(EDITOR’S NOTE: 51’s X-Factor is a feature on Speed51.com that features opinions from columnists on racing’s hottest topics. Brandon Paul, the author of this editorial, is the Editor for Speed51.com. The views which are expressed in the following column are his own and not necessarily the views of Speed51.com and/or its partners.)
In nearly every aspect of life, change is a difficult thing to deal with. Much of that difficulty lies within the fact that one doesn’t always know what to expect with change. It can be for the better or it can be for the worse.
When the announcement was made in 2015 that the grandstands at the New York State Fairgrounds – the home of Super DIRT Week for 44 years – would be destroyed, it sparked emotions from race fans who had called “The Moody Mile” home since 1972, and rightfully so. The event is the Daytona 500 for Big-Block Dirt Modified racing and the Fairgrounds was all they had ever known.
For the final race at the Moody Mile, fans flocked to Syracuse, New York for the “Finale at the Fairgrounds.” They packed the grandstands, they took home any piece of memorabilia that they could place their hands on and they enjoyed “racing’s biggest party” like they had for so many years.
Following the finale at the Moody Mile, there was much speculation about where Super DIRT Week would move to next. That question was answered when World Racing Group announced that the event would move 30 miles down the road to Oswego Speedway for the 2016 season.
For those fans who had fallen in love with the Moody Mile, the change wasn’t easy to deal with. And for some, it still isn’t. Many believed that the move to Oswego was just a Band-Aid, especially considering that Oswego is known for being a 5/8-mile asphalt race track.
The first Super DIRT Week held at Oswego in 2016 was considered a success, but like any “new” event there were some kinks to work out. For many, the biggest issue to overcome was the racing surface. Putting clay down on an asphalt surface just a few weeks prior to a five-day race week didn’t prove to be an easy task.
After dealing with some bumps in the road, literally, DIRTcar officials took notes and set out to provide fans with an even better experience in 2017. And boy did they ever.
Race teams arrived at Oswego Speedway last week expecting the unknown, but what they received was a racing surface smooth as glass. It was so smooth that after one round of practice on Wednesday, veteran racer Tim Fuller went as far as to say that the cars didn’t even need shocks.
The track surface itself made the racers happy, but what about the fans?
For the first 100 laps of Sunday’s Billy Whittaker Cars 200, it looked like we were in for a single-file Big-Block Modified parade around Oswego Speedway. But things changed dramatically as the reach neared the halfway mark.
Out of nowhere, the outside groove was there… and it was fast.
Eventual race runner-up Peter Britten started the charge on the outside groove, driving his way from outside the top 10 to the lead while others stayed glued to the inside wall. Then Billy Whittaker mounted a charge into the top five. Then “Lightning” Larry Wight struck and made an impressive drive towards the leaders from deep in the field.
All the while, fans in attendance were witnessing more passing and more side-by-side racing than they could have ever imagined seeing at the Moody Mile.
This all led up to a finish that saw the crowd at Oswego rise to their feet in excitement as Matt Sheppard made a last-lap pass on Peter Britten to claim the $50,000 top prize.
It was clear just moments after the checkered flag waved that Super DIRT Week had a new, permanent home at Oswego Speedway. The 5/8-mile asphalt oval known as the “Steel Palace” was no longer just a band-aid.
Oswego Speedway makes sense for Super DIRT Week for a variety of reasons. Many of those extend beyond just the improved on-track product that we witnessed throughout the week.
The facility itself is big enough to host an event like Super DIRT Week. With grandstands on both the frontstretch and backstretch, Oswego can comfortably host the thousands upon thousands of people that travel to the event. The property is also large enough to host the hundreds of campers that spend the entire week at “racing’s biggest party.”
Location is also a major factor when it comes to hosting a major event of any kind. While Oswego isn’t Syracuse, the town has the necessities to host a big-time event: restaurants, convenience stores, hotels and supermarkets. If you needed something while you were camping at Super DIRT Week, you could find it within a 15-minute drive of the race track.
Also, within a one-hour drive were most of the Super DIRT Week satellite shows at Utica-Rome Speedway, Brewerton Speedway, Weedsport Speedway and Fulton Speedway. For the race fan looking for the full Super DIRT Week experience, they could do so with a quick drive up the interstate.
Last but not least, the atmosphere wasn’t lacking in the least bit. With $50,000 on the line and the biggest names in Big-Block Modified racing in attendance, the buzz surrounding the event was there. Fans who were at Oswego embraced the new location, embraced the party and embraced the new tradition being built.
While the tradition may not be visiting the New York State Fairgrounds each October, it is a tradition that should be embraced by those in the racing community. Super DIRT Week has a new home at Oswego and it’s a home that Big-Block Modified fans should be happy to have.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com