Commentary by: Corey Latham ~ corey@RACE22.com
Winston-Salem, NC(December 24, 2011) — With the end of 2011 comes the anticipation of 2012. The new season looks to be bigger and better with all the great racing and rivalries we have grown to know and love. In all the drama and action that we had in 2011 comes some wishes that tracks, fans and drivers alike may want to look into.
With the way times are today, you have to be fresh, you have to be on the cutting edge of your chosen profession. This applies to race tracks more than ever, with the way the world is today there are about 15,000 more options to do on a Saturday night other than heading to the local track as there were 20+ years ago. We have to face it people, the days of “I have a track it will sell itself” are long gone, also gone are the die-hard race fans we used to know as much as I hate to say that. I’m tired of seeing a great race and only 200 other people there seeing it with me, tracks have to get off their rears and promote, there are many ways to do it. You have to give people a reason to come, the racing itself is not enough so you have to draw them in to actually see the racing, then let your product sell itself. Live bands (small bands play for free exposure), ticket giveaways, kids night with prizes, prizes for the adults, ladies night and most importantly, have a few nights a year where pit passes are discounted or free, the racers should be taken care of first and foremost. Prizes don’t have to be big, the public loves the “idea” of free stuff, no matter the value. Just get up and do some promotion, we all know tracks run off the back gate but let’s give the racers a break and make the stands look at least half full in the future.
Myrtle Beach 400 Weekend: European qualifying or draw numbers for lower divisions
We love going to the beach and love Myrtle Beach Speedway. It’s so different than any other track in the country, the drivers and fans never know what to expect. What we hope to never expect again is it taking 5 hours to qualify. Saturday is qualifying day and that’s just what it was, a day full of a single cars on the track one after another, after another, after another…..for about 5 hours. Drivers and teams looked to be on the brink of suicide waiting on it to be over, I was so beat out of the day I couldn’t even stand to make it for the complete feature of the night, I thought I was going to die. I understand that all drivers pay their dues and should be treated just like others, but at your weekly track the local divisions don’t qualify at all and at Myrtle Beach you can start last and be leading by lap four in a 25 car field so it doesn’t matter anyway. European style qualifying, drawing numbers, time trial some on Friday night, just do something and kill the pain so we can enjoy the Saturday night races.
Jesse Little: A parking brake for his Late Model
In the “Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 300” at Martinsville this year, Jesse Little and Tommy Lemons Jr. got into an altercation ending Jesse’s day. As he got out of the car to voice his displeasure, his car began to roll and he had to quickly turn his attention away from Lemons and run back to his car, jumping in the window and stopping the car about a foot short of the inside wall. It was a pretty funny thing to see on video, Jesse is a good kid and a good sport so he still catches junk about it, I’ll bet he never jumps out like that again though.
Bowman Gray: Run transponders instead of scoring 25 cars at a time by hand in chaos around a football field
Nothing more to add, pretty much sums it up above.
This is just a shame and has been for a while. The track ran just two events last year and who knows what is in store for 2012. The county commissioners have been at it with the track but have offered to work with them, an offer that they simply shrugged off. It’s like they could care less if they are open or not, well then sell it! It’s a great race track with driver and teams ready to support it still, if they can get some kind of leadership in place, preferably not a family member that races there also, they could make a go of it. This is just one of those weird situations where nobody knows why they do it and people are starting not to care more and more with the lame excuses. I hope they can get their stuff together and open the gates back up, Tri-County is too racy a place to just be sitting there.
We all know what happened at South Boston between Lee and Philip, It’s over and done with. But will it stick with Lee forever? Probably so, and I hate to see that because he is ready to move on and put it behind him but the general public will never let it. If this was another driver at another track we would not be having this discussion because it wouldn’t matter, but this did, it was the two biggest drivers going for a win and bragging rights. He lost his cool, it happens, we all have done stuff that we wished we didn’t, but he is in the public eye so ridicule should be expected. I hope he goes into 2012 like it never happened and just keeps on getting it, all the while keeping his temper in check. That sounds stupid to say since Lee has never shown one ounce of violence in his body, he was just sick of the situation so It’s a double-edged sword to try and give advice on what to do or how to act. Just keep on keeping on, that’s all you can do.
Martinsville Speedway: I can’t think of a more perfect place so your safe, no resolutions needed.
Using these two drivers names and “driving lessons” in the same sentence could get me killed. But this past summer the two showed one thing that they were not very good at, trying to hit each other going backwards. After an on-track altercation at Ace Speedway, the two attempted to ram each others car under caution down the backstretch, notice I said attempted. They took turns, Beggarly went after Cook….and missed. Cook then went after Beggarly since he was now behind him….and missed. This went on numerous times until they ran out of backstretch room, it looked like a weird game of backwards leap frog with cars. The best part was a lesson young racers can learn from, after they went back to green they didn’t wait on each other or try to wreck each other, they wanted to settle their differences the way old-school racers do……by simply beating the other guy back to the front, and that’s what they did putting on one of the best shows of the year. They were friends again when they got out of the car, the way racing should be.
Paddy Rodenbeck: To give live commentary during a race in 2012 from inside the car
It has been done in the big leagues of racing back a few years ago but never in Late Model racing. To say Paddy is “different” is an understatement, but you can’t deny It’s entertaining. His video interviews have become something of legend, how asking about how your car is that day to telling us about washing your clothes with fish oil pills in your pocket to fantasy football is beyond me. He does get up on the wheel though so It’s good balance, and getting text from him under red flags is pretty entertaining, just imagine if we had live commentary from his car while they raced? Well, maybe not but it was a fun idea for a moment. The funniest thing with Paddy this year came at the last race of the year at Myrtle Beach. As the cars entered the track after the halfway break he “waved” to me as I was taking pics in turn one. After the race I heard he was looking for me and he was mad, I found him and he said when he waved at me the official saw he didn’t have his gloves on and made him pit. That’s what ya get there sunshine……
Matt McCall: To take no prisoners anymore
The last lap at Martinsville this year was classic, a battle between the two best cars of the day with a last lap bump and run for the win. One person that was not very excited about it was Matt McCall, as he was leading and had $25,000 in his pocket with only about 800 feet left to go until Lee Pulliam laid the bumper to him. Now Matt has used the bumper himself before, ask Jamey Caudill at Dillon. He also knows that he would have done the same thing if the roles were reversed, but they weren’t so that’s neither here nor there. Matt’s schedule of racing is not yet complete in 2012 and it will more than likely be very limited like this past year due to his job RCR, but could we see a newer aggressive driver? Matt is a very disciplined person and is set in his ways and beliefs, but don’t think for a second if he is in the runner-up spot with chance that you won’t have to do some evasive driving more than ever.
A lot of people hate him, a few people love him, that’s usually how it goes when your the best. I have yet to see Philip get rattled by anyone, well one time with Nick Smith two years ago but that was it. He gets his car battered after winning the race at SoBo from Lee Pulliam and still is happy and as nice as he can be. Know why? It’s because he showed he is still the man and he was the one holding a $10,000 check. His interviews are so thought out, he’s the type of guy that can talk to you if he really doesn’t like you, you walk away thinking how cool he is, then 2 hours later you start to think wondering if he just said you couldn’t drive and weren’t any good. He’s as slick as they come and until someone really sets the world on fire I don’t see it stopping soon, I see it slowing down a tad in the future, but not much.
Southern National Motorsports Park: Bring back the “Thanksgiving Classic”
Southern National is finally going to have cars going around once more after two years of quiet and many questions on the future. It’s simply one bad ass race track, super fast, high banked and always great racing. The void it has left really put a damper on our end of the year “BIG” race season leaving only South Boston, Martinsville and Myrtle Beach left as the touted “BIG” races. For years everyone always left Myrtle and went to Southern National, it was a tradition to us race fans as much as the turkey itself for Thanksgiving. Hopefully with the new ownership in place and money behind it we can once again have the tradition back, It’s been gone too long as it is.
Barry Beggarly: To keep showing drivers that technology can’t beat old-school
At 61 years-old, Barry Beggarly is regarded as the best Late Model driver that has ever lived, evident by him being named to NASCAR’s “Top 25 All-Time Weekly Racers” list. Although he retired many years ago, he started getting the itch again and came back to racing at Ace Speedway two years ago. He was sitting around his shop and looked around at the metal he had and decided to build his own car, pretty much exactly the way the did in 1993 when he won the National title and a staggering 32 Late Model races at various tracks in the Southeast. A year later and quite a few more wins under his belt and he is the 2011 Ace Speedway Late Model Champion, with his old style 3-link car the way it was many years ago. While technology does help, it is simply getting out of hand on the cost to be “competitive” in the Late Model ranks. Barry and a few others are showing that going back to basics and actually working on your car can go a long ways. He and Speedy Faucette come to mind, from 2007 to 2010 Speedy won 33 races in a car that is over 13 years old. When asked why he can do so good with such little technology, he responded “It’s because when I get home I work on my car, everyday, not only on Thursday or Friday like these other guys”.
It’s going to be a great year coming up and it can’t get here soon enough, we are already having withdrawals and we aren’t but a few weeks removed from Myrtle Beach. While the economy has hit everyone hard, including myself, we all need to go support the sport we love, the stands can’t be vacant but so long before ghosts take over for good. Tracks are a good way to join your family for fun, something that America has lost in recent memory, racing is a wholesome sport and can be enjoyed by all in some way, shape or form. Take it a step further, while people don’t think about sponsorship because they think that It’s for big companies, go to your local track and give a driver in a lower divisions $50 to run your name or logo, it may not sound like a lot but it keeps the little guys going, without them there is no under card for the main event which means no main event at all. Everyone have a safe and Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, I’ll see ya in 2012…….for some it may be at a track only a few hours into the new year……