It seems the 2017 season has been a season full of change as we see all levels of racing introducing new styles and formats of racing. Berlin Raceway in Marne, Michigan wasn’t going to be left out of the trend of trying new things.
This year the track is using Super Late Model division as the guinea pig in holding 35-lap double features instead of one 60-lap feature. A lot of the influence behind the decision was to allow the competitors at Berlin to contend for points on a national level with the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
“With us being NASCAR sanctioned, they have their national points chase. We aren’t out West and we have a winter so we can’t really race in it,” Nick Mesman, General Manager of Berlin Raceway told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
“We aren’t able to race 30 or 40 times a year and we are limited on how many races we can do so we thought, ‘Hey, if this is a way that we can get double points for the NASCAR points and get a bigger piece of the pie then we should do it.’”
On top of switching to double mains, the track has also eliminated single-car qualifying and will now go to group-qualifying sessions. There will then be a pill draw for an invert between eight and 12 for the feature races. The track plans to schedule the first feature early in the evening’s event line up to allow teams to make repairs or adjustments necessary for the second feature later in the evening.
“Another thing is a different format to enhance the racing. Instead of having a long drawn out race like what we see on Sunday’s we now have two races that are hopefully a little more suspenseful,” Mesman explained. “The fans of course, it keeps their attention for the two races instead of watching the first half and then walking away during the second half.”
If a chance at the national points championship wasn’t enough, the raceway is softening the transition for their competitors by increasing the purse for the feature events.
“It will be two separate purses for the races,” Mesman said. “What we did was enhanced what would have been the payout for a 60-lap race. We broke it into two races and threw a little extra money in there. So instead of getting $2,000 to win the one 60-lap main event it is now $2,200 to win both 35-lap features.”
Berlin Raceway also plans to adopt a very familiar format to mix things up in their championship chase for the Super Late Model title.
Drivers will qualify for the playoff by being in the top eight in the point standings heading into the August 12 racing program. From there, there are two ways for a driver to advance to the next round: win one of the two races on August 12 or be in the top six in points at the end of the night.
The next round will take place on August 19 when the two feature winners, the overall points leader and any driver within 20 points of the points leader will qualify from the final round.
At that point, it all comes down to one night of racing on August 26 during the prestigious Battle at Berlin night. The top finishing driver among the championship competitors will claim the 2017 track championship.
This format hopes to create suspenseful and intense racing for the fans and the competitors going into the final few weeks in August as competitors fight for a chance to be in the “Chase.”
“If we get one guy that wins all four and second-place happens to be within 20 points it could come down to just two guys or it could easily be between five or six going into the last race,” Mesman claimed.
Berlin isn’t the only one embracing change in the world of short track racing. Many touring divisions and local tracks are implementing things such as live pit stops, group qualifying and play-off type championships to increase fan excitement and attendance.
“You’ve got to change it up a little. The time of the diehard race fans are kind of dying off. The ones that love the old-school racing, if you just rely on that it isn’t going to work, so we are trying some new things to bring in the families and keep them entertained. “
-By Hannah Newhouse, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent