Fast Talk: Wrapping up Indy's IMIS trade show
Here is the year’s final edition of Fast Talk, a DirtonDirt.com feature appearing most Mondays throughout the year. Staffers Michael Rigsby, Todd Turner and Joshua Joiner gather weekly for a roundtable discussion about who’s hot, who’s not and other issues regarding Dirt Late Model racing (edited for clarity and length):
Todd Turner: Is it really the off-season? Pinch me. Well, it’s actually been the off-season in most parts of the country for weeks or months, but the conclusion of the trade show season officially puts the sport on hiatus — until 2013 get rolling, of course, the first weekend in January at Talladega Short Track’s Ice Bowl and Central Arizona Raceway’s Wild West Shootout.
Let’s review the final International Motorsports Industry Show in Indianapolis — the city that will host a larger Performance Racing Industry show, which has absorbed IMIS, next December. Hundreds of Dirt Late Model drivers, crew and team members came to Indy, and while, there wasn’t any earth-shattering news, there were a few tidbits here and there. Any driver news jump out at you Michael?
Michael Rigsby: One of the worst things about IMIS — and the best things — is that you find out a ton of stuff that immediately is followed by the "but that's off the record” comment. So there were a lot of things floating around that I was pretty interested in, some of it we can't report, but news that will come out soon. What we can talk about: listening to Mike Marlar really talk about the tire situation in East Alabama was interesting. Getting a vibe on what drivers were going to Arizona, Florida, and so on was also captivating. At some point, a guy would tell you at the start of a conversation he wasn't going, and then by the end, he was! What about you Todd?
TT: I talked with Jonathan Davenport for a few minutes Thursday and I saw a little fire in his eyes. I'm sure he feels he'd like to prove himself with his new AES Racing ride after Clint Bowyer Racing released him, and it sounds like if they're able to put together an ideal crew, they'd consider running the Lucas Oil tour again. I'm sure he'd like to get a solid start in 2013 and rebuild his confidence quickly.
MR: I was also interested in the rookie situation on the national tours. The World of Outlaws have a few guys sewn up, but the Lucas rookie crop could get interesting. Right now there is no clear frontrunner, but I'm guessing and hearing as we get closer to February, we could see some pretty neat names pop out there.
Joshua Joiner: I'm surprised neither of you mentioned Don O'Neal's new graphics scheme. I wasn't in Indy, but I probably saw the car 10 times over the weekend just via photos on social media.
TT: It was a sharp-looking car, and quite a departure from O'Neal's yellow scheme.
MR: Loved those colors, but Josh Richards's car was the best looking in my opinion. I liked Brian Shirley’s, too.
TT: There seemed to be as much series news as anything. Let’s start with North Carolina driver Ray Cook’s latest promotional foray with the inaugural Spring Nationals, a 10-race miniseries over four multirace weekends that will pay the champion more than $5,300 by mid-May. It’s an interesting idea that Cook hopes will draw drivers who can’t commit to months-long tours. How do you guys see it?
MR: Love it. One of the cooler pieces of news the entire weekend. Not only is it a perfect time for a tour in that region of the country, but Ray's reputation and dependability make it that much more attractive. Starting with the $10,000-to-win Spring Thaw at Bulls Gap (with another race for $4,000 going the previous night) was a brilliant decision. It's rare these days I get a schedule and say "very cool,” but with this one I did. It must made sense, and props to Ray for thinking outside the box.
JJ: When I first heard rumblings about the series at PRI, I wasn't real sure about something like that. But now that the schedules out and thinking about it, it actually seems quite exciting. It's definitely something different, but I can see a good number of drivers, including some top-level guys, taking a stab at it. That's pretty good money for the races alone. The points money is just an added benefit.
TT: What about the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals schedule? The 31-race schedule stretches the series to a sixth week with most Mondays and Tuesdays off. At first blush I think teams will like the off-days to recharge each week, but a series stretching from June 12-July 20 is certainly less compact and requires a bigger commitment for the full-timers. What do you think?
