.S. and talking to the racers and covering many topics. We are here to promote circle-track racing in America. We will be looking at how the promoters run their events and how the racers react to the way their tracks are run. Any and all unique and interesting concepts that we come across will be recorded and reported.
We will be asking specific questions of the racers themselves to discover trends in setups, preparation and any other aspect of team involvement that might be of interest to the readers of Circle Track. Never before have we seen an opportunity like this one and we intend to take full advantage of it.
The racing was very good with...
The racing was very good with several fights going on throughout the field. It was clear that at this track, handling was worth more speed than horsepower. The cars with good crate motors and a good setup ran at the front. Fortunately, Wayne had both the hp and the handling on this day. Photo by Michael Fettig
I will personally be speaking with, and getting to know, racers in all of the divisions. I will prepare a specific list of questions I will present to the teams and the track owners, promoters, and technical staff. Racing safety will be one of the areas of concern and we will make that a topic of discussion at every track.
What the racers use for protection involving helmets, suits, restraints, and car construction will be observed. We will encourage the tracks to continue to promote the safety of the drivers, crews, and spectators. Fire protection, ambulance services, and the track rules regarding safety will all be taken into account.
And if we can help promote a safer environment at each track, then we will do that. As we gain knowledge and understanding of the necessities, we can share that with everyone on the pages of CT. Online is a current list of tracks we will be visiting. There may be changes here and there that must be made if events are canceled or our plans change due to weather issues. Flexibility will be a necessity for this tour.
The turnout was good considering...
The turnout was good considering this being a new series and the short notice many teams had. Fortunately, this is Florida and the weather was good allowing an early start for the season of racing. Northern tracks can't get their programs started until well into May when it starts to warm up somewhat.
For the most up-to-date list of tracks and dates, go online to www.circletrack.com and follow our blogs. We will be constantly updating and reporting week to week as we move across the country. And feel free to present any comment and/or suggestions that you might have concerning this tour. We will try to answer you as best we can.
If you live in other areas of the country, remember that the tour is scheduled for this year plus three more years. We will be traveling to the Northeast, Midwest, and the West Coast in the coming years. When all is done, we should have reported from every stronghold of short-track racing in America. It's our hope that in doing so, we will have influenced and enhanced the sport of racing in a positive way that will help ensure its survival as the times change around us. And a special thanks goes out to title sponsor AMSOIL, as well as CV Products and Holley, for helping make all of this possible.