Dirt is for Racing, Asphalt is how you get there. Asphalt is for racing, Dirt is for Planting Potatoes.
When I was a much younger version of myself I fell madly in love. It was a torrid affair that burned white hot for almost 40 years. Sadly, later on, we grew apart and when another entered the picture I tried balancing both – but it was hopeless. It was one of those sad partings like Dave Mason sang about – “There ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys, there’s only you and me and we just disagree”. Like in the song I bear no malice and after several years apart, I’ve gained a nostalgic fondness for my former partner, sadly that has now turned to fear and worry, because if something is not done soon, my former love may soon die and I do not want this for pavement racing. Yes, dirt and I get along extremely well – some nights we have our spats, eg. Eldora going away in hot laps, but that doesn’t mean pavement racing should not and can not prosper as well.
I fell in love with pavement watching the supermodifieds at Nilestown Speedway in 1966, that turned into a white hot affair when I went to Delaware a week or 2 later. As the years went by, I went to the macadam meccas, Indianapolis, Daytona, Michigan, Atlanta and along the way developed a belief that the real gems were short tracks like Oswego and Toledo with my favorite of them all being the very high banked 1/4 mile oval that is Anderson Speedway in Anderson Indiana. It is where my favorite pavement race is held each year – The Little 500. A race that features 500 laps of insanity and mayhem, starring 33 sprint cars their insane drivers and equally whacked crews and push truck drivers – push trucks on the track during green flag racing anyone????? Besides the American tracks I mentioned, we have some pretty cool pavement joints around here. My personal favorite being Delaware - I love the different radii of the turns, the long back stretch and the bank off turn 2. Basically the characteristics of a track built not by a clean sheet design – but the characteristics of a track that has grown and evolved over the years.
As mentioned I fell in love with dirt track racing, that was in the late 90′s - In hindsight that really steams my clams, because I had people whispering in my ear to go check out Eldora in the early 80′s. I’ll never forget busting my butt crewing on Graham Kells supermodified at Toledo in 1990 when this couple came up to Graham in the pits and said, “Graham, when are you going to get rid of that thing and get a sprint car and go run the dirt?” – I thought that was about the looniest thing I ever heard. Why give up big blocks and radical offsets and go back to uprights and small blocks – Hello, the 1950′s called they want their racecars back!!!!! By the way, the couple was Ken and Cheryl Pelkie who later played a major part in growing sprint cars in Southern Ontario.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago…..
Other than terrible car counts, and “crowds” that are sometimes greater than the car count all is well in pavement world. So what can be done??? At the Canadian Motorsports Expo I spoke to a couple of pavement folk and asked where does pavement racing go from here? Off the hop there were 3 suggestions that the tracks could do, that would both save the tracks and competitors time and money. The first is cut warm-ups to one session per division and limit the session to 3-5 laps. Pavement warm-ups are a waste of time and equipment. I used to be livid when we raced pavement, if we did not get at least 3 warm-up sessions. Go to an Outlaw show, they will go to a track they have never seen,do 5 warm-up laps come in, adjust, and set a new track record in qualifying. The second is cut the intermission (singular) to a reasonable duration (under 15 minutes).This is one area where asphalt could have it all over dirt tracks – Other than a post rain drying session, they never require ‘grooming” through the night – nobody likes to watch a grader doing hot laps.Pavement track operators have a much greater ability to run a clean, tidy show that most dirt track promoters would envy. Finally, It floored me when I heard Raceceivers are not fully implemented at every pavement track, that is the height of lunacy. For crying out loud it is 2014. Stop screwing around with blackboard line-ups!!! Ask almost anyone that has run a Raceceiver and they will tell you at one time or other it probably saved on a ton of repairs (or worse) – everybody wins with these things!
The last comment I will make is regarding the quality of racing itself – in short – it sucks. I don’t know what the answer is – but I do know this – when I go to a race their better be a ton of cars on the track by feature time. I will tolerate crappy heats and even no B main, BUT a 9 car feature is embarrassing and pathetic. I know only one easy answer in this regard – and it seems to be the most difficult to do. HAVE THE TRACKS WORK TOGETHER AND COMMONISE RULES. Right now pretty much any dirt track sprint car in North America can be loaded onto a trailer and run at any other dirt sprint car track in North America. That has to be the goal of every track operator in North America. For example get the late model chassis rules in line and separate the divisions cost wise, through motor and tire rules. Maybe they are close on this, I don’t know – but if I can’t tow a Delaware “late model” to a California “late model” show and race there – then somebody is doing something wrong. FYI – I have Stock Car Racing Magazines from the early 70′s where this was a predominant issue.
I am concerned that I am coming off as arrogant – that is not my intention. Dirt racing has its share of issues and problems, the difference is, that it seems to be healthier crowd wise and car count wise and thus has a little more “wiggle room” to make mistakes. In all honesty I believe that the pavement situation is becoming increasingly dire and if things are not corrected real soon, there will be nothing to correct. Please prove me wrong pavement guys!!!!!
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