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Fast Talk: Ready for Georgia-Florida Speedweeks

February 6, 2012, 11:57 am

Here's the latest edition of Fast Talk, a new DirtonDirt.com feature appearing each Monday. 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: Georgia-Florida Speedweeks is upon us — belatedly — and our various previews at DirtonDirt.com have covered many of the basic storylines. For our final Fast Talk before Screven Motor Speedway kicks things off with Thursday's practice, let's dig a little deeper. What's the one Speedweeks unknown that you're most curious about for Speedweeks?

Michael Rigsby: I think we've got a pretty good grasp on where everyone is headed as far as East Bay-Ocala, Waycross-Screven, so to me the last real unknown is how good the racing is going to be at a lot of places. We know East Bay has some new clay, is working the track differently, we know Ocala doesn't want to be as rough as it was last year, we know Waycross has shortened the track. The question is, will any of it make a difference? The odds are at least two of the three places will see drastic differences, but where, when and how? I'm stumped as to if the quality of racing will be better than it has been in the past.

TT: It's an obvious unknown, but to see how the Ocala-East Bay conflict splits drivers will be scrutinized ad nauseam.

Joshua Joiner: There really isn't one specific thing I'm most curious about. By now, I'm more ready just to get Speedweeks going and see how things play out. Of course there are all the major stories that have seemed to be beat to death the past few weeks as the excitement for the season has grown.

I'm interested to see how some of the new teams and offseason driver changes will work out. Wisconsin driver Terry Casey and car owner Arnie Ranta hooking back up could be interesting. They never said which tour they plan on following, but wherever they end up after Georgia, it will be interesting how long it takes them to get back to where they left off in 2008. Or can they even get back to that point?

Will Jonathan Davenport continue his late-season dominance from last year with his new team at Clint Bowyer Racing? Can Steve Francis be successful in the Barry Wright house car? Will Tim McCreadie be a serious contender on the WoO tour with Warrior? And what about Austin Hubbard with his new deal on the Lucas Oil tour? There's been quite a few changes going into the season, and it'll be interesting to watch it all play out starting this weekend in Georgia.

TT: Something that strikes me is the unlikelihood of any team or driver being particularly fresh by the time Volusia's World of Outlaws events roll around at the end of February. In years past, while many teams raced in Georgia and a week at East Bay before heading to Volusia, several teams competed at Volusia only. That's impossible for WoO regulars this year with four events preceding Volusia over the previous two weekends. I'd expect more teams will skip some of the early Volusia events. It's definitely an advantage for the teams with the most crew help.

JJ: I agree, Todd. That might play into the favor of some of the guys accustomed to racing many days in a row. Maybe some of the WoO rookies that run the Summernationals (Moyer Jr., Sheppard, Sullivan) can make their Hell Tour experience work for them during Speedweeks.

MR: Scott Bloomquist told us in an interview this week that he sees Volusia as the big winner car-count wise. I think they'll be steady all week.

TT: I suppose you all checked out the video action from the Crate Late Model racing at East Bay Raceway Park's Winternationals-opening weekend. No doubt many Speedweeks drivers did, too, interested to see how the track's new clay looks. I'd guess the surface might develop a little different with Super Late Models on softer tires, but there appeared to be racing room, didn't there?

MR: It looked much more like the old East Bay — meaning wet, wet, wet — than we've seen the past few years. Overall there was a lot of side-by-side racing too. Obviously you throw the soft tires, and Super Late Models into the mix, it's a game-changer. But from the sounds of it, they're being more meticulous with the track, and watering it regularly. We'll see if that continues next week. So maybe that's another unknown.

TT: That inside groove looked awfully inviting to soft tires, I thought.

JJ: I thought the surface was decent, especially considering that was the first racing action on it. I don't think people realize how much of a difference the soft tires and open motors can make. As someone who's raced both Crates and Supers, I can tell you that it's much easier to pass in a Super Late Model than a Crate. Sometimes a track can have three or four grooves, but Crates are so equal in horsepower that you're not going to see a lot of passing. I think when you get the soft tires, open motors and a bit better talent level down there, you'll get a better indication of how the new clay is going to work out.

TT: We've just come off the NFL's Super Bowl, where people bet on the strangest things (did anyone hit a windfall for predicting viewers would see a middle finger during the halftime show?). If you were betting men for Speedweeks, let's briefly review how you'd wager on a few items. First, what are the odds that any one driver will enter events at all six tracks?

MR: Ha ha. Umm, I'd say that's 500-1. Just a tough chance of the Waycross-Screven thing happening...maybe too high — 300-1 more likely.

TT: A flat tire in a Screven heat race might send someone to Waycross. Otherwise, quite unlikely. A few drivers will probably hit five tracks, though.

MR: We need odds! Give us your odds! I'm settling on 300-1.

TT: OK, give me 200:1

JJ: That's a tough one. I don't think the odds are very high — maybe 100:1 — but I could see it happening. There will definitely be some guys leave Screven for Waycross if they're buried in a consy. And I'm sure guys who struggle at East Bay early in the week will try to improve their luck by heading to Ocala. It's just highly unlikely that those two situations happen to the same driver.

TT: Second, which track would you bet will have the single highest car count — and on which night?

MR: Great question on this. I've debated it over and over ... I'll say Volusia on Wednesday, and I'll say 72 Late Models.

TT: I'd go with Volusia on Monday with 76 cars.

JJ: The safe bet would be Tuesday or Wednesday at Volusia, but is there a chance we see a huge car count Friday night at Screven? Personally, I think it will be Volusia. And I'll guess Tuesday night with 73 cars.

TT: And finally, of the eight drivers who've registered as rookies with the World of Outlaws, what's your wager on how many will enter the first post-Speedweeks race March 30-31 at Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway?

MR: I say six make it to Farmer City, and by the time we get a month later, we're down to four.

TT: Actually Farmer City fits those guys pretty well — Moyer Jr., Robinson, Sheppard, Sullivan — so they might at least stick it out until then, even if Florida is a disaster. I'll say five at Farmer City ... but only two will make the required 25-race limit.

JJ: I actually think quite a few of those guys will still be on board for the Farmer City race. I think after that race will be decision time for the majority of them. I'll say seven of the eight will be there.

TT: And finally, we'll move away from Speedweeks to talk about something we heard some rumblings about at the International Motorsports Industry Show in Indianapolis in December. Richard Allen with TennesseeRacer.com posted a column this morning about those rumblings that Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway is considering another dirt-covered-concrete event for Late Models like they ran in 2000 and 2001. Sounds like it's merely in the consideration stage, but let's kick this around. What would be different this time around? Good idea? Worth a joint Lucas Oil-WoO sanction?

MR: We've heard about this since the late summer. The rumblings have really grown strong, and I've talked to enough people at IMIS to know it's a strong possibility. I think this is a great once-every-10-years type event. I'd say it's a perfect chance to co-sanction an event, especially considering the race's magnitude. Will it be co-sanctioned? Absolutely not, but still, wishful thinking.

TT: I love the idea of Dirt Late Models getting to race at such a spectacular place, but in reality, what sticks out most about the first visit is: wheels being ripped off cars, a track worker tumbling off his four-wheeler to a huge roar from the crowd, and sitting in a packed parking lot at 3 a.m.

JJ: I think it's a great idea, and even though I doubt the two series would do it together, I would love to see it co-sanctioned. I don't think it will be as big as it was the first time around. But I still think it would be a huge draw for both drivers and fans. I didn't get to go to either race in 2000 or 2001, so you can bet I would love to be there to see it if they do it again.

MR: Todd, they know of all those issues, and they'll get them better the second time (or third) around.

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