Yes, we did see the big rigs...
Yes, we did see the big rigs here at Lanier, and the trend of putting young teens in the driver seat of Late Model cars is continuing. I will say that for the most part, these young racers hold their own with the older and more experienced drivers. I was pleasantly surprised in many cases.
The traditional upper classes were short on attendance and noting the struggling economy, we can make an educated guess why. Late Model racing is expensive. A team will normally spend upwards of $50,000 to $100,000 or more per season. In days past, those numbers were manageable by teams owned or supported by successful businesses with large cash flows where money was diverted for "advertising" to the team.
Many of these racing support businesses were, and are, related to construction. Now that the whole of the construction industry business is down across the country, we see a dip in the participation in these high-end classes, as could be expected.
Class Makeup The classes we have seen running are not "normal" as we look back at the last 10 years or so. As stated above, the higher-end classes are down, but the numbers have been replaced by what used to be called entry-level classes. We seldom, if ever, saw classes such as the Legends cars and Bandolaros run on a Friday or Saturday night along with the stock cars. Well, they do now.
We see more and varied four-cylinder classes, Legends cars, upwards of 20 or more per event, and some truck classes. Where we saw three different fullsized stock car divisions we now see one or two, at best.
Combined classes are becoming more common. Tracks are letting the Limited Late Model cars run with the Full Late Models cars in the traditional NASCAR-style Late Model stock divisions. And the engine rules have been combined to where the crate motor cars can run with the built motor cars. This move, in and of itself, has helped to maintain decent numbers of entries for the top division and serves to solve the crate verses built debate.
It's interesting to note that the competition among the Legends cars is at least as good as any other class, and in some cases better. As I watched these guys compete, I was impressed with their level of driving skills. It's the intent of the track owners that someday these teams will move on to the stock cars, and some do.
Promotions It's hard to evaluate the level of promotion outside the event in the week and weeks prior to the race. Most of the tracks had local radio stations in attendance, and there is a cross promotion going on. The tracks support the station and in return, the station promotes the races with announcements during the week prior to the race.
Many of the track announcers are radio personalities and they do a very good job of keeping the fans interested and entertained. All of them announced our attendance repeatedly and spoke of the details of the Tour.
Overall, we see families come to the races with kids in tow. Sure, Dad drives this effort, but if we can provide things to do for the other members of the family, then everyone will want to come back next week. Mothers love it when their kids are happy. Lanier had a large and modern playground for the kids. When they tired of watching the cars go round, they went and played. Without this diversion, it would be necessary to leave and go home.
This track also had a shorty school bus all fixed up with flashing lights and an "ah-oo-ga" horn. It loaded up the kids and drove around the track prior to the start of each race. You could see the excitement on the faces of the kids, both girls and boys, as they rode around. It was great for the youngsters and it gave Mom and Dad a few moments to rest and be together. That's gold.
Technical Aspects Many tracks are going with 8-inch tires for their top divisions. This is both an economical move as well as a tool for equalizing the teams when combining engine rules. Having a higher horsepower engine does one little good if the tires won't support the power.
The truck division is strong...
The truck division is strong at some tracks. This winner is shown as we see a Bandolaro car being pushed off the track in the background. Lower division cars such as Legends, Bandolaros, and Mini-Cup cars are being included in the program to boost the numbers of race cars for a typical Friday or Saturday night event.
The track photographer for...
The track photographer for Tri-County talks with Ty Dillon, whose dad, Mike, runs the operations at Richard Childress Racing. Many sons and daughters of families involved in Cup racing compete in and around this neighborhood in central North Carolina. Mike himself was a prominent short-track racer back in the '90s in North Carolina and Virginia.
The kids just loved our bus....
The kids just loved our bus. Here one tot was thrilled just to touch it. I guess he thought it would be hot, and it is! Coincidentally, his bike was painted like the bus complete with flames. His dad rescued Karen and me from being locked out of the bus when we accidentally pushed the lock lever before going for an evening walk at the Tom Johnson Camping center in Marion, North Carolina, where we purchased the beast.