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Previewing Northern tours for the '12 season

March 15, 2012, 5:37 am
From staff, contributor and series reports

With spring just around the corner (or already here in many places), here's a look at developments on Northern Dirt Late Model tours for the 2012 season. The brief capsules, with information primarily from series officials, directors and publicists, focus on changes for the upcoming season and includes links to the series websites and schedule pages. As usual most series are concerned about fuel costs, the economy and need more sponsorship. With that said, welcome to 2012 (regional series preview home):

American Dirt Racing Association

2011 recap: Eddie Carrier Jr. of Salt Rock, W.Va., claimed the series championship ahead of Rod Conley of Wheelersburg, Ohio, and David Webb of Nicholasville, Ky.

2012 opener: The schedule is not yet finalized, but the first race on the current schedule is the $3000-to-win Freedom Fighters 40 May 18 at Moler Raceway Park in Williamsburg, Ohio.

Schedule highlights (complete schedule): The two-race Billy Bob Classic at Brushcreek Motorsports Complex Sept. 28-29 will include two $10,000-to-win events for the series. The winner of the second event will have the option of choosing the cash or a new Harley-Davidson Motorcycle. Other scheduled events include a pair of $3,000-to-win races at Jackson County Speedway Aug. 3 and Oct. 6.

Rule/format changes: The tour has adopted a punch-40 tire rule, allowing for Hoosier compounds 1300 and harder and American Racer compounds 44 and harder.

Expected regulars: With drivers like Carrier, Conley and Webb expected to frequent series events, tour officials expect a nice mix of regional stars along with some weekly drivers looking to make the jump to the next level.

Key question: Can the tour gain ground with limited sponsorship during a sluggish economy?

Odds and ends: Tour officials hope to release a 10-race schedule in the coming weeks with all events paying at least $3,000 to win and $300 to each starter. ... The ADRA has a marketing partnership with Suddenlink Communications which allows for a substantial number of TV commercials on popular Suddenlink cable channels in primetime spots. ... With its June 30 event, recently reopened Midway Speedway joins Jackson County as new tracks to the tour the season. Officials hope to have a few other new tracks on the final schedule. ... ADRA, which also sanctions weekly racing at a number of tracks, is working on a Grand Championship event for the season finale.

Harbaugh Amusement Appalachian Mountain Speedweek

2011 recap: With back-to-back victories at Williams Grove Speedway and Lincoln Speedway, Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., topped Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y., and Jason Covert of York Haven, Pa., on the seven-race tour for his first championship.

2012 opener: The first of six consecutive days of racing kicks off June 1 with a $5,000 to win event at Big Diamond Raceway in Minersville, Pa.

Schedule highlights (complete schedule): All events pay $5,000 to the winner except Lincoln Speedway’s Charlie Grinestaff Memorial, the tour’s $7,000-to-win finale. Big Diamond and Dog Hollow Speedway both host their first series events this season.

Rule/format changes: None.

Expected regulars: Covert, Jeremy Miller, D.J. Myers, Dan Stone, Colbey Frye, Jamie Lathroum, Greg Saterlee, John Garvin Jr., and more with, with likely drop-ins from Hubbard, Coffey, and past champions Rick Eckert and Josh Richards.

Key question: Can the week-long tour continue to attract impressive car counts after drawing more than 100 total entries in each of its first three seasons?

Odds and ends: Total Speedweek entries were 106 in 2009, 103 in 2010 and 112 last season. ... Martinsburg, W.Va.-based Harbaugh Amusement Machine replaces CenturyLink as the tour’s new title sponsor. ... The fast time award has doubled to $200 in 2012, courtesy of insurance agent Klaudia Chilcoat. ... Drivers will enjoy at least 11 product giveaways per event, each worth $100. ... Other tour sponsors: American Racer Tires, Lias Tire, Area Auto Racing News, Bernheisel Race Components, Booze Brothers Performance, CenturyLink, DMI/Bulldog Rear Ends, Hoosier Tire Mid-Atlantic, Keizer Aluminum Racing Wheels, Klaudia Chilcoat/State Farm Insurance, K.R.S. Graphics, Lazer Chassis, Mastersbilt by Huey, Pancho’s Racing Products, Rocket Chassis, Schaeffer Oil, Sign Design-Bill Funk/Crow Designs, VP Race Fuels & WRT Speedwerx.

Northern Tier United Late Model Series

2011 recap: After winning the season-opener at Tri-City Speedway in Franklin, Pa., Mike Knight of Ripley, N.Y., went winless the remainder of the season, but held off Dennis Lunger of Corry, Pa., and Dave Hess Jr. of Waterford, Pa., for his first series title.

2012 opener: A $3,000-to-win event April 21 at Sharon Speedway, which marks 12-year old tour’s first visit to the Hartford, Ohio, oval.

Schedule highlights (complete schedule): The tour’s biggest events will come during its final two weekends. A doubleheader at McKean County Raceway Sept. 21-22 will include a $2,000 event Friday and the $12,000-to-win Fall Classic on Saturday. The tour closes out its season at Hesston Speedway Oct. 12-13 with a $2,555 event Friday and Saturday’s $10,000-to-win The Ultimate. The tour will make its first visit to Dog Hollow Speedway for the second annual Derek Bobik Memorial July 15. Other first-time tracks include Lernerville Speedway (July 20), Hesston Speedway (Aug. 4 and Oct. 12-13).

