This week’s edition of the Turn 2 Blog that would have normally been posted on InsideDirtRacing.com has been moved to this sire due to a technical issue which we are working to correct. Sorry for the inconvenience.
How surprised were you at Garrett Smith’s win in the Dirt Track World Championship?
Richard: This is one of those yes and no sort of answers.
In the sense that a 19-year-old won a $100,000 crown jewel race is surprising no matter what the circumstances. Those are races that are supposed to be won by guys named Davenport, Overton, McCreadie, Owens and the like. In other words, established stars who have experience on the big stage are those who are first thought of when naming off favorites in the big shows’
So yes, I was surprised by Smith’s win in that sense.
But on the other hand, that No. 10 Rocket Chassis has been running very well since the addition of crew chief Cody Mallory and has been in contention on many occasions. When a driver and team run up front consistently they are bound to make it to victory lane from time to time.
So no, I was not surprised that he was able to win a major race in the sense that he has performed well all year.
That race was actually won on Friday night when Smith turned the fastest lap in qualifying then earned the pole for the feature by winning his heat race. In a race that almost immediately turned into a one-groove around the bottom affair, there wasn’t going to be much passing unless someone out front made a mistake. And with pre-race advice from Scott Bloomquist, Smith never put a wheel wrong throughout the weekend.
It’s always fun to see the next generation of frontrunners emerge and we may very well have witnessed that on Saturday night.
Michael: As you said, Smith has been running strong the second half of the season. He has been qualifying well, but has fell back in many of those races. I had one racer tell me he races so hard that he’s blowing the tires off the car. The fact he could stay out front for 100 laps was a bit surprising. But he did have Scott Bloomquist giving him some guidance before the race. It looks like that paid off.
Smith must be a quick learner. One these 100-lap races where the track locks down, tire wear becomes a big issue. We saw that in this in last night’s race. Several drivers with lots of experience suffered from flat right rears, including Brandon Overton who ran in second most of the race. That was a good job by Smith to keep the tires under him.
The World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series jumps back into action with a triple-header this weekend. What are you looking for in those races?
Richard: With a couple of rainouts associated with Hurricane Ian, the WoO Late Models have not been in action for almost a month. But there is still a fair amount of racing to go on that tour with this weekend’s triple-header in Kansas and Missouri then another set of three shows at The Dirt Track at Charlotte to close out their campaign.
With these three races each offering $10,000-to-win purses and the fact that they are taking place pretty far outside the hub of Dirt Late Model racing, I look for the WoO regulars to not face a lot of competition from the more nationally known stars who do not run this series week-to-week. For that reason, this will provide an opportunity to shine.
Moreover, Dennis Erb Jr. currently leads the series standings by 98 points over Tanner English so the championship issue is not yet settled. A bad outing or two by Erb combined with solid runs by English could bring about a close fight when the series pulls into Charlotte.
Erb has won four WoO features this season while English, Max Blair, Ryan Gustin and Shane Clanton have each taken two checkered flags. No doubt, each of those would love to add to their victory count so that they might have the highest total of trophies when the season ends.
Michael: I’ll be looking to see if English can cut into Erb’s lead in the points. One bad race for either one can really change things.
I’ll also be looking to see if Blair and Gustin can continue their strong runs as of late. Gustin won the most recent race at Boyd’s in impressive fashion. He’s had strong runs in other series races of late. It looks like he’s hit on something over the last month.
As always, how will outsiders play a role for wins and even those important positions between the championship contending drivers is something to look for.
How much does high school and college football impact dirt racing attendance?
Richard: This is something that was mentioned this past weekend by James Essex during the FloRacing.com/MavTV coverage of the Dirt Track World Championship. I am of the opinion that the answer to the question is a fluid one. There are some regions of the country where football is king and high school action is going to dominate Friday nights so racing and everything has to take a back seat. At the same time, there are some areas where college football rules the weekend and racing is not going to change that no matter what track or series championship battle is going on.
This weekend’s Tennessee-Alabama game completely dominated the news cycle in the part of the country where we are from. And while that is typically the case on the third weekend in October, there are other weekends in which that is not so when the Volunteers are not very good. I have often said that the worst thing around here for dirt racing promoters is for Tennessee to be good, which hasn’t been a concern for much of the past decade or so. However, when they are, this area’s full focus turns to the orange and white.
There are some other places where that is true and other places where it is not. That’s why I say this is a fluid answer. It’s a region-by-region thing. For the most part, I believe racing can in fact continue to do well, even during football season with some creative scheduling and promotion.
Racing on dirt, in all of its forms, is now a year around business and that isn’t going to change. It’s just a matter of finding ways to make it work. I don’t think big events are hampered by much of anything because people will always come to those. However, weekly racing shows can definitely be affected by the pigskin.
Michael: It really does depend on what part of the country a person is in. Here in the South, high school and college football are both big. I remember 20 years ago when Tennessee was so good, promoters would typically end their point seasons in early to mid-September. I think that’s a good policy for our area regardless of if Tennessee is good not. It’s like I continue to say – don’t burn out your racers or your fans.
Dirt racing has such a smaller fan base than does college football. I enjoy both. I don’t know of any way that dirt racing in any form can capture the passion of college football. And I don’t think any one event can replicate what I saw at the end of the Alabama-Tennessee game. I know they are completely different sports. But that’s why football is king and racing on any level will always have a hard time competing with it.