Quick Time presented by PFC Brakes
Quick Time: When we gather without Baltes
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, presented by PFC Brakes, appears throughout the regular season every Wednesday at DirtonDirt.com:
Frontstretch: Remembering the Earl of Eldora
When packing for this season's $100,000-to-win Dream at Eldora Speedway, you might want to throw a few tissues in your travel bag.
After the outpouring of tributes, loving memories and heartfelt condolences shared since Monday’s death of Eldora founder Earl Baltes, you can only imagine how emotions will be stirred come June when the Dirt Late Model community gathers at the Big E with Baltes watching from a higher perch than his customary spot in the tower.
It will be celebration of his tremendous legacy developing dirt racing’s biggest events, and a heartbreaking moment when we’ll fully realize the sport will be taking the next steps without the beloved Baltes.
How will the Rossburg, Ohio, oval, now owned by Tony Stewart, mark the occasion? Saturday nights at major Eldora events are already the most special moments in the sport, and the track’s pre-race ceremonies tend to pull at the heartstrings. My advice: don’t miss whatever general manager Roger Slack, director of operations Larry Boos and the staff has in store.
Already the track has honored Baltes, along with his wife of 67 years, Berneice, with a captivating bronze statue that greets fans at the track’s main entrance. The eighth annual Baltes Classic is scheduled for September on the weekend before the World 100. And all of us will tour Earl Baltes Highway, the stretch of the two-lane highway 118, on our way to Eldora.
Surely there’s more to come. The temporary media center for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Eldora has carried the Earl Baltes name the past few seasons. Will the new permanent infield structure bear his name? Or perhaps another part of the facility?
Will the Dream’s driver intros include a special tribute to Baltes? Will drivers wear their caps onto the stage with their bills flipped up, just like Earl always did?
Will the Dream trophy, or perhaps the World 100’s globe trophy, be modified with a tribute to Baltes, perhaps a representation of his slightly askew cap?
I can’t wait to find out.
Turn 1: How many wins?
In contacting dozens of drivers last fall in recapping the 2014 season, I was struck (again) by the wide range of information drivers know about their success.
On one hand, you have drivers that can click off exactly how many victories at how many tracks with how many top-five finishes and how many top-10 finishes and every honor they picked up along the way.
Then there are drivers who seemingly have amnesia about their success, unable to summon a victory total of any kind, much less how many top-five finishes. Inevitability they advise me to ask their wife or crew chief.
As a journalist, I far prefer the stat-freaks who keep close track of their accomplishments. Some might view it as vain when a driver can click off specific details, but I see it as a way for drivers to excel and achieve goals.
Those who don’t have a clue how much they’ve won? I admit, there’s a certain charm to it. And for some of them, they win so much it’s hard to keep up.
Turn 2: Weaver’s perfection
It’s a rarity when a driver can go undefeated during an entire month. But Randy Weaver of Crossville, Tenn., this weekend will take a shot at pulling off the feat for the second straight season.
Last July, Weaver reeled off six straight Super Late Model victories, winning in three states on three tours in one of the season’s most memorable streaks.
Don’t look now, but he’s off to a great start again in 2015, winning each of his first two starts in the month of March. If the unrelenting weather allows, Weaver is scheduled to make two starts this weekend, first on the Ultimate Super Late Model Series at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tenn., then with the Southern All Stars at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C. Both are tracks where he’s had past success.
If he’s successful, we’ll look into tracking drivers that have had the longest stretches of season-opening win streaks in recent Dirt Late Model history.
Backstretch: On with the chase
It’s been many years (going on decades?) since I paid much attention to NASCAR racing, figuring with a job focused on dirt racing that I spent enough time watching cars go around in circles.
But it was hard to avoid last season's polarizing results of NASCAR’s seemingly frequently amended Chase that, in essence, turned the final race of the season into a showdown for the championship.
(I should mention here that former co-worker Jim Carson, the editor of asphalt’s Late Model Digest, always keeps me up to date with how the Sprint Cup points would appear if there were no chase at all — which, in his orderly world, there isn’t one. Keep fighting the good fight, Jim.)
I guess what’s surprising to me is that more Dirt Late Model tours haven’t dipped their toes in the Chase waters. Even the Carolina Clash, perhaps because it’s in the heart of NASCAR country, has in recent seasons employed a relatively conservative chase-style Countdown to the Cup Championship Series, but the tour dumped it this year. The Florida-based United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series instituted a new chase-style format in 2015, but other dirt tours? Crickets.
I’m not saying the Chase is the way to go. And to me, it seems far too complicated for the casual fan to even keep up with (except for, perhaps, the fighting that came along with last fall’s NASCAR action).
But it seems like it would spark more exploring among dirt tours to figure out a more compelling way to crown a champion, especially among series where the title is often all but decided with four races remaining.
Anyone want to give a shot?
Turn 3: Incorrect corrections
Computer spell-checking on our computers, phones and other devices is supposed to make life better, right? Well, it does, except when it doesn’t. Especially with names, we have to be careful at DirtonDirt.com that computer-suggested spelling doesn’t zap us. Running names of Dirt Late Model drivers through some suggested spellings by word processors, here’s a list we’ll do our best never to publish otherwise:
Mike Boredom (Benedum)
Turn 4: Turn back the clock
Five items from this week in Dirt Late Model history:
March 30, 1985: Freddy Smith of Kings Mountain, Tenn., captured the National Dirt Racing Association event at Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway for his eighth career NDRA victory.
March 25, 1990: Capturing the first of 41 P&W Sales Southern United Professional Racing victories, second on SUPR’s all-time list, Doug Ingalls of Longview, Texas, races to victory at Bullet Speedway in Bastrop, La.
March 25, 1996: Joe Watley, the owner of west Tennessee’s Garnertown Speedway, died after a battle with cancer. His son Scott planned to take over the reins for the upcoming race season.
March 24, 2002: Earning his second victory in five starts for his new Duncan Logging & Chipping team owned by Devin Duncan, Billy Hicks of Mount Airy, N.C., earned $3,000 for in the inaugural Southern Outlaw Super Series event at East Lincoln Speedway in Stanley, N.C., outrunning unrelated drivers Jeff Smith and Buddy Smith.
March 29, 2008: Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., pocketed $20,000 for a World of Outlaws Late Model Series victory at Pike County Speedway in Magnolia, Miss., for his eighth victory of the young season. Scott Bloomquist and Shannon Babb chased him to the checkers in the March Through Dixie 100.
Checkered flag: Five fearless weekend predictions
• No regulars on national tours will win Super Late Model races.
• The winner of the Mississippi State Championship Challenge Series opener at Whynot Motorsports Park will be a driver who didn’t finish in the top 15 of 2014’s Coors Light Fall Classic.
• A SUPR driver will score a $5,000 weekend sweep at Baton Rouge Raceway.
• Modoc (S.C.) Raceway’s winner of the Modoc 100 for Crate Late Models will be a driver with Super Late Model experience.
• More than half the original special events on DirtonDirt.com’s schedule will, once again, fall victim to weather.
Last week: Two of four predictions correct (one rained out).