Rule/format changes: After experimenting with other options last season, the tour is going back to double-file restarts with the leader having the front row to himself.

Expected regulars: Knight plans to defend his title with Lunger also returning. Other expected regulars include 2010 champion Boom Briggs and Rookie of the Year contenders Billy Dickson and Denny Fenton. Rob Blair, Randy Lobb, T.J. Downs and Rich Gardner plan to attend the majority of the tour’s events.

Key question: With a less travel-extensive schedule this season, will more drivers be enticed to follow the series?

Odds and ends: Pittsburgh's PENNational in May and the Red Miley Rumble in August are tentatively slated to be co-sanctioned with the UFO series. ... Two-thirds of the tour’s events are at tracks north of I-80, the halfway marker in Pennsylvania. Series officials hope that less traveling lowers expenses for the tour’s core group of drivers. ... Two more dates could be added to the tour with Eriez Speedway and one other track considering booking races.

All Star Championship Series

2011 recap: Donnie Moran of Dresden, Ohio, claimed his first championship on the third-year tour after winning one of the tour’s five points-paying events.

2012 opener: The tour’s 2012 schedule has yet to be finalized.

Schedule highlights: Series president Guy Webb hopes to release a seven- to eight-race schedule after a deal is finalized with Sportstime Ohio and a Cleveland, Ohio-based production company to broadcast the tour’s events.

Rule/format changes: None announced.

Expected regulars: It will likely depend on the TV deal. If it does materialize, the tour would be attractive to regional standouts looking to attract potential sponsors. Without the TV deal, the tour could struggle to keep many regulars.

Key question: Will the TV deal materialize?

Odds and ends: Moran was the first driver other than Robbie Blair to win the tour’s championship. Blair, the 2009 and 2010 champion, didn’t follow the tour last year. ... Eddie Carrier Jr. of Salt Rock, W.Va., won two events in 2011, giving him five career victories on the series. He’s one win behind Blair on the all-time list. ... Tracks expected to be on the series schedule include: Lernerville Speedway, Hilltop Speedway, Tyler County Speedway, Wayne County Speedway and Sharon Speedway, according to Webb.

Steel Block Bandits

2011 recap: With one series victory, defending series champion Walker Arthur of Forest, Va., topped Booper Bare of Rockbridge Baths, Va., and Rick Singleton of Hesston, Pa., for his second title.

2012 opener: A $2,000-to-win event at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway April 28.

Schedule highlights (complete schedule): The tour’s initial schedule includes nine events at six racetracks. The opener at Hagerstown and a May 18 event at Natural Bride Speedway both pay $2,000 to the winner, while the other seven events are slated to pay $1,500.

Rule/format changes: The series has switched to a 358 cubic inch motor rule. Full details are available on the series website.

Expected regulars: Expected regulars include Arthur, Andy Fries, Rick Hulson, Spencer Liggon, Bruce Kane, Kyle and Sean Merkel, Rick Singleton, Matt Quade and the father-son duo of Denny and Wesley Bonebrake.

Key question: Can the tour continue to grow with half of its tracks new to the schedule this year?

Odds and ends: New tracks on the tour this season include North Carolina’s 311 Speedway, Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Motor Speedway and Susquehanna Speedway Park. ... In an attempt to save race teams money, the series has done away with membership fees and lowered race entry fees. ... Virginia Motor Speedway and Allegany County speedway are both off the tour this year after hosting events in each of the past two seasons. ... The tour hopes to add more races at other tracks.

Three State Flyers

2011 recap: Jason Covert of York Haven, Pa., continued his dominance on the Doug Timmons-promoted tour, winning five of 12 events for his third consecutive championship.

2012 opener: A doubleheader weekend at Hesston (Pa.) Speedway and Bedford (Pa.) Speedway May 27-28 with Hesston’s Friday event paying $5,100 to the winner and Saturday’s race at Bedford paying $3,000.

Schedule highlights (complete schedule): The 10 races on the tour’s initial schedule will all be contested in Pennsylvania with four races at Hesston, three at Bedford and two at Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex. A season-ending, two-day event Sept. 28-29 at Roaring Knob will pay $7,000-to-win.

Rule/format changes: None announced.

Expected regulars: Covert, Jamie Lathroum, Jeremy Miller, Gregg Satterlee, Kyle Lear, Terry Bard, Nick Dixon, Devin Freese and more are expected to enter the majority of the tour’s events.

Key question: Can the tour add more races and keep its three-state radius?

Odds and ends: Covert is the tour’s only champion. ... Two of Hesston’s events will pay $5,100 to win while a third will pay $4,100. One of Bedford’s races will pay $5,055 to win. ... Series officials are working to add more shows at different tracks. The goal is to have 16 to 20 races on the final schedule. ... Tracks that hosted series events last season that are not on the tour’s current 2012 schedule: Hagerstown Speedway, Potomac Speedway, and Virginia ovals Natural Bridge Speedway and Winchester Speedway. ... Sheets Convenience Store and Sunoco Race Fuels are among series sponsors.

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