From the races at your local short track to marquee events such as the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, motorsports events with rich traditions take place throughout the country each year. Earlier this week, Jeff Gluck of The Athletic assembled a list of the top 10 most prestigious races in the United States. Within that list, Gluck included three of the most important short track races in the country.
First off, it’s important to note that Gluck did a great job of including races from various levels and disciplines of motorsports. NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA, IMSA, asphalt racing and dirt racing are all represented on the list.
With that said, it’s even more impressive that three of the 10 events he listed are events that are considered short track races.
Slotting in at No. 9 on Gluck’s list was the Snowball Derby held each December at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. For those who enjoy pavement Late Model racing, the Snowball Derby is the grandaddy of them all. Each year, the race attracts the best Super Late Model racers in America, all with one goal in mind: capturing the coveted Tom Dawson Trophy.
For drivers, winning the Snowball Derby is a career-defining moment. It’s something they will be remembered forever for, and for some it can help propel them to the next step in their racing career.
As an event that captures the attention of the motorsports world each December, the Snowball Derby belongs on this list.
Chili Bowl Nationals
Ranking No. 7 on Gluck’s list was the Chili Bowl Nationals held each January inside the River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event traditionally brings in over 300 Dirt Midgets, including racers from NASCAR and all of short track racing. During this year’s version of the race, three IndyCar drivers — Connor Daly, Santino Ferrucci and James Davison — also took their shot at the Golden Driller trophy.
Like the Snowball Derby, the Chili Bowl Nationals is one of the few motorsports events taking place during its traditional date each year. That fact alone helps puts the race in front of a large audience and makes winning the race more meaningful.
With over 300 drivers, a sold-out crowd in Tulsa and a large following around the globe, the Chili Bowl holds a special place in motorsports history.
The third short track race on Gluck’s list, slotting in as the sixth most prestigious motorsports race, is known as “The Granddaddy of Them All.” Held each year at Knoxville Raceway, the Knoxville Nationals is Sprint Car racing’s premier event.
Although the $1 million purse and $150,000 winner’s check are enough to make people pay attention, it is the prestige of the event that makes winning the race so special. When a driver wins the Knoxville Nationals, they are on top of the Sprint Car world until the following year.
Ask a Sprint Car driver if they would rather win 30 races or only win the Knoxville Nationals, and most would tell you they want the Knoxville Nationals. That alone makes it prestigious and worthy to be on the list of the most prestigious motorsports races.
What events are missing?
So, now that we verified the validity of all three short track races placed on The Athletic’s list, what are some of the races they may have missed?
First, it’s important to establish what exactly makes a motorsports event prestigious. The race needs to have a rich history. It needs to have a strong list of competitors that want to win that particular race more than anything else. It needs to be an event that race fans within a particular division of motorsports circles on their calendar each year.
With that said, there are a handful of additional short track races that could be worthy of being on Gluck’s list.
Let’s start with the crown jewel of Dirt Late Model racing, the World 100 at Eldora Speedway. While there are many major events held for Dirt Late Models throughout the year, this is the race that most drivers will tell you they want to win the most.
The World 100 regularly features one of the highest car counts of the year for Dirt Late Models, as well as a winner’s check of over $50,000. Winners of the race include legends of the sport like Scott Bloomquist, Billy Moyer, Donnie Moran and Jeff Purvis.
Dirt Late Model fans would certainly have a case if they decide to argue that the World 100 should have made the list of top 10 motorsports races in the country.
Super DIRT Week
Fans of another form of dirt racing may also have something to say about an event that is missing from the list.
For Big-Block Modified fans in the Northeast, the season revolves around Super DIRT Week. Previously held at the one-mile oval at the New York State Fairgrounds, the race has found a new home at Oswego Speedway in recent years. Despite the move, the rich tradition of the race has continued with a $50,000 check going to the winner.
The list of drivers who have won the race reads like a who’s who of Big-Block Modified racing. Buzzie Reutimann, Gary Balough, Brett Hearn, and Jack Johnson are just a few of the legends who have won the race, while current day stars like Stewart Friesen and Matt Sheppard have added to their legacy at Super DIRT Week.
The race now known as the Valley Star Credit Union 300 is the race of the year for Late Model Stock Cars in the Carolinas and Virginia. Each year, a large contingent of drivers from the region arrive at Martinsville Speedway with the goal of capturing the coveted grandfather clock.
Known primarily as a regional type of race car, this is one of the few Late Model Stock Car events each year that gains national attention. Now shining under the bright lights at the paperclip oval, the excitement and passion of these racers is on full display each October.
If you’re a Late Model Stock Car racer and you win Martinsville, you have had a good season regardless of anything else that has happened. That in itself make this a special and prestigious event.
Last but not least, we’ll make a case for the most prestigious race held each year in the New England region. The Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway, one of the crown jewels of Super Late Model racing, has been going strong since Joey Kourafas won the first version of the race in 1974. Since that time, some of the greatest drivers in motorsports history have made the trip to Oxford, Maine to compete in the event, which now pays $25,000 to win plus lap money.
NASCAR legends such as Bobby Allison, Davey Allison, Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace have all taken a shot at winning the race. Geoff Bodine, Ricky Craven, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch have all been successful in winning the race. Other drivers such as Dave Dion, Mike Rowe and Ralph Nason have helped make a name for themselves by winning the Oxford 250.
Although the race holds a special meaning for Late Model racers in New England, it is also a race that drivers throughout the country want to add to their resume.
What do you think?
So, now that we’ve gone through The Athletic’s list and given a few of our own suggestions, what short track races do you think belong on the list of top 10 motorsports races in the country?
Did Gluck miss one? Did we miss one? Let us know by commenting on our Five Star Race Car Bodies Facebook page or by joining the discussion on Twitter.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manager – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51