After more than 10 years, Elko Speedway (MN) has decided that it will not run Super Late Models on a weekly basis during the 2017 season. This decision comes as a shock and a disappointment to some long-time drivers at the track, including 2016 Super Late Model champion Jacob Goede and third-place finisher, Joey Miller.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” Joey Miller told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “The Late Models had great car counts and was a very competitive class. Now they are ruining not one, but two classes because I know a handful of Big 8 drivers are not coming back with the new screwed up rules.”
“Overall it just stinks,” said Goede. “We averaged over 18 Super Late Models per night. Many of us chose to race at Elko because it was the most economical way to start racing. I have three kids under five, traveling to races just won’t work. My wife and I both grew up in racing families, so it’s something we all enjoy. Elko Speedway didn’t have a car count problem like most weekly tracks running Super Late Models, a lot of us wanted to stay in the Super Late Model division so we can hit bigger shows in the Midwest or countrywide if we desire, plus it’s the equipment we already have.”
Miller and his family, who own Country Joe Homes in Lakeville, MN, went so far as to offer to sponsor the Super Late Model series to keep it from disappearing.
“My wife & I went to Elko Speedway offering them $20,000 personally from our home building company to sponsor the series for five years minimum to keep the Super Late Models,” said Miller. “We also had rallied several drivers & other folks willing to add to the sponsorship. The management at Elko Speedway had no desire to keep the Late Models or they would have jumped at the offer.”
Other drivers, including Nick Murgic, are trying to see things from the track’s perspective, but still say the decision caught them a little off guard.
“I think it’s the right move in the interest of keeping weekly racing affordable to small teams,” Murgic said. “It would have been nice to see this transition years ago before teams purchased more expensive shocks, engine packages, etc. I do have to say I was surprised they still went ahead with the transition based on the high car counts the SLMs had on a weekly basis.”
While drivers heard rumblings about the possible elimination of the division throughout the summer the official word came earlier this month in an email to teams from Elko Management.
“Starting in the 2017 season, Elko will “adjust” its premiere NASCAR division rules to be compatible with the Big 8 Late Model series,” the email read. “It’s expected that the move will lower overall costs for competitors and increase car counts. In addition, it will make Elko’s top division more compatible with other tracks in the region.”
The email also went on to say that, “Change is always tough and every racer knows rule changes cost money. At the same time, Elko has probably waited too long to go back to a Late Model rule package. The vast majority of weekly race tracks have already switched or are going to make the switch to Late Models. It just makes sense for all involved.”
The biggest question now for local Elko Super Late Model drivers is, what’s next? There are no other tracks in the state of Minnesota that race Super Late Models on a weekly basis. Many, like Goede, Miller and Murgic also dabble in other Super Late Model events at other tracks and with other series.
Do they conform to the new Elko rules or stick to their Super Late Model career?
“This just means I’m going dirt racing,” Miller stated. “For everyone else, I’m not sure, but it’s so upsetting. I’m disappointed such a nice facility is falling apart. I’ve purchased two asphalt mods and two dirt Late Models and we are going to head to Ohio and run some of the Mod touring series events. I might run some touring races here in Minnesota and then go play on the dirt. I’m in a position that I can do other things, it’s really sad for those who only have a Super Late Model and now have nowhere to race.”
“The Super Late Model division is dead in Minnesota now,” Goede commented. “I think you’ll have a few of us try and travel occasionally for a while and I think six to ten guys will give in and drop back to Big 8 and a handful will just quit. The weekly talent in the Super Late Model division at Elko was the best in the country, so I think that will slowly kill the Big 8 class too. There is no longer a stepping stone class to race with the best.”
“Hopefully local SLM drivers will have the opportunity to run more touring shows/specials across the Midwest and show how competitive the weekly SLM division at Elko Speedway was,” Murgic said. “I hope to see some of the drivers make the transition to Big 8s to support our home track, but I believe it will take some time before everyone gets equipment either converted or built up. We are all just lucky enough to have a beautiful, top notch track in the state of MN. It would be great if Elko ran some SLM specials throughout the summer to give the fans a treat and keep the drivers who don’t want to transition the opportunity to come out and play. I think overall this is a change for the better.”
Speed51.com’s made attempts to speak with Elko Speedway track officials for comment, but those attempts were not successful.
-By Jana Wimmer, Speed51.com Midwest Editor – Twitter: @JWimm22
-Photo credit: Cricket Prints