This installment marks the last entry into the monthly journal of the 2010 AMSOIL Great American Circle Track Tour. It has been one remarkable year for me personally and for our magazine. What we had hoped would be the result of our efforts has paid off multiple times.
When we first talked about doing this U.S. Tour, we hoped that we could, first of all, observe and report on the condition of stock car racing in this country. If we could do that successfully, then, maybe, we might have enough significant information to begin to draw conclusions such as where we've been, where we are now, and where we need to go to grow this sport.
Our first race besides Speedweeks at New Smyrna and Volusia Speedway Park was at the first
Every good business person will tell you that you need to be ahead of the curve as to trends and the direction each type of business needs to steer toward. And let's face it, above all of the excitement and competition, racing is a serious business.
The tracks we race at are businesses, the parts we buy come from businesses, and indeed this very magazine is a business-and all of the parts and pieces of racing related to business must not only survive, but prosper. And to do that we need a plan. CT won't necessarily develop that plan, but we hope to provide enough information gained from this Tour for others to use to develop their own business plans.
The following are some interesting observations we made on the 2010 portion of a Tour that will eventually encompass the entire country.
One of the first things we came across was the combining of classes that were already similar in rules. When you have Late Model and Limited Late Model classes that are losing numbers, you can combine those classes, and then numbers will be equal or exceed previous sizes for either class.
Ty Dillon, brother of Austin Dillon, and son of Mike Dillon, who heads up Richard Childres
It's fairly easy to do, just equalize the multiple classes with different engine combinations by using weight penalties for the cars with higher horsepower engines, or if you're a positive thinker, weight breaks for the less powered cars. This happened in the F.A.S.T. series here in Florida and it's a method used at numerous tracks we visited including Old Dominion Speedway on asphalt and Crossville Speedway on dirt.
We witnessed a Crate Late Model beat out two high-dollar Super Late Model cars at Crossville and a driver at Old Dominion who races with an open trailer and running what was previously a Limited Late Model win the track championship. This stuff works.
We saw more "compact" foreign-which really aren't foreign-made anymore, only foreign-owned companies-cars used for the stock divisions on both dirt and asphalt. Some teams switched from asphalt to dirt with the same cars.
IMCA-style Modified racing is still strong across the South with a race at The Dirt Track at Texas Motor Speedway attracting more than 200 Modifieds for a special show there held twice a year. And Bowman Gray Stadium hosted a Northeast-style Modified class that filled the stands with more than 17,000 screaming fans.
Lonesome Pine Raceway's first race of the year, our third "FROTY" of the Tour was partiall
Another trend that we saw more than once was the inclusion of scale-sized race car classes such as Legends cars, Bandoleros, Mini-Cup, and Allison Legacy cars racing on 3/8- to 1/2-mile tracks, dirt and asphalt. In past years, these classes were not considered feature worthy, but not anymore.
The tracks need more back gate and allowing the scale-sized cars to run does increase the back gate, but at the expense of a good show some wondered? Not at all. In fact, some of the best racing we've seen this year happened at Old Dominion in a Mini-Cup race where on the final lap the leader's engine stumbled, there was a mad dash for the lead among several cars and the previous leader ended up rolling down the front straight.
The driver emerged unhurt and smiling and waving to the crowd, which was giving him a standing ovation and cheering. It was the best race of the evening. So, who can argue when fans thoroughly enjoy the show? Not me.
The success we saw at another FROTS at Southside Speedway in attendance was a puzzle for t
One of the things we observed was the management of each track and how well the owners and/or promoters organized the events. What were the fans' and race teams' satisfaction levels and did the venue appear to be successful? Because we were traveling in the Southeast on the first leg of our tour, we were able to hit several "first race of the season" events.
We were amazed at the large crowd that came out for the first race at Southside Speedway in Richmond, Virginia. The stands were almost filled. We asked the owners, who happened to be sisters, what they did to attract such a large group and they couldn't come up with anything special they had done.
We did observe that the announcer was a local DJ who did a magnificent job of promotion and kept the crowd entertained throughout the event. He announced our attendance more than 25 times-excessive or not, it was appreciated. Later on, we thought that maybe during the DJ's regular radio show, because he was being paid for the racetrack event as a side job, he promoted the races for free on the air and that may have contributed to the high attendance.
We saw where some tracks were kept nicely with the landscaping, track facilities, and overall look and feel, and some where, frankly, run down. You each know who you are, no need to name names here.
Our biggest surprise of the 2010 Tour as far as attendance was concerned was the crowd of
One very important factor was the attention to the younger fans and their entertainment. Lanier was our first out-of-state stop and the race coincided with Easter. This track did as good a job as we've seen with entertaining the kids. It had a special "school" bus that drove the kids around the track and all over the outside of the track.
It was equipped with flashing emergency lights and a siren and ahhooga horn. The kids had a blast. And it was a way to keep them occupied while the track workers hid Easter eggs near the grandstands in preparation for a huge Easter egg hunt later on that evening.
