Fast Talk presented by Out-Pace Racing Products
Fast Talk: Panelists crunch tax day numbers
On federal tax deadline day, five taxing questions for our weekly roundtable on the Out-Pace Racing Products-sponsored Fast Talk (edited for clarity and length):
Any surprises about the driver in the highest tax bracket this weekend — Bad Boy 98 winner Scott Bloomquist?
Michael Rigsby, DirtonDirt.com co-founder and CEO: I think the biggest surprise was that it had been five years since Scott had won at Batesville! I associate him so much with that track, it's almost crazy to think he could go that long without winning there. So no, it's not a surprise. If it's Batesville, and it's a tire game, and a chess match, there is no one in the country better than Scott at all of that.
Kevin Kovac, DirtonDirt.com senior writer: There’s no surprise at all when Bloomquist wins a race, especially a big one. He’s been right there in this season’s top-driver upper echelon with Josh Richards and Jonathan Davenport, and an event like the Bad Boy 98 that requires a calculated approach from a driver to avoid a flat tire is right in Bloomquist’s sweet spot. It would’ve been interesting to see if Davenport could have made a late-race run at Bloomquist in lapped traffic if he hadn’t cut a tire down, but J.D.’s departure certainly doesn’t diminish what Bloomquist did. He set the tone all weekend and did everything he could to make sure his tires kept air in them.
Todd Turner, DirtonDirt.com managing editor: A long-distance grind where tire management is key? That’s classic Bloomquist, right? A flat tire for Jonathan Davenport meant that Bloomquist cut a chunk of his Lucas Oil points lead heading to Sharon and Hagerstown, tracks where Bloomquist has an edge in experience. If he can continue to cut into that lead may bring us something more surprising.
Alli Collis, DirtonDirt.com staff writer: When it comes to Bloomquist, I’m rarely surprised to see him in victory lane. I would have been more surprised had he not run well this weekend. While it might have been a while since he last won at Batesville, he is a four-time Topless 100 winner, so he knows his way around the racetrack. Is this the start of an interesting points battle on the Lucas Oil Series? We’ll have to wait and see.
Robert Holman, DirtonDirt.com blogger and race team owner: I don’t think it’s really ever a surprise when Bloomquist wins, especially a 100-lapper (or 98-lapper, in this case). He’s always been a master in the long-distance races because he’s so focused on managing his equipment. And though it’s been nearly five years since he won at Batesville, he’s only been there six times during that stretch, so it’s not like he was on an 0-25 streak there. When I saw he led virtually the whole way Saturday night, I wasn’t shocked.
Which driver had the most needed income boost with a weekend victory?
Holman: Oh, if only I could really delve into the finances of some of these guys. I think on a regional level, Doug Horton’s $3,000 win with the Big Frog Motorsports team in Florida was significant, as was Justin Ratliff’s $4,000 victory in Richmond, Ky. We tend to focus on these $5,000, $10,000 and $20,000 paydays, but until you start repairing and replacing parts on these cars, you don’t really understand how big a $3,000 win can be. I’d also say wins by Bobby Pierce and Chris Madden — both $10,000 or more — were big for their respective teams.
Collis: Jimmy Mars and Chris Ferguson both scored much-needed victories over the weekend. While Mars hasn’t raced as much as others this season, he really struggled in Tucson, so I’m sure his Davenport victory had to be a boost. After finishing 2015 so strong, it’s taken Ferguson some time to find his groove this season. But picking up his first win of the season on Saturday at Modoc, it appears that he’s got things headed in the right direction.
Kovac: Chris Ferguson actually received a hefty financial boost a few weeks ago when he was announced as the winner of the Champion Spark Plugs Search for a Champion contest that brought him a $50,000 sponsorship, but the $6,522 he earned for sweeping Saturday night’s Ultimate-sanctioned Jack Starrette Memorial at Modoc (S.C.) Speedway was the type of paycheck that, in the final analysis, keeps his family-owned team going. Coming off a spectacular 2015 campaign, he has seemingly been plagued by bad luck early this year. He finally broke through — and in a race that remembered a beloved Dirt Late Model benefactor who died in a work accident in August 2010 while fielding a car for an up-and-coming Ferguson. No doubt it was a special night for Fergy.
Turner: I’ll go with Billy Moyer Jr. and his $5,000 MLRA triumph at State Fair Speedway in Sedalia, Mo. Since his dramatic Speedweeks victory at Volusia, he’s had a single top-five finish, so it’s gotta be a confidence booster outrunning Terry Phillips at a big track where he’s so good.
Rigsby: I'll take Justin Ratliff with the $4,000 Ultimate Battle of the Bluegrass race at Richmond. Justin really is one of the good guys in our sport, but has never found that long-term sustained success that he might be capable of. It's always great to see his name pop up on the winners list, and especially in his home state of Kentucky. I get the sense that was one of those "relief" wins for him, and one that he and his team really needed. Runner-up goes to Chris Ferguson for the Starrette Memorial victory (his former sponsor). I know that one had to mean a lot to him.
Earl Hill Memorial winner Tim Dohm — driver most likely to avoid an audit by flying under the radar?
Kovac: Dohm better watch out — if he keeps knocking off mid-major regional victories like he has around his West Virginia home this spring, the tax men might find him. Ha! The veteran did, of course, gain some national attention earlier this year with some strong Speedweeks runs in Lucas Oil Series action at East Bay, and his current hot streak on home turf makes him a very interesting driver to watch when the national tours come to his area in the coming months. Could a World of Outlaws win at Tyler County over Memorial Day weekend be in the offing for Dohm? I wouldn’t bet against it.