MR: It's pretty split as to how people feel. Some love the off-days, some hate them. My original hope was that it would be 25 races over 5 weeks with every Monday-Tuesday off. This is very ambitious, and while it will allow some recovery time, it's gonna be pretty grueling for guys. I did like that they made the change to not go Fairbury, Ill.-Lake Odessa, Mich.-Peoria, Ill., as that was a crazy three-day stretch. But obviously, it's the Hell Tour, and no matter what, there will be some grumbling.
JJ: I like the idea of extra off days, and especially some back-to-back. But yeah, that's an awful long time to stick with a series. I could see more guys dropping off toward the end of it when they're out of the points chase, whereas in the past, a lot of teams have stuck it out. I was also a little disappointed in some of the logistics of it. Some of the travel on there really doesn't make much sense, and I would imagine that's not very appealing to racers.
TT: Because we won’t gather again before early January action, any thoughts about the Ice Bowl or eight races in Arizona between Casa Grande and Tucson International Raceway? Arizona provides a busy stretch for DirtonDirt.com with eight pay-per-view productions, and plenty of drivers will be busy between now and then getting ready. Any thoughts on the highest-profile January races?
JJ: Seeing how the 2012 season just wrapped up, it's a little hard to get excited about next season already. But I'm sure once we're through the holidays, my excitement will start to pick back up. The Ice Bowl is always interesting just because of the mix of drivers there. You sometimes get an early look at national touring guys like Ray Cook or Shane Clanton when they make the trip and the regional and weekly guys there is usually pretty good mix. I'm interested to see how racing at two tracks works out for Arizona. It seems like there's hype for both events out there, so hopefully that means there's going to be a strong turnout.
MR: The Ice Bowl is always interesting from the standpoint of who will show up. It's one of those events where you can get some random entrants, and you always ask, how did that guy or why did that guy come here? But it's fun, and Preacher (co-promoter Lynn Phillips) does a really nice job with things.
Obviously Arizona is huge for us, not only with the eight live PPV events, but the fact that it's become the true kickoff of the season. While Florida Speedweeks will always be the traditional jumping-off point, but with Shane Clanton, Tim Fuller, Jimmy Mars, Billy Moyer, Billy Moyer Jr., Chris Simpson, Terry Phillips and so many more going to Arizona, it's gonna be a lot of fun again.
TT: DirtonDirt.com’s Best of 2012 coverage launched last week and we’ll have tons of year-in-review items coming up throughout the month. We’ve spent lots of time racking our brains and trying to recall this race and that race and this driver or that driver while working on the coverage. Anything surprising jump out for you guys?
For me, I’m continually intrigued how unheralded drivers can pile up double-digit victory seasons and standout campaigns with such little fanfare from publications, tracks, series or drivers themselves. While the sport has seen an overall improvement in publicity and awareness over the years, a driver’s successful season can still fall through the cracks. Hopefully we’ll be able to honor some of those drivers, and get some feedback on those we miss on our Facebook page.
MR: I'm very excited about seeing our state-by-state breakdowns. It's a new feature that we have this year that I think fans are really going to love. That'll be a lot of fun.
As far as eye-catchers. I'm with you Todd, you look at some of these guys — and I cover this sport for a living — and you go, “He had how many wins?!?” Just goes to show that there's really a lot of drivers out there that we don't pay enough attention to.
TT: Like South Carolina's David Smith. I ran into him at IMIS, and I knew he was strong in Crate Late Models with another Fastrak City Chevrolet Tour championship, but he mentioned he had 15 wins. That's even more than I would've expected and quite impressive.
JJ: I agree with you there, Todd. While going back and review some driver's statistics, I noticed a few drivers that I had no idea they won so many races. I think a lot of people will be surprised by some of the numbers when they see them on the pieces coming up soon, especially the new state-by-state awards.