Story by Mark Rogers Jr. ~ mark@RACE22.com
Williamsburg, VA(February 16, 2012) — Ever get tired of coming to your local short track, driving all that way, just to see the same racer win time and time again? Ever heard a race fan say he wasn’t going to the races because the same guy wins all the time?
There’s nothing more frustrating to a race fan than to see his favorite racer get schooled by the same guy week in and week out. In the state of Virginia, at a local short track called South Boston Speedway, those frustrations can be heard all to well by a guy that wins all the time by the name of Phillip Morris. Not only will you hear the boo’s but you’ll get to hear some choice words, and even see the single finger salute, as Morris goes by for his victory lap. Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not a mob scene at SOBO at all. There are a lot of folks out there in their very recognizable orange t-shirts, with hands in the air, waving a much different single finger salute. I absolutely love it when Phillip Morris wins a race out there at South Boston Speedway, especially when he dominates the event. Man the things that are said from some of the fans, it’s just pure comedy and I have to admit, I’ve said some things myself too!
Back at my home track of Langley Speedway in Hampton Va, there’s another guy who is winning a lot too! His name is becoming all too familiar in the Whelen All American Late Model Series, it’s CE Falk. A young racer who is highly talented and very determined when he gets behind the wheel. You would figure that his success of 3, back to back to back track championships would appeal to fans in bulk. Now he sure does have a fan base at Langley Speedway, but again I can’t help but wonder: is winning every week good for the sport, good for the track, good for the fans and good for the drivers? Like South Boston after a race, I just love to hear what Langley fans have to say about CE Falk. Like, how much money CE has and how Toyota specially builds his engines.
My favorite one is how CE Falk has his personal Hoosier tire technician on site to help with tires. Good stuff huh? Well, I’m sure CE has got more than a dollar or two in his pocket and Toyota has yet to present an engine for Nascar approval in the Late Model division. His dad handles much of the tire duties for the team and I would bet he favors Goodyear’s, but