Quick Time: A dirt racing version of IROC?
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.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 (and the occasional ax-grinding). Quick Time appears throughout the regular season every Wednesday at DirtonDirt.com:
Frontstretch: Ready for DROC?
While awaiting hot laps at a recent race, colleague Tim Lee and I stumbled upon a conversation about pitting the top Dirt Late Model drivers against one another in equal cars. Sort of like the long-lost IROC series, the International Race of Champions that bridged various auto racing disciplines for many years.
Of course, we kicked around several intriguing possibilities before neither of us volunteered to put up the money to make it go. But hey, we’re the idea guys, right? It would of course taking some funding and sponsorship to develop an IROC-style competition for Dirt Late Models, but the events could be held at tracks where the participants are gathered anyway, saving travel expenses. And the chassis, equipment, tires and fuel could be sponsor tradeouts. Pie in the sky, I know, but here’s the potential framework for such a series:
• Ten drivers are chosen. The top three in points from the World of Outlaws Late Model Series and Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series the previous season, two wild-card picks (voted by fans), and two champions from regional tours (voted by fans).
• Four races are scheduled at Volusia Speedway Park during the UNOH DIRTcar Nationals; Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, on Dream weekend; Florence (Ky.) Speedway during Sunoco Race Fuels North-South 100 weekend; and the Red Buck Dirt Track World Championship at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park.
• Veteran crew chiefs (perhaps Ronnie Stuckey and Robby Allen?) would identically prepare the 10 cars with spec equipment from shocks to hard-compound tires. Cut costs with Chevy’s CT 525 all-aluminum crate engine.
• Each competition would include hot laps, a draw for starting spots and a 25-lap feature. Each feature would pay $2,500-to-win with $10,000 going to the champion.
• The final requirement? A recognizable name: Dirt Racing of Champions or DROC. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.
Turn 1: Next era at KLMS
Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway goes up for auction on June 27, providing another chance for the up-and-down Calvert City, Ky., track to fulfill its potential. The prime real estate could draw a buyer wanting to convert the property, which last sold for $1.62 million, but if racing remains at the 16-year-old, state-of-the-art facility, some keys to success:
• A local (or relocating) owner invested in the project and connected to the community.
• Successful track surface prep following the pattern set by track owner Sherri Heckenast’s Illinois-based crew in the final events in 2008 and ’09.
• A special event-only schedule with national and regional Dirt Late Model touring events.
• A continued rehabilitation of the track’s reputation for mistakes years ago.
• Using a slow burn approach to bring the track back instead of making a big splash.
Turn 2: Comparison of upset winners
How to a spot a successful upset winner, whether for a Dirt Late Model special event or the NCAA basketball tournament:
• The crew chief (coach) has elevated another driver's (team's) performance previously.
• Driver (team) has shown signs of winning over critics who doubt the local competition (strength of schedule).
• Unheralded driver (team) comes from a track (conference) that has produced success before.
• The driver (key player) has a flair for the dramatic that catches the eye of the track announcer (Clark Kellogg).
• The up-and-coming driver (team) is matched against has-been competition resting on its laurels.
Backstretch: Signs of a healthy regional series
Five characteristics of a healthy regional Dirt Late Model series:
• A dozen or more drivers compete in most series events.
• The schedule takes the tour to a variety of tracks in multiple states.
• Winners on the series include frontrunners in series points.
• No more than a few co-sanctioned races on the schedule.
• More tracks want to schedule races than the series can accommodate.
Turn 3: Spotting the next big thing
Five characteristics to look for in a young driver who will be going places in Dirt Late Model racing:
• Drives deeper into the corner than competitors.
• Draws serious interest from chassis builders.
• Shows ability to successfully run the low groove and the high groove.
• Connects with experienced crew or crew chief.
• Missteps are marked by overaggressive moves.
Turn 4: Turn back the clock
Five items from this week in Dirt Late Model history:
March 27, 1993: Texan Robbie Starnes grabs his first career Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series victory at Baton Rouge Raceway in Baker, La.
March 22, 1997: Danny Peoples of Margaret, Ala., driving a car borrowed from Ricky Cotton, won the Southern All-Stars 9:1 Series opener at Talladega (Ala.) Short Track.
March 24, 2001: Timmy Yeager of Harrodsburg, Ky., overtook Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway’s winningest drivers Jim Curry and John Gill for his first-ever victory at the quarter-mile oval. Tim Prince finished second followed by Darrell Lanigan, Gill and Curry.
March 23, 2004: A fire destroys World of Outlaws Late Model Series driver Chub Frank’s Bear Lake, Pa., shop. No one was injured but the equipment was a total loss, except for the race cars quickly moved out of the burning shop.
March 19, 2012: Former Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway owner and operator Charles Harrison died at a Benton, Ky., hospital at 73. The Gilbertsville resident, who promoted nearby Reidland Raceway eight years before taking over at the Paducah track in 1975 with wife Becky, ran PIR for more than 10 seasons.
Checkered flag: Five fearless weekend predictions
• Fewer than three home-state drivers will crack the top 10 at Brownstown’s Indiana Icebreaker.
• Brownstown’s winner will come from among Florida Speedweeks winners on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.
• A reigning or previous series champion will win the Carolina Clash event at Fayetteville (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
• Tennessean Randy Weaver will click off his fifth straight finish of third of better.
• Virtually everyone at a racetrack — or who wanted to go to a racetrack — will curse the “spring” weather.