Florence slaps Hartman with 5-race suspension
A tire-cheating penalty will prevent two-time Ralph Latham Memorial winner Bart Hartman from competing in that Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event June 5, but his suspension wasn't handed down by the series. Host track Florence Speedway in Union, Ky., slapped a five-race suspension on Hartman on Friday after the track's laboratory test revealed he used a chemically-altered tire in May 15 action at Florence, co-promoter Josh King said.
Hartman, who won the Lucas Oil-sanctioned Latham Memorial in 1998 and '99 as well as Florence's lucrative North-South 100 in '05, can't compete at Florence until at least July 10 and faces an unspecified fine, King said. Hartman doesn't compete at Florence weekly but is a regular at the track's special events.
Attempts to reach Hartman by phone weren't successful, but King said that Hartman, last year's World 100 winner at Ohio's Eldora Speedway, denied knowing the tire was treated.
The ability to detect chemically-treated tires isn't easy and tests aren't inexpensive, so it's mostly fallen to touring organizations, including the Lucas Oil Series, World of Outlaws and Southern All Stars, all of which have handed down suspensions and fines. But King said local teams in regular weekly races were widely suspected by competitors at the half-mile oval in northern Kentucky.
"The treating stuff was rampant here at Florence," King said. So he decided to follow the process of the Lucas Oil Series, employing the same North Carolina lab and launching a similar program for preventing drivers from using chemicals to improve tire performance.
With a limited budget for tire-testing — lab fees are about $55 for tires that come back clean, five times that for illegal tires — King has only sent about a dozen tires for testing so far this season by random selection on three occasions. Florence has checked Late Model and modified tires.
At the $2,000-to-win event on May 15, won by Mike Jewell after the leading Hartman broke on lap 26, the track confiscated two tires from Jewell and one apiece from heat race winners Hartman, John Mason and Jerry Rice. The tires from Jewell, Rice and Mason checked out OK.
King believes the random tests have made a difference in curtailing the use of tire treatments.
"It's one of those deals where they never know when to expect it," he said, "so I think it's gotten most of them stopped from doing it." — Todd Turner
World of Outlaws head to WVMS
West Virginia Motor Speedway is back. The massive 5/8-mile oval will reclaim its traditional place as a site of high-profile Dirt Late Model racing over the Memorial Day weekend, hosting a pair of World of Outlaws Late Model Series programs to headline the RaceFest World Championships on May 29-30. Two complete shows will bring the showplace facility back into the national spotlight after two years of inactivity.
"We're so excited for RaceFest and the return of the World of Outlaws to West Virginia Motor Speedway," said co-promoter Scott Strode, one of the principals in the Mountain State Motorsports Promotions group that was formed to reopen the famed track. "We ran RaceFest in the past, but that was when we just promoted some special shows at West Virginia Motor. Now we're here running the track for the long haul and the buzz that's out there makes me feel like this will be the best attended RaceFest we've ever had."
Strode and his longtime BDS Racing Promotions partners, Brian Ferrell and Daniel Patterson, are well known to West Virginia race fans through their previous promotions at WVMS and their successful six-year stint operating Tyler County Speedway in Middlebourne, W.Va. Assuming full-time control of WVMS had long been a dream for Strode and his cohorts, who strive to bring stability and a solid marketing effort to bear on a fan-friendly but star-crossed track that was shuttered in September 2007.
"This is where we always wanted to be," Strode said of the facility that sits just south of Parkersburg, W.Va., on the west side of I-77. "We live only 3 miles from Tyler, but running West Virginia Motor has been our goal. It's a real neat place and a great venue for major events, but unfortunately it's been plagued by bad luck and a lot of different promoters running in-and-out of there.
"We're not coming in there to try and make a quick buck and get out of town. We signed a three-year lease to show everybody that we're committed to the track and we're putting our best foot forward for the racers and surrounding racing community."
The new WVMS promotional team has effectively revitalized the unique speedplant, which features terraced hillside seating on its homestretch and long straightaways that produce some of the highest speeds in Dirt Late Model racing. Since September work crews have been at the track virtually every day that weather allowed to tend to a laundry list of projects — bringing the facility's infrastructure up to speed, reclaiming the expansive grounds from overgrown weeds, excavating access roads and the pit area, painting the entire concrete outside wall, keeping the grass infield finely manicured. Special care was taken with the track surface, which Strode considers one of the primary keys to WVMS's future success.
"We moved about a foot of dirt from the inside of the track," said Strode. "The track had sat there so long without any racing, the dirt had just worked to the bottom. The dirt had actually built up to be just about even with the inside guardrail, so we cut that 12 inches of dirt and moved it back to the middle of the track. We've been working it on a regular basis all spring."
The result of that track-prep was evident during the new regime's grand reopening of WVMS, an O'Reilly All-Star Late Model Series event on May 16. The surface was smooth and extremely fast — so fast, in fact, that Kenny Compton Jr. of Bland, Va., established a track record of 19.085 seconds (over 115 mph) in time trials. The night's main event was rained out.
"Everybody was saying the track was the best they've ever seen it," said Strode. "Those old holes that were always a problem just weren't there. Our track crew did a helluva job.
"We want to give the racers a fast, bitey and smooth racing surface that lets them race all over it, and we were real pleased to start off the season with that kind of track. If we can keep it up, the fans are going to see some great racing this year." — Kevin Kovac
Browning wings it at DIS
Many Super Late Model racers at Delaware International Speedway in Delmar, Del., added aerodynamic enhancements to their cars May 22 on Wings & Things Night at the half-mile oval. Lexan sideboards and other wings that allowed fastest lap times were the rule of the night and 72-year-old racer Hal Browning of Seaford, Del., won the night's feature.
“It was fast,” said Browning, who notched his first victory of the season. “It felt pretty good but I missed my line a couple of times. It was hard to see when I got down to the end of the straightaway.”
The sideboards provide greater downforce and faster laps, and Browning set the tone in winning his heat, logging a lap of 16.936 seconds and an average speed of 106.282 mph, well under the 18.377-second fast qualifying lap for the recent World of Outlaws Late Model Series event. The only cars to go faster on the DIS over are 410 sprint cars.
In the feature, Browning quickly built a big lead and was headed into the sunset by the time second-running David Pettyjohn slowed and pulled pitside on the ninth lap.
Staci Warrington took second from Austin Hubbard with seven laps remaining, but there was no catching Browning in the 20-lapper as he lapped all but two competitors for the victory.
Polesitter Matt Hill won the night's Crate Late Model feature, his only scare coming on the final lap when a lapped car got sideways in front of him in turn two. Hill managed to just scrape by and went on to victory over Tyler Reed and fast qualifier Jack Mullins, who started ninth. — From track reports
Odds and ends
Jeff Rine of Danville, Pa., will try Saturday to become the first driver in Selinsgrove (Pa.) Speedway history to win five consecutive Super Late Model features; seven other drivers have won four consecutive races, most recently all-time winningest Selinsgrove driver Bobby Croop in 1997. ... Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis., is celebrating Memorial Day with free grandstand admission for its May 29 event; Late Models aren't in action. ... Looking to draw larger car counts, Penn Can Speedway in Susquehanna, Pa., plans to open up rules in its weekly Late Model division. A restructured format for the division will see a draw for heat race positions and 25-lap features paying $1,000 to the winner.