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Quick Time: A review of track reconfigurations

August 22, 2012, 10:51 am
By Todd Turner
DirtonDirt.com managing editor

Take a quick lap around the proverbial dirt track with managing editor Todd Turner for a roundup of Dirt Late Model racing through the latest weekend of action along with some other quirks of racing (along with occasional ax-grinding). Quick Time, one of the newest features of our website, will appear every Wednesday at DirtonDirt.com:

Frontstretch: Drivers of the week

National: Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., notched his richest victory in four years with $40,000 at the Comp Cams Topless 100, the first-ever win for Francis — as well as car owner Barry Wright — at Batesville (Ark.) Motor Speedway.

Regional: Steve Casebolt of Richmond, Ind., swept a pair of $5,000 races in Ohio, winning at Moler Raceway Park in Williamsburg and Portsmouth Raceway Park. Honorable mention: Jared Miley of South Park, Pa., won Aug. 17 at Lernerville Speedway, where he’s already clinched the track championship, then earned $5,353 on Aug. 18 in UFO-ULMS competition at Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Motor Speedway.

Weekly: Ricky Elliott of Seaford, Del., clicked off back-to-back victories Aug. 17-18 at Georgetown (Del.) Speedway and Delaware International Speedway in Delmar.

Crate: Fastrak Northeast-dominating Max Blair of Centerville, Pa., won a pair of races at McKean County and Sharon before Mike Pegher Jr. denied him in a second Sharon event. Honorable mention: Hot Rod Lamance of Sugar Tit, S.C., picked up victories at Westminster (S.C.) Speedway and Hartwell (Ga.) Speedway for three victories in an eight-day stretch.

Turn 1: Top five reconfigured tracks

After nearly two years of waiting, we’ll soon see how the shortened and reconfigured West Virginia Motor Speedway in Mineral Wells turns out. The enormous 5/8-mile oval that was reduced to 4/10-mile status is scheduled to return to action Sept. 16, the first Late Model event at the track since October 2010.

Most dirt tracks are carved out of the earth and retain their original shape and dimensions, but others — mostly larger tracks — are reshaped or shortened to improve the competition. Here’s a look at five tracks that went through reconfigurations in recent seasons and how it turned out for each:

Tri-City Speedway, Pontoon Beach, Ill.
Old configuration?: Thin ribbon of a flattish, half-mile oval that featured high speeds.
New configuration?: Conventional 3/8-mile oval with higher banking.
What we miss?: Current track owner Kevin Gundaker’s orange No. 11 blazing around half-mile — but not much else.
What’s better?: The multigrooved racing and sightlines at a track that’s seen other amenities improved during the Gundaker era.
Improvement (1-10): 9
Brushcreek Motorsports Complex, Peebles, Ohio
Old configuration?: Massive, multi-cornered, would-be oval that seemingly wandered all over the property.
New configuration?: More standard 3/8-mile oval with a tight corners in turns one and two, a tighter entrance in turn three and a sweeping exit through turn four.
What we miss?: Not much, especially not the blown engines of a high-speed track where drivers could flat-foot it virtually all the way around.
What’s better?: Side-by-side racing on a track that still has enough character to keep drivers on their toes.
Improvement (1-10): 8
Golden Isles Speedway, Brunswick, Ga.
Old configuration?: Seemingly endless 5/8-mile oval that was oil-packed clay for much of its existence and allowed speeds clocked at more than 140 mph on the backstretch. Never actually walked out to turn three — it was too far.
New configuration?: Conventional 4/10-mile clay oval that still allows for drivers to carry extremely high speeds through the corners.
What we miss?: Gate worker “Barefoot” Joe Scott, but not much else at a track where one-grooved racing was the norm.
What’s better?: A wider racing surface and track positioned directly in front of the grandstands. The track has gone back-and-forth with narrowing the frontstretch using a guardrail to cut speeds exiting turn four, and that seemed to make the racing better.
Improvement (1-10): 9
Cherokee Speedway, Gaffney, S.C.
Old configuration?: Classic, high-banked half-mile oval with a back-in-time feel. The surface required drivers to beware of tire wear.
New configuration?: Wider, 4/10-mile circuit as turns one and two were drawn into dramatically. Tire wear still critical.
What we miss?: The old-school charm of the original track. The high speeds could create excitement, but the place was scary fast, as evidenced by Tim Hitt’s famed and impromptu exit when his No. 68 cleared the wall between turns one and two.
What’s better?: The racing gets less strung out in long-distance affairs and fans get a better view of the action.
Improvement (1-10): 6
Lawrenceburg Speedway, Lawrenceburg, Ind.
Old configuration?: A quaint, quarter-mile, wall-free fairgrounds oval complete with wooden covered grandstands.
New configuration?: High-banked, modern 3/8-mile oval surrounded by concrete walls alongside a state-of-the-art grandstand that was part of a $3.5 million renovation.
What we miss?: The lip on the straightaways that drivers could lean on — or slip over — in trying to get their best angle into the corners.
What’s better?:
The facility is faster, yet safer, and looks fantastic, ranking among the top dirt tracks in the country overall.

