Quick Time: Promoter's chair can be a hot seat
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: Drivers of the Week
National: Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., won his third World of Outlaws Late Model Series event May 11 at I-30 Speedway in Little Rock, Ark., catching a break from a Tim McCreadie mistake and surviving a late charge by Darrell Lanigan
Regional: Ray Guss Jr. of Milan, Ill., won back-to-back Deery Brothers Summer Series victories at Quad City Speedway in East Moline, Ill., and Dubuque (Iowa) Speedway.
Weekly: Steve Sheppard Jr. of New Berlin, Ill., swept the Midwest Big 10 Series weekend in Illinois at Lincoln and Macon Speedways.
Crate: A week after scoring his first Super Late Model victory, Max Blair of Centerville, Pa., returned to the Crate division for a $5,000 Fastrak touring victory at West Virginia Motor Speedway in Mineral Wells.
Turn 1: A difficult decision
Next time you’re disappointed that a dirt race is unexpectedly cancelled, remember this: the lights went out during January’s Super Bowl. Yes, the second half of the season’s biggest football game and year’s biggest TV was threatened when a power outage struck at the Superdome in New Orleans.
If a mistake, unruly weather, an act of God or bizarre circumstances can bring the Super Bowl screeching to a halt for 34 minutes, then certainly things can go wrong at the local dirt track. And sometimes we race fans have just gotta suck it up and quit our bellyaching.
La Salle (Ill.) Speedway found itself in the social media crosshairs Friday when overnight rains left the track surface too soft for racing, even though it appeared damp weather and overcast skies weren’t enough to cause a rainout. It was a cancellation no one wanted but a decision that had to be made to avoid what most — certainly the series and track officials — realized would’ve been one mess of a race.
While the timing didn’t exactly mean the race was rained out, in essence the event was indeed cancelled because of overnight rain after the racetrack wasn’t sealed up enough, soaking up too much water. Co-promoter Tony Izzo Jr. took the blame for that mistake in track preparation in a message posted on Facebook following the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series weekend, which saw Brady Smith win Saturday's 50-lap feature.
Fans, racers and anyone who invested time heading to La Salle Speedway on Friday night can rightly be disappointed, even upset, that a track prep mistake was made. But launching into conspiracy theories about a money grab, suggesting the track was in perfect condition, or bashing the track or series is tiresome.
We’ve all seen cases where a race simply can’t be held, no matter how much we want it to work out. It can be simply rain. It can be an overwatered track. It can be the mistake of promoters cancelling too soon because of an ominous forecast. Or it could be — like the Super Bowl — a power outage then sends fans home on an otherwise perfect night. Weather, mistakes, an act of God or bizarre circumstances aren’t going to work against us sometimes.
Izzo’s detailed explanation might’ve played better on Friday night. While the initial reaction of fans wouldn’t have been any better, the transparency might've begun the healing soon. But credit him for taking responsibility, and don’t forget that La Salle stepped up to add a second Lucas Oil Series event to replace another track’s date.
It’s easy to sit in the bleachers, the peanut gallery — or press row. It takes a lot more courage to sit in the promoter’s seat.
Turn 2: Spreading the wealth
The first-year Spring Nationals have a chance at a rare feat on Friday night. The Ray Cook-promoted tour has an opportunity to complete its schedule (minus one rainout) without a repeat winner. Through eight races, the series has had eight winners heading into Friday’s finale at Boyd’s Speedway in Ringgold, Ga.
In checking out currently operating Dirt Late Model tours, only four other tours have launched with longer stretches without a repeat winner, but all four were over two seasons:
• The Northern LateModel Racing Association (1998-'99) didn’t have a repeat winner until the ninth NLRA race when Troy Schill won again.
• According to best records available, the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals (1996-'97) didn’t have a repeat winner until the ninth event when, surprise, Billy Moyer notched a second checkered flag.
• Cook’s Schaeffer Oil Southern Nationals (2005-'06) also went nine races before Benji Cole became the first repeat winner.
• The currently operating tour that took the longest to have a repeat winner was the Southeastern Late Model Sportsman Series (2007-'08, which had its first repeat winner, Kip Cochran, in the 10th series race.
Backstretch: Ultimate sportsmanship
When Nate Beuseling lost a transmission in his No. 46 Sunday at Quad City Speedway, he figured he’d be watching the rest of the night’s action at East Moline, Ill. Instead, thanks to a generous dose of sportsmanship from another team, Beuseling ended up in victory lane, according to a detailed report from the track’s Anthony Sandoval.
Roberts Motorsports and driver Ray Guss Jr. elected to let Beuseling get behind the wheel of the No. 58 that formerly was driven by the late Hershel Roberts in the weekly IMCA-sanctioned feature.
"These guys are gracious enough to not be worried about points," Beuseling said. "I got out of the car and they said, 'All right, you're getting in this one.' It's a dream to drive that car because of Hershel.”
Beuseling, taping No. 46 over the team’s traditional No. 58, raced to a victory made more special by the turn of events.
"As much as I love Ray and the team, that was absolutely awesome," Beuseling said. "To be able to jump in that car and do that.”
Turn 3: Color me surprised
Five things that always seem to surprise me at the dirt track:
• Discovering hot water when washing my hands in the restroom.
• The conclusion of the night’s races before 11 p.m.
• Restarts going back to green after just one lap under caution.
• A driver with a flat tire pulling to the pits instead of stopping on the track.
• Seeing a driver win I’ve never seen win before.
Turn 4: Turn back the clock
Five items from this week in Dirt Late Model history:
May 20, 1988: Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., grabbed a World of Outlaws Late Model Series victory at Badlands Raceway in Yates Center, Kan., for his first victory on the national tour.
May 18, 1996: John Provenzano of Somonauk, Ill., holding off a last-lap charge from reigning UMP champion Tony Izzo Jr., won $4,000 for his 40-lap victory in the rain-delayed Jeff's Enginemasters Spring Shootout at Kankakee Speedway. Bob Pohlman Jr. was third followed by early leader Dan Schlieper and Fred Lofgren.
May 18, 2002: Randy Korte of Highland, Ill. lowered the track record at Eagle Raceway near Lincoln, Neb., in United Dirt Track Racing Association action. Korte’s time of 14.195 seconds broke the old record of 14.456 seconds held by Ray Guss Jr.
May 17, 2008: Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., racing close to home while 4-month-old son Taylor battled bacterial meningitis, led all 66 laps of the first-ever Rumble Series event at Shawano (Wis.) Speedway for a $10,000 victory. Mars took the checkers ahead of Jeff Wildung and Justin Ritchie.
May 17, 2011: The Southern Nationals Series signed a three-year title sponsorship deal with Schaeffer's Specialized Lubricants. The Ray Cook-promoted tour was renamed the the Schaeffer Oil Southern Nationals Series.
Checkered flag: Five fearless weekend predictions
• A multiple-time Topless 100 winner will capture Batesville (Ark.) Motor Speedway’s Bad Boy 98.
• Three drivers will take turns leading the Ultimate-sanctioned USA 100 at Virginia Motor Speedway.
• One driver will sweep weekend action with the Spring Nationals at Boyd’s Speedway in Ringgold, Ga., and the Southern All Stars at Cleveland (Tenn.) Speedway.
• In Ohio’s weekend ADRA action at Moler Raceway Park and Hilltop Speedway, a single driver will finish in the top five in both events.
• Home-state drivers will sweep the four Sunoco ALMS races in Illinois at Charleston, Kankakee, Fairbury and Danville.
(Last week: One of two predictions correct; three rained out)