When the Spears SRL Southwest Tour announced their inaugural Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, California last fall, this writer got a few notes from my West Coast colleagues telling me that this may not work and we could see a low car count for a $25,000-to-win race.
Their feelings were that the tour was pretty much on an island with their rules and teams from the Northwest or other parts of the country would have to make major changes to be a part of it.
Glad to see they were wrong, as over 50 cars signed in to be a part of the event.
Brian Olsen and Larry Collins, the two promoters of the event, went out of their way to make sure this was an open Super Late Model show. From the time they announced the race until the first day of practice, they were having numerous conversations with other Super Late Model track/series officials on making a rules package that would make it inviting for drivers from across the United States to come and race without practically having to build a new car.
The result was 52 cars from 14 different states and Canada competing in the event. The top 44 cars in qualifying were separated by 1.6 seconds.
Behind the scenes, this is something that many series like the ARCA/CRA Super Series powered by JEGS, ARCA Midwest Tour and Southern Super Series have been working together over the past few years to find some common ground in their rule packages. The CARS Tour and PASS Series are also working with the other series as well to try to bring parity.
Ricky Brooks, Chief Technical Inspector for major SLM events such as the Snowball Derby, was one of the people that Olsen and Collins consulted with on the rules for the event.
Brooks told Speed51.com powered by JEGS that for (eventual race winner) Bubba Pollard to go out to Bakersfield, California, he simply had to put on a different carburetor restrictor plate, which if he had to buy the part cost about $120. He also had to make the small change of adding additional weight to the car.
2014 ARCA Midwest Tour champion Ty Majeski is making the trip to South Alabama Speedway in Opp, Alabama this weekend to compete in the Southern Super Series opener. Besides working on setting up the car for the 4/10-mile oval, he said basically the only thing they had to change was the carburetor because everything else is the same. The Midwest Tour runs on 2-bbl carbs compared to 4-bbl carbs in the Southern Super Series.
Majeski also said that it helps when the rules are close to being together. This allows him to enter bigger races down south, which helps him get more exposure.
Pollard, who told us that the furthest west he has ever been prior to the Winter Showdown was Mobile, Alabama, went out there with the package he uses in SLM competition in the Southeast and won the event. East Coast driver Dalton Sargeant was second and West Coast hot shoe Derek Thorn was third.
A race like this brought back a memorable scene in the classic racing movie “Six Pack.” In one scene, Kenny Rogers, who played driver Brewster Baker, asked one of the kids to look at a paper to see what races are coming up on the schedule. When they found an event, he veered off on the next exit to go compete with the one car he had pulling behind his motorhome.
Many have said that a dirt racer can do that today with their Midget, Sprint or Late Model car. Just show up, make a few changes and out you go to race.
But some have said that you can’t do that in asphalt Super Late Model racing. Those who say that now may soon be saying the opposite.
Brooks told us that they are closer to having parity in the rules across the United States. The Winter Showdown may be the event to bring the West Coast in line with the East Coast.
Brooks is working close with Collins get it that way.
The bottom line is that many promoters and tech officials are trying to work together.
Mike “Lumpy” Lemke of the ARCA Midwest Tour said it’s about time and it will help Super Late Model racing overall if they all get close to having the same rules.
They are also aware that they need to keep the price down on cars. Having the same rules package will help that goal.
The open line of communication from everyone involved is producing positive results and the Winter Showdown is proof of this.
Fans want this. Race teams want this. Tracks & Series need to make it happen. If they can get on the same page with rules to keep racing affordable, as well as allow race teams to compete more at different events, it will help short track racing overall in the long run.
When you talk to retired short track veterans, they will tell you how they had one car and raced at five or six different tracks a week with that car. Today, some will say you will need to have one car for each track or series. That increases the cost of racing and forces our short track stars to miss out on big events.
Give them a little more time to work together and I think we will start seeing more Brewster Baker’s out there showing up at big events.
Dirt fans are enjoying it now when Scott Bloomquist shows up at a Dirt Late Model event. Bubba Pollard has said many times this year already that he would like to go and race the big events all over the country.
Yes, we are losing some of the brightest stars to the higher levels of racing, but some also want to just race at America’s short tracks and be a star there. Getting these rule packages on the same page will help achieve that goal.
They are going in the right direction and are seeing positive results so far. Let’s hope the momentum keeps going for the future of short track racing.
-By Kevin Ramsell, Speed51.com Midwest Editor – Twitter: @KevinRamsell
-Photo credit: Speed51.com