Improvement (1-10): 4

Turn 2: Top five no-no’s for Late Model features

• Green flag flies after 11 p.m.

• Drivers allowed more than two single-car cautions

• Fuel stop

• Single-file restarts

• Judgement calls restore drivers to running position

Backstretch: Track result of the week

The final sentence of fan’s racing report from an unnamed track from last weekend’s action, after winners from several other divisions were listed:

"Mini Wedges? Sorry, I don't remember. Was heading to the bathroom as they got their picture taken.”

Turn 3: Facebook status of the week

Paducah, Ky., driver Chris Shelton, after breaking through Aug. 18 for a Super Late Model victory at Clarksville (Tenn.) Speedway:

“Setup #400 won ... guess we’ll fine tune it and see if we can do it again.”

Turn 4: Turn back the clock

Five items from this week in Dirt Late Model history:

Aug. 25, 1979: Kevin Gundaker of St. Charles, Mo., won at State Fair Motor Speedway in Sedalia, Mo., for the first of a series-best seven career victories on the National Speedway Contest Association.

Aug. 27, 1980: Danny Dean of Mount Vernon, Ohio, clicked off a Midwest Outlaw Super Series victories at Tri-City Speedway in Franklin, Pa., his third victory in a four-race stretch during his runner-up season on the series.

Aug. 24, 1984: During a season with 11 series victories and the All-Star Circuit of Champions title, Donnie Moran of Frazeysburg, Ohio, won at the Jennerstown (Pa.) Speedway.

Aug. 24, 1996: Rallying from a lap-16 starting spot and multiple pit stops for flat tires, Bill Frye of Greenbrier, Ark., overtook Scott Bloomquist inside the final 20 laps for a $26,000 Topless 100 victory in Batesville, Ark. Bloomquist believed Frye was a lap down when he went past.

Aug. 26, 2004: Randle Chupp of Mooresville, N.C., overtook Greg Johnson with a lap-98 slide job at Volunteer Speedway for a $15,000 victory in the inaugural Scorcher 100 in Bulls Gap, Tenn. "I said, 'It's five (laps) to go, and we've gotta go, baby,’ ” Chupp said.

Checkered flag: Five fearless weekend predictions

• At least one driver who scores a top-five finish Thursday at Volunteer Speedway’s Lucas Oil-sanctioned Scorcher will also finish among the top five the following night at Ponderosa Speedway’s $7,500-to-win Colston Paving 60.

• A single home-state driver will crack the top 10 in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series visit to Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway.

• The MARS DIRTcar Series visit to Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo., will go to an Illinois driver.

• Winchester (Va.) Speedway will get its 15th Super Late Model winner of the season in World of Outlaws Late Model Series action.

• Home-state drivers will sweep Sunday’s events, the WoO debut at Selinsgrove (Pa.) Speedway and the ULMS event at Eriez Speedway in Hammett, Pa.

(Last week: Four out of five predictions correct)

 
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