Collis: Dohm was another weekend winner that didn’t surprise me. I only get to see the West Virginia veteran race a few times a year, but when I do, he is always a contender. Dohm is without a doubt one of the top competitors in his region, and he’s already started off the year strong by sweeping events at 201 and Willard Speedways a couple of weeks ago. He might fly under the radar, but he’s definitely one to watch.
Rigsby: Tim Dohm + Tyler County = Magic! The veteran is so good there, but often never really gets the credit he deserves. The best part about Dohm is that he's exactly the kind of guy you want to watch. Up on it, elbows up, no apologies kind of guy. And how about that pass for the lead? Pass of the year? Three-wide and wild.
Turner: He hasn’t faced the competition the national touring guys have, but you can’t argue with Dohm’s early-season success. And that was a fantastic move on the restart to go from third to first in the first ULMS visit to Tyler County. It’ll be fun to see him take a shot at the big money with the $50,000-to-win Lucas Oil event at Atomic.
Holman: Dohm may seem under the radar, but I don’t think it’s ever huge surprise when he wins, especially when he’s racing in familiar territory. He’s proven he can run with the superstars of the sport when they come through the Appalachian region. He won a $20,000 Crate race at Virginia Motor Speedway in 2014, and had to outrun Jonathan Davenport to do it. He’s also a winner at East Bay. And he’s already won a couple of $3,000 wins in eastern Kentucky. So yeah, he’s steadily making bank, but maybe he’s not getting enough headlines to worry about an audit.
Like a hidden tax deduction in the fine print of the tax code, what did you notice this weekend at the track that no one else did?
Turner: How about Brandon Ball winning at his hometown Legit Speedway Park in West Plains, Mo? Ball is a member of the track’s original founding family, and a top local competitor in the division way back when. Neat to see him grab a victory at the revived oval, possibly his first in a Late Model since a MARS victory there in 2000.
Kovac: How about that crowd that turned out Saturday night for the M.J. McBride Memorial at Shawano (Wis.) Speedway? Filling Shawano’s big covered grandstand is no joke — and judging by photos, that thing was absolutely packed to the gills. It might have only been a $2,000-to-win Dirt Late Model show far off the national scene, but seeing such a huge crowd says a lot about the respect for the late McBride — a seven-time Shawano champion — and the interest in dirt-track racing in northern Wisconsin.
Holman: One thing that stuck out to me was that Eldora’s Sunoco American Late Model Series race only drew 25 cars. All the usual Ohio suspects were there, but usually the ALMS events at the Big E draw bigger car counts as drivers try to get much-needed track time on the famed half-mile. Perhaps part of that could be due to the abundance of events scattered around the country. I know we’ve been at it for a couple of months already, but to me, because of all the cancellations last week, this weekend really seemed to signify the beginning of the season because there was a variety of racing everywhere.
Rigsby: I’ll go as far to say this. There is no more pleasant time in racing than mid-April through early May. The weather is amazing, the temperatures are perfect, no one is burned out yet, and the general mood is just so much better. It's like the San Diego time of the year. Ha! By that I mean it's just always perfect, and no one is complaining all that much. People are smiling with no long faces. I wish it could be this time of year .... all year.
Collis: It was good to see fellow Kentuckian Justin Rattliff get the win at Richmond on Saturday night. While Rattliff did lead flag-to-flag, he really had to earn his $4,000 payday, holding off challenges from Jason Jameson and Scott James. While Rattliff is usually among the top finishers at his local tracks, he’s had some near-misses at Richmond in the past. Getting a win like that this early in the season has to be a good feeling.
With your taxes successfully filed (or mailed?) today, what race most intrigues you next weekend?
Kovac: I’m going a little personal with this one and saying this Saturday night’s Lucas Oil Series show at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway. After all, it’s one of my rare opportunities to see a national touring series event at track relatively close to my eastern Pennsylvania home. Hagerstown is just a two-hour drive for me — gotta love that! Now, if we can just order up some of the awesome weather we’ve been enjoying the last few days for Hagerstown’s often weather-plagued Lucas Oil race then all will be right.
Rigsby: Has to be Sharon Speedway's return to prominence with a Lucas Oil event this weekend. As an avid reader of Mid-American Auto Racing News growing up, Sharon was that track you'd constantly read about having STARS races, and the best guys out East would always compete there. I love the idea of Sharon coming back to life, and hopefully rekindling that old magic this weekend!
Turner: How about the Old Man’s Garage Spring Nationals event at Senoia (Ga.) Raceway, which is really carving itself out as a worthy track. Can anyone beat reigning World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series champ Shane Clanton? He and the rest of the Georgia contingent, including hometown driver Clint Smith and Brandon Overton, will be tough company.
Holman: It’d be easy to say Hagerstown’s Lucas Oil event. The Bloomquist-Davenport battle moves north, where a driver like Josh Richards could again jump in and spoil things for the Lucas series regulars. I’ll also have an eye on the potential of a Georgia doubleheader with the Spring Nationals paying $6,000 at Senoia and the Ultimate Series paying $4,000 at Rome.
Collis: Looking at the upcoming schedule, it’s another busy weekend! I’ll definitely be awaiting the results from the Lucas Oil Series stops at Sharon and Hagerstown. Both tracks should produce strong regional fields to take on the national touring guys, so that will make things interesting. I’m also a big fan of Smoky Mountain, and they’ve got a Southern All Stars race on the slate this weekend, which will likely draw another strong field of regional racers.