There was also a small Quarter Midget track located on the property at Lanier and that same Saturday the younger racers were having their own races. When a track takes care of the kids, the parents want to come back often. Where else can you go and be entertained and have the kids ask to go back?
This scenario reminds me of the post WWII era when drive-in movies were popular. Mom and Dad could go take in a movie and the kids had playgrounds to go to and be entertained. It worked for all and those tracks that care about the entire family are definitely more successful from our observations.
The World 100, one of the events where Billy Moyer took home $100,000, was highlighted by
Our overall goal for the Tour was to visit the average racetracks across the region, but we also attended a few larger shows such as the World 100 at Eldora Speedway, the Topless 100 at Batesville Speedway, the USAR Pro Cup event at Hickory Motor Speedway, the USAC Sprint Cars at Salem Speedway, and the U.S. National Dirt Track Championships at The Dirt Track at Texas Motor Speedway.
The best-run show by far was the Eldora event, but then this race has been around for some 40 years now. You'd think they would get it right, right? And they did. The whole track is being modernized and made more fan friendly than ever with the help of the new owners, Tony Stewart and company.
We were provided with a prime location for our motorhome and the crowd was fantastic and controlled. Speaking of controlled, almost every major event we attended had law enforcement present to provide security if needed and 95 percent of the smaller weekly events had the same.
One large event, and we spoke of this in our monthly review this past year, didn't and there was trouble. We want to stress that at any public event with a large attendance, there needs to be security that has law enforcement capability.
Bowman Gray was a weekly event that was in itself a large event due to the huge number of attendees. It had a sufficient number of law enforcement personnel on hand and everything went smooth as glass. The promoter at Bowman Gray did an excellent job of keeping the events on schedule throughout the night and that allowed the crowd to get home at a decent hour. That is important to parents who need to get the kids to bed at a decent hour.
The Topless 100 was one of the big shows that we felt we must attend. Our RV park up the r
As the Tour went along, I couldn't help but notice some of the more technical aspects of the racing we were witnessing. After all, I am the Tech Editor for the magazine. The evolution of the setups for dirt and asphalt continues and gets interesting.
First off, at Lanier, I saw a BBSS setup car take off like a rocket ship and put a half-lap on the field in 20 laps. It was a 100-lap race and by lap 50 or so, a car that started around fifth had move into second and then overtook this early leader to go on to win.
I'm an astute observer of setups and I can tell you that the car that won was running a more conventional setup. It rolled, it rode higher, and it was very consistent-never slipping once in the entire race, whereas several other cars lost their handling balance at some point.
We saw a young racer, who told me he reads CT religiously and races on a limited budget, win at Old Dominion in much the same fashion, coming on later in the race. This driver, running his Limited Late Model against full Late Model cars, also won the track championship.
Racetrack preparation is an art and is somewhat dependent on the equipment used to groom t
On dirt, most of the top cars in each Super Late Model event ran with all four tires on the ground. There was less sideways attitude with the cars of the front runners and at Crossville as we stated, a Crate Late Model beat two full-on built-motor cars with a straight ahead driving style and a smooth, error free run.
Later on we would witness a man named Billy Moyer drive in much the same fashion to a $5,000 win at Paducah International Raceway. You can call it saving tires, or making fewer mistakes, or whatever, but running with less of your tail hanging out is good for the win column.
Most of your top drivers in the touring Dirt Late Models have adopted this style of driving. What confused me was seeing some strange shock setups on these cars. The experimenters were largely lost. There is some success with tie-down right front shocks, but the successful teams limit the extent of the rebound rate. Too much of a "good thing" ends up being a bad thing.
The double spring setups have made their way back into this arena and have their place as long as the transition is timed correctly. This is where you run down the straight and enter the corner on a softer combination of two stacked springs at the right front and sometimes the left rear.
At our final stop at Columbus Speedway, a fascinating feature "stood out." Homemade sky bo
Then as the suspension compresses up front, the shock hits a stop where the upper and softer spring is removed from the situation and the car is now running on the lower and stiffer spring as it moves through the middle of the turn. Then as the car exits, it's back to the double spring on the right front and onto the stiffer spring at the left rear as that corner compresses.
The bars on a four-bar car must be set so that the left rear will compress on exit or the double spring setup on that corner won't work. But all in all, I think experimentation is good as long as the team doesn't get too far away from reality. It's what makes racing so interesting.
Looking back on this whole experience leaves me with a feeling that we are indeed on to something with this whole tour thing. It started out as a somewhat hefty goal to be able to cover so many races and so much territory in this first year, but we did it. We hope you learned something as we learned. There is much more to do for the second year of the AMSOIL Great American Circle Track Tour as we visit the Northeast.
That's a very rich racing region unlike any other in this country. The traditions and history are felt across the land. Think of how many racers from that part of the country have become part of the huge NASCAR nation as drivers, crew chiefs, mechanics, and so on.
I can't wait to study the ways of our northern friends who as track owners, promoters, race teams, and loyal fans may well show us a thing or two about short track racing. We hope you follow along. We're in the process of putting together a plan of attack and a list of racetracks we'll be visiting. If you have any suggestions or comments, please forward them to me or to Editor Rob.