1. Another tragic shooting in the Carolina dirt track
For the second straight summer, dirt track racing in the Carolinas had to suffer an on-track shootout. On Saturday night (August 27), a track security officer at Lancaster Motor Speedway in South Carolina was murdered for refusing entry to a man not wearing a track wristband. A suspect was arrested the following morning for the murder.
This shooting is hardly a problem endemic to track racing. Sadly, sports at all levels have had to endure violence in recent years, from fights in the NFL stands to stabbings in MLB parking lots.
This takes nothing away from the tragedy of Saturday night in Lancaster. I have visited over 140 racetracks in this country and yes, whether as a fan or as a member of the media, I cannot count on all my fingers the number of times I have dealt with the security or other ramp personnel pointing me in the wrong direction or not understanding ticketing/accreditation at the ramp. That’s never a reason to raise your voice, let alone draw a gun.
Say a prayer for the victim’s family and say thank you to the next ticket taker you see at your local track.
2. The Eastern Storm tent pole closes permanently
News broke over the weekend that Pennsylvania’s Grandview Speedway, a rare example of a NASCAR-sanctioned dirt track and a racetrack for USAC’s annual Eastern Storm wingless sprint car mini-series , was sold to make way for a car auction venue. As a result, it will soon cease to be a racetrack (note that a number of Facebook posts providing more substantial information are part of groups and cannot be embedded here).
Well another race track is closing after the 76er at Grandview speedway the track is closed it was sold to a big junk yard
— Onthegas1p (@onthegas1p) August 29, 2022
Multiple sources confirmed through social media that track staff were in fact made aware of the impending closure over the weekend.
This one is a bit of a shocker. Grandview Speedway proved healthy in terms of attendance and car counts throughout the season; its promoter was instrumental in establishing the Eastern Storm miniseries in Pennsylvania.
But, no matter how successful a dirt road is, there is still a very low-margin, labor-intensive way to make money. Cash offers for land are often hard for track owners to refuse.
It’s hard to fathom that a track where fan support was actually there ended up closing anyway.
3. A return to off-road racing in a year
Well, maybe not a full year, but we need good news after two downers to start this column. Nine months after sustaining a spinal injury while racing midgets in California, Keith Kunz Motorsports prospect Daison Pursley returned to competition this weekend at Davenport Speedway in Iowa. Pursley scored multiple top 10 finishes in Outlaw Xtreme Midget Series competition over the Iowa quarter mile, including a victory in the heat race on Friday night.
— Xtreme Outlaw Series (@Xtreme_Outlaw) August 27, 2022
No comments needed beyond that. It was good to see Pursley back on track and midget fans should be happy to see more of him in the fall.
4. It’s time to rethink vintage racing after the Grove sinking
That Pursley suffered such a terrible injury while racing in a top-tier midget car with all the modern safety features was a stark reminder last fall of the dangers of open-wheel racing. And after seeing what a vintage race practice at Williams Grove Speedway (Pennsylvania) turned out on Friday night, it raises a pointed question as to whether vintage race cars lacking said safety features have a place on the racetracks today. (Warning to those who haven’t seen it; the replay is graphic.)
Now, thankfully, the driver involved in that incident, Wayne Godshall, was alert and communicating when he was taken to hospital after the crash, with family members reporting on social media that he was hit but OK later in the weekend.
Yet after seeing the way Godshall’s head moved in the cockpit of this racing car as it crashed, I cannot understand how in our day and age where even the fashionable bomber division on most local tracks require containment seats, which sprint cars such as those racing at the Grove track on Friday night are allowed to drive at high speeds.
There are plenty of fans and competitors at The Grove who express that riders racing in vintage machines without safety features are aware of the risks. And yes, Friday night’s wreck was an extreme incident, even by race car standards.
But the historic benefit of said races doesn’t outweigh the risks when they crash the way they did. Friday. As important as maintaining ties to the sport’s past is, hosting events where drivers are injured as graphically as they were this Friday night will ultimately drive away more fans than it creates.
5. Fingers crossed for another resurfacing in Florida
With much of the Florida racing scene on a regular hiatus waiting for extreme weather conditions to cool down, All-Tech Raceway has been hard at work, putting tons of new clay on its racing surface.
Now look, resurfacing a dirt road is common practice. It is necessary, it must be done. But I admit I got shivers seeing images of All-Tech with dump trucks and bulldozers working everywhere. For one thing, All-Tech’s racing surface has been superb in recent years, with last year’s Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series season opener and this year’s XR Super Series events all two with shimmering, slicked-back clay that made for great runs.
You were perfect this weekend, @AllTechRaceway 👏
See you in December. pic.twitter.com/oSVk32rM4H
– XR Events (@raceXR) April 24, 2022
Translation: I don’t want to see this running surface disappear.
And given what was seen earlier this year, there’s reason to hold your breath until the race cars actually take to All-Tech’s new surface. Because Volusia Speedway Park and Eldora Speedway, racetracks nationally recognized for their upkeep, both attempted to resurface this year. And both have been reduced to having to scrape their new clay from their racing surfaces to host major events, whether it’s the DIRTcar National Championships in February or the Eldora Million in June.
Here’s hoping the third big-name track is the charm.
6. How to pack a dirt road… with a carrot
It’s long been a running joke that a headliner class often never finds itself on a dirt track when the PA announcer calls for cars to pack the racing surface before hot laps. Well, USAC National Sprint Cars were blessed at Kokomo Speedway (Ind.) this weekend with one of the smartest promotions dirt racing has seen in 2022.
Happy SmackDown!🥊 @clintonboyles98 is turning keys in PA this week and is unable to make it to the race. He came to us with a great idea!
Clinton would like to sponsor the driver who does the most pack wheel laps each night in a round of tear offs! pic.twitter.com/PwLyX6DSOn
— Carbon Safety Technologies (@CarbonSafety_) August 25, 2022
Now, okay, it might take more of a dangling carrot than rips, like maybe a right rear tire, to get a super late model to pack. But it really does feel like there’s a marketing opportunity here.
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