Winters Cold Is Colder without Racing. What Can We Do to Get Some?
How many of you are doing something like me these days and - at least from time to time - going to the regular computer haunts and asking, “Hey Jay, how come the entry list for next week’s race isn’t up yet? Oh, yeah, there ain’t no “next week’s race”, at least for a couple more months.”
Now this is genuinely depressing if you’re a race fan.
That sucks, even if you can squeeze out information on the Snowball Derby, upcoming indoor races or maybe - for the really desperate - ice racing (assuming global warming lets any of that happen this winter). I love college basketball, but I need some racing to follow too.
Speaking of the Snowball Derby, congratulations to Kyle Busch for his second win in this Pensacola, Fla., classic.
NASCAR, you’re letting me down!
Maybe there’s hope, though, especially as the deflating Cup/Xfinity/Truck world continues to drift away from anything that would pay NBA-like salaries to racers (sorry, Denny). Maybe before long, NASCAR will NEED something in the winter, because there’s not enough money for everybody during the summer. Or maybe (more likely, in fact) somebody more visionary than NASCAR will come up with winter racing entertainment for us remaining junkies.
Just thinking about that time getting closer, here are some suggestions:
Set the clock back 50-60 years - From 1955-69, NASCAR ended its season sometime in October or very early November and then started the next one a week or so later, running one or more races before the holiday Christmas party season warmed up. (Yeah, in 1956, they ran a 1957-season race in Florida on December 30, but not even this writer will suggest going there again… at least not too seriously.) You could adopt a cheaper car, like the Camping World specials, and invite racers from all three top traveling series to race. It could work.
Richard Petty claimed the win in the Cracker 300 at Augusta, which began the 1966 season in November of 1965.
Run a winter series indoors - A couple of covered football stadiums have now raced full-sized cars, and lots race smaller stuff. These get tricky, because expenses are relatively high, and they’re still weather-dependent (competitors and fans have to be able to get there), but promoters wouldn’t keep trying them unless there was a demand.
Check out dirt late models racing indoors last season in St. Louis.
Run an international series - Might be getting a little weird now, but think about races in the Southern Hemisphere or the Caribbean with good television productions. ESPN’s no longer the only game in cable/dish/streaming-town; we might not be that far away from this working.
Hey, Mon, they do race in Jamaica. Think the concession stand has cod fritters and Red Stripes?
Ice racing - No. (It’s not that I don’t want to watch one of these someday; rather, it’s that I’m not normal.)
Just don’t ask me to sit in the cheap seats.
The key to making any of this work, of course, is extreme simplification of today’s racing, with cheaper cars and no barriers (charters) to new kids getting into the game. When you’ve got ultra-sensitive and expensive cars and hundreds of people working on them, adding to the current workload will result if major pushback, but decades ago, Wendell Scott, Emanuel Zervakis, and even Ned Jarrett came home from a race, did what they had time to do to the car (with help from one or a handful of friends), then headed out to the next show. That kind of attitude will be needed in low-budget, off-season racing, whatever it looks like.
I don’t need the spectacle of today’s Cup racing to get excited about motorized competition. The good short-track shows I see each year attest to that. What I need is live racing to watch/follow in November and December (maybe January, too), and I’m on board with whomever first comes up with the successful formula to give it to me.
“Drivers, start and warm up your engines.”
How about indoor RC racing to satisfy our addictions? Just kidding; it’ll probably be drones.
Frank’s Loose Lug Nuts
Sorry to report that Ricky Dennis’ Arena Racing USA has at least temporarily bitten the dust. The Richmond Coliseum, which has hosted the series off-and-on since its inception, is (maybe) going to be torn down and replaced, and that uncertainty apparently cost Dennis the sponsor he needed to keep the series alive.
Gotta hope these guys make a comeback, somewhere.
I’d love to see Kyle Busch and Joey Logano duke it out in these little cars on that indoor aluminum track, maybe with “Billy Saturdaynight” frammin’ & bammin’ alongside them.
Just so you know, the last Grand National/Cup race run the year before its “official” season was the Georgia 500, run at Macon, Georgia’s Middle Georgia Raceway on November 17, 1968, as part of the 1969 schedule. Richard Petty led 362 of the 500 laps for the win (although there were 13 lead changes, with David Pearson, Bobby Allison and Bobby Isaac also taking turns leading the pack). Thirty cars started the race and half of them finished, although Ed Negre was more than 200 laps behind. Attendance was announced at 6,000, and Petty took home $3,500 for a bit over three hours’ work.
The race took place two weeks after the 1968 season officially ended with a race at Jefferson, Ga., when Cale Yarborough scored the win for the Wood Brothers.
As best I can tell, there was no “silly season” between those events.
This picture has nothing to do with Petty winning at Macon in 1968 - I just like remembering when you could actually see the race car as it was being hauled to the track.