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Quick Time: Do winter wins translate to Big E?

March 5, 2014, 12:35 pm
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 (and the occasional ax-grinding). Quick Time, presented by PFC Brakes, appears throughout the regular season every Wednesday at DirtonDirt.com:

Frontstretch: Does winter success translate to Big E?

Does early-season success promise a driver a good season? And more specifically, does winning in the winter mean you’ll find victory lane in a major event at Eldora Speedway?

It’s a hit-or-miss proposition, but all things being equal, having a pre-spring victory on your resume won’t hurt when the $100,000-to-win Dream and prestigious World 100 come around in early June and early September.

In looking at the 28 winners of Eldora’s biggest events since 2000, 16 of the drivers cracked victory lane by mid-March, including five occasions when Big E winners won multiple races during that early-season stretch.

Most noteworthy, Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., won four races by Feb. 3, 2010 — three in Arizona and one in Florida — during a standout season when he swept the Dream and World 100.

Other Eldora major-event winners with multiple winter victories this century include Don O’Neal (2011 Dream winner with three Florida Speedweeks victories), Scott Bloomquist (2013 Dream winner after two Florida Speedweeks victories) and Moyer again in 2000 (two victories by March 4 during a World 100-winning season).

Overall, 57 percent of Eldora’s major race winners since 2000 notched victories before the calendar heralded spring’s arrival, including seven of eight over the past four seasons.

But competitors without Speedweeks victories — or who don't even compete in the winter months — shouldn’t despair. In 2012, Brian Birkhofer’s first victory didn’t come until June 29, but he grabbed his second globe trophy at the World 100 a few months later. Bart Hartman won the 2009 World 100 despite not collecting a purse richer than $2,000 until July 18. And Dan Schlieper’s 2003 World 100 victory came in a season without a special-event victory until August.

Most significantly, Freddy Smith hadn’t even notched a special-event victory at all before collecting $100,000 at Eldora’s Dream in 2000.

Editor’s note: Sharp-eyed readers might note there haven’t been 14 Dream races since 2000; for purposes of these statistics, we included the Eldora Million, which replaced the Dream in 2001.

Turn 1: Finding a balance

Recently it dawned on me that, when it comes to running an efficient program at a dirt track, I'm sometimes I’m on two sides of an argument.

When the order of races is needlessly shuffled and reshuffled, I find myself wishing that race directors would simply post a schedule and stick to it. When unexpected circumstances throw a wrench into a program, I ask myself why race directors don’t nimbly amend the schedule to get things back on track.

That delicate balance — when to stick with a plan or when to tweak it — is one of many reasons why consistently successful race directors are few and far between.

While we can all appreciate sticking to a plan, sometimes it becomes ridiculous if inclement weather or unexpected lengthy caution periods threaten to turn a racing program into an all-nighter. Some die-hards love this announcement — “We’re going to get this race in if we’re here until 4 a.m.!” — while to me it sounds like bullheadedness that’s all too common in our sport.

On the other hand, plenty of racetracks change things on the fly so often that no one seems to know what’s going on. Usually getting drivers in line for the next race is difficult even if they *know* they’re expected on the racetrack.

There’s a balance there somewhere that only the most skilled race directors master. Have the foresight to post a well-planned schedule that gives the best chance for a good night at the racetrack. But if things are going off the rails, be ready to get Plan B in the works to make sure it’s a night to remember and not one to forget.

Turn 2: Clever contingencies

Virtually all the Dirt Late Model tours have contingency sponsors. While series occasionally come up with unique ways to dole out contingency awards, too often it's simply $50 product certificates tossed here and there without much thought. Here are five ideas to spice things up (and provide some key incentives):

Early bird contingency: The first driver to the starting grid for the night’s feature receives $100.

Hard charger bonus: Instead of a flat rate for a hard charger award, pay $10 per improved spot in the feature event (provided the hard charger finishes 10th or better).

Seeing more clearly contingency: Ideally sponsored by Racing Optics or a similar company, the first driver forced to pull out of the feature because of running out of tearoffs receives a free package.

No-caution contingency: It’s a pricey (but occasional) contingency at $1,000 a pop, but if a feature event is run caution-free, the last 10 finishers receive an extra $100 apiece.

Fan contingency: After the 50-50 winner is drawn, draw a consolation 50-50 ticket before the Late Model feature that links a fan to the polesitter. If the polesitter wins, the driver and fan split $100 (but the generous drivers will let the fan keep it all).

Backstretch: Favorite house car drivers

In light of Warrior Race Cars asking Rick Eckert and Eric Jacobsen to make guest appearance in the Knoxville, Tenn.-based chassis builder’s house car in coming weeks, a few nostalgia-tingled favorite house car drivers for selected chassis:

Rocket Chassis: Tim Hitt, Weston, W.Va.

MasterSbilt Race Cars: John Gill, Mitchell, Ind.

GRT Race Cars: Bill Frye, Greenbrier, Ark.

Barry Wright Race Cars: Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.

Bullitt Chassis: Rick Aukland, Fargo, N.D.

Larry Shaw Race Cars: Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.

American Made Race Cars: Denny Felker, Joplin, Mo.

Turn 3: Tweets of the week

Immediate Twitter reaction March 1 from hometown driver Terrance Nowell’s charge to the lead at East Alabama Motor Speedway’s NDRL-sanctioned Bama Bash in Phenix City:

@KArmstrong53: Can anybody tell me how Terrance Nowell went from 13th to the lead so quick?? #bamabash

@barnard_bobby: If race monitor is accurate, this race must be nuts!

@ChristianDundee: @barnard_bobby lol I was wondering if if was right because I've never heard of this Terrance Nowell guy B4. But guess he runs there a lot

Turn 4: Turn back the clock

Five items from this week in Dirt Late Model history:

March 3, 1979: In the first National Dirt Racing League season, Fulmer Lance of Washington, Ga., notched his lone career NDRL victory at Pearson National Speedway in Louisville, Miss.

March 5, 1993: Bill Frye of Greenbrier, Ark., notches his first Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series victory at Battleground Speedway near Houston, Texas. The event was co-sanctioned by the Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series.

March 10, 1997: Lapping all but four competitors, Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., earned $10,000 at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn., in the unsanctioned Don Smith Ford/WJHL-11 100. Billy Moyer, Scott Bloomquist, Randle Chupp and Roger Best rounded out the top five in a race that ran caution-free the final 71 laps.

March 2, 2002: Although a million-dollar sponsor fell through, United Midwestern Promoters president Bob Memmer announces plans to offer nearly $1 million in points fund money, including $100,000 apiece to UMP Summernationals and UMP weekly Late Model champions.

March 10, 2008: Bill Nelson, a race car owner and promoter heavily involved in UMP racing, died while undergoing open-heart surgery at at Champaign, Ill., hospital. The former Northern Allstars co-promoter was 50.

Checkered flag: Five fearless weekend predictions

• Friday’s Smoky Mountain Speedway winner won’t finish in the top 10 of Saturday’s NDRL feature.

• Tennessee drivers will fill three of the top five spots in Saturday’s main event at Smoky Mountain.

• Carolina Speedway’s Skyler Trull Memorial Super Late Model winner will come from among previous Carolina Clash Super Late Model Series champions.

• A driver will sit on Clarksville (Tenn.) Speedway's unique Tuckassee Toilet Bowl Classic trophy for the first time Saturday night.

• Morgan Bagley will notch his first career Late Model victory at the Dirt Track at Texas Motor Speedway in the P&W Sales Southern United Professional Racing opener.

(Last week: Three of five predictions correct)

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