Heading into every short track racing season, there are a handful of race tracks that garner a little bit of extra attention. Most of the time this has to do with a compelling storyline, a big race added to the schedule or even a new racing surface.
As we now count down the days until the 2018 season, our staff here at Speed51.com has created a list of the top 10 short tracks (pavement and dirt) to watch next season. Keep in mind, this isn't a list of the tracks we necessarily believe are the best in the land. Instead, they are the tracks to keep an eye on for one reason or another in 2018.
Birch Run Speedway (MI) – The track formerly known as Dixie Motor Speedway will have the opportunity to host a major Late Model race in 2018. As recently announced by Champion Racing Association (CRA) officials, Birch Run Speedway will be hosting the Masters of the Pros in 2018.
The $10,ooo-to-win Pro Late Model race is one of the biggest races of the year for PLM racers. At 200 laps in distance, the Masters of the Pros at Birch Run will become the longest race in JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour history.
Devil’s Bowl Speedway (VT) – After four years of hosting short track racing events on both asphalt and dirt, Devil's Bowl will be going all-in on dirt in 2018. The West Haven, VT track announced in August that the half-mile asphalt oval would be covered in clay for the upcoming racing season.
With track officials putting 100-percent of their focus on the dirt track, in a region that is best known for its dirt racing, Devil's Bowl Speedway will be a track worth paying attention to next season.
Evergreen Speedway (WA) – Racers and race fans visiting Evergreen Speedway will notice something different in 2018. The track recently repaved the 3/8-mile oval at the Washington racing facility for the fist time in many decades.
In addition to the fresh surface, the banking is now evenly progressive with the increase from 10 degrees to 12 degrees in the middle of the turns. Drivers competing on the 5/8-mile track will also have a whole new front stretch to navigate and a new entry into turn one. The changes make Evergreen Speedway a track to keep an eye on in 2018.
Fulton Speedway & Utica-Rome Speedway (NY) – One of the most ground-shaking announcements in years for weekly Dirt Modified racing in Central New York was made on Labor Day Weekend. Both Fulton Speedway and Utica-Rome Speedway both announced that they will be dropping their headlining Big-Block Modified divisions and moving to the 358 Small-Block Modifieds, effective at the beginning of both track’s 2018 seasons.
It will be intresting to watch both of these tracks to see what type of car counts they get and which stars will make the transition to the 358s in order to compete weekly.
Houston Motorsports Park (TX) – In 2017, asphalt short track racing was revived in the State of Texas when Houston Motorsports Park hosted the Liberty Bell 200 in July. The track later hosted an event in September, but has not yet announced a schedule or any planned events for 2018.
This leads us to ask the question: what is the future of apshalt short track racing in Texas? That in itself makes Houston Motorsports Park a track to keep an eye on next season.
Kalamazoo Speedway (MI) – According to track owner Gary Howe, it's time to get "back to basics" at Kalamazoo Speedway in 2018. After 29 years of being a NASCAR-sanctioned facility, the Michigan race track recently announced that it would be dropping the NASCAR sanction for the upcoming season.
By doing this, racers will no longer have to purchase a NASCAR license or pay a registration fee to compete in events. They will simply need to show up, fill out a driver information sheet, buy a pit pass and go race. Howe believes this will increase the participation of part-time racers, and it's worth watching to see if this proves to be true.
Mansfield Motor Speedway (OH) – If you enjoy big-money races, there are 100,000 reasons (or maybe more) to keep an eye on Mansfield Motor Speedway next season. The Ohio dirt track will be hosting a pair of races paying at least $100,000 to win.
In April, Mansfield will host the $100,000-to-win Sprint Car World Championship before welcoming Super Late Models to the track in August for the inaugural Dirt Million. The Dirt Million will be a part of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series schedule and will pay a miniumum $100,000 to win with the possibility of up to $500,000. The total purse could also reach $1 million with a unique format that allows families, friends, sponsors, fans and teams to play a role in building the feature payoff.
Mobile International Speedway (AL) – With a new management team in place, the historic race track located in Mobile, AL will be one to keep an eye on in 2018. Although full plans for the upcoming season have not yet been anounced by track promoter Charlie Lyons, a major event was recently revealed.
The inaugural Mobile 300, a 300-lap Super Late Model race, will serve as the 2018 Southern Super Series finale and will pay at least $10,000 to win. It's worth watching to see what else is in store at Mobile during the upcoming racing season.
Unity Raceway (ME) – One of Maine's most historic racing facilities will begin a new chapter in 2018. Unity Raceway held its final asphalt race in October and immediately began the process of tearing up the worn-out asphalt at the 1/3-mile race track.
Although this won't be the first time that Unity has hosted dirt racing events, it will be the first time since 1964. The move to dirt will also make the Unity, ME race track the only operating dirt track in the State of Maine and one of only three in New England.
How will the fans and racers respond to the move? Only time will tell. It's certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Virginia Pavement Tracks – How will the closure of Motor Mile impact the Virginia racing scene? That's the question we're asking after Motor Mile officials announced that weekly NASCAR racing would be discontinued after the 2017 racing season.
Will Motor Mile's move boost car counts and fan attendance at other tracks in the state? We'll certainly be keeping an eye on Dominion Raceway, Langley Speedway, Lonesome Pine Speedway and South Boston Speedway among others.
-Text by Speed51.com Staff
-Photo credit: Speed51.com