U.S. Nationals, and We Are Not Talking Drag Racing Here
I bid you welcome gentle readers. It seems like weeks since we’ve gotten together to talk about racing, but I guess that’s because it has been. I hope that everyone enjoyed a wonderful Christmas and at least survived the celebration of New Year’s Eve. We’ll not be discussing Christmas week at my house because as a great number of you know, my tiny Shih Tzu, Bitty Buddy left me on December 26. I welcome the return to the normality of talking and writing about racing. Al and Shurlann, finally meeting you face to face was the absolute highlight of my Holidays. Thanks so much for the visit! Now you can tell the rest of Twitter that I neither growl nor bite… much.
I learned via Internet radio a couple of weeks ago about something I find extremely interesting, mixed with a feeling of confusion as to how the timing makes sense. Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard the term “U.S. Nationals of Short Track Racing.” One hand? That’s about what I thought. Well, please allow your scribe give you a brief rundown of what’s involved in those words and when and where it will all occur. I know we’ll be hearing much more about this as we near spring. (Oh please, can it be spring tomorrow? I’m already tired of being cold and it’s only January)
The “Where” part is Bristol Motor Speedway, “The Last Great Colosseum.” The “When”, is the weekend of Friday, May 19, Saturday, May 20 and Sunday, May 21st of our New Year, 2017. Now we come to the “What” part. Those three days will offer racing from six distinct short track racing series run by 5 different sanctioning bodies, none of which is named NASCAR. The participants will include the following:
The premier division of asphalt short track racing cars in the United States.
These cars typically feature 600-plus horsepower engines under the hood of a
custom built chassis weighing around 2,750 pounds.
Pro Late Models: These racecars are similar to those in Super Late Model but they all must utilize a specific factory crate engine. The crate engines are built by the participating auto manufacturers, including General Motors and Ford.
Late Model Stocks: These machines evolved in the Carolinas and are raced primarily at weekly asphalt tracks located throughout the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. These cars weigh approximately 3,100 pounds and their engines pump out about 400 horsepower.
Street Stocks: This entry category is a popular developmental opportunity for those who aspire to gain experience and become future stars of the Late Model Stock scene. The cars in this division must be 1960-2016 models of rear wheel drive street cars that must remain stock appearing and equipped with eight cylinder engines weighing in the neighborhood of 3200 pounds. (Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!)
ICAR / Florida-Type Modifieds: This open wheel style of racing originated on the short track paved ovals of Indiana and is now featured at race tracks throughout the country. The fender-less machines are powered by V8 engines with a minimum weight of 2,600 pounds.
Compacts: This exciting class showcases four and six-cylinder, front wheel drive compact cars. These smaller wheelbase race cars are popular because the class is predominantly made up of the compact cars seen on the streets today. (Sounds reminiscent of the old Goody’s Dash Series)
From the Bristol Motor Speedway website:
The signature event will be sanctioned by five different sanctioning bodies and for the first time in stock car racing history, will bring together six top categories of racing to compete on the same track in one spectacular weekend of action. Champion Racing Association powered by JEGS (CRA), who took the lead sanction body role in developing this event, will be co-sanctioning the Super Late Model race with their ARCA/CRA Super Series Powered by JEGS along with The CARS Super Late Model Tour (CARS) and the Southern Super Series (SSS). CRA will also oversee the action for the crate late model event with their JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour presented by Chevrolet and the Street Stocks, while the CARS officials will oversee the Late Model Stock portion of the event with their CARS Late Model Stock Tour. The compacts will be organized and overseen by the Vore's Compact Touring Series while the Modified portion of the weekend will be sanctioned by International Championship Auto Racing (ICAR) Top Speed Modified Tour. The U. S. Nationals of Short Track Racing is being presented by Vore's Welding & Steel.
Now then, what part of that doesn’t sound like more fun than a barrel of monkeys? Always wanted to use that term, though my only experience with monkeys was one that her husband brought home for my friend Joyce to take care of. That thing was anything but fun. It would screech and holler every time she came near it, and then would pick up turds and fling them in her direction. Thanks, but no thanks on the barrel of monkeys.
Looking over the various categories, I think I’d like to order up a heaping helping of the Street Stocks. I’m sure all are great fun, but those sound much more like the racing I grew up with. If you can buy it and park it in your driveway, you can race it. I’m so sorry we strayed so far from that concept, which is the way NASCAR was born.
I know there will be a lot more discussed and written about this between now and May than I’ve covered here. There is much more to be found on the Bristol Motor Speedway site, but it’s really not kosher to just copy the whole page. Please go there, read, learn and enjoy. Then maybe someone can explain what seems to me to be a total conundrum. That weekend in May is the same weekend as the NASCAR All-Star race at Charlotte. They mention on site that several well-known drivers from Cup, Xfinity and Trucks will be there for the event, but I have to think that the top dogs from Cup will not be in their number, but busy at Charlotte Motor Speedway instead.
Bristol and Charlotte… in case anyone is missing my point, are both SMI tracks, but someone has chosen to run two huge attractions head to head against each other.
In the announcement on the BMS page, there is one small paragraph, which serves as a bit of CYA. It reads like this:
"Bristol Motor Speedway is proud to announce today that in 2017 it will host the biggest and what promises to be the most exciting event in short track stock car racing history," said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway. "We're looking forward to fans joining us following the NASCAR All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It will surely be an event you won't want to miss."
Call me crazy, but I’m not exactly convinced just how that would work. The All-Star race lists a green flag somewhere in the vicinity of 6:00 PM on Saturday. It’s not really a very long race, but with built-in breaks and the inevitable cautions, it will still have attendees within the confines of Charlotte Motor Speedway until probably at least 9:00. Then comes the parking lot and I think we all know that is well more than a 10-minute fiasco. It’s been more like a 2-hour minimum at any race I’ve ever been to. Then, according to the good folks at Google Maps, it’s over three hours to Bristol, and two days of practice, qualifying and three of the series will have been completed before you’d even get there.
Mind you gentle readers, I am not condemning or applauding any of this right now. It’s just something that most folks had no idea was coming, but now you do. Given the comparison between watching a small number of cars driven by folks with large egos circle the original cookie-cutter track for a short time, or watching six entire divisions of Late Models and Modifieds race around tiny Bristol for three entire days… I know in what direction I’d be heading. (In my mind, I can still hear Dick Trickle calling stock cars at Bristol the equivalent of “Jet fighters in a gymnasium.”) Either way, SMI will be the winner. Marcus, I know your Dad is proud of you.
In case anyone has forgotten, that happy little banjo means it’s time for our Classic Country Closeout. It will be a short one this time, as we pay homage and say goodbye to some of the Country greats that left us in 2016. This offering is short, but so heavy with talent. I’m reminded of a song Tom T. Hall wrote that contained the line, “Must be that the Good Lord likes a little pickin’ too.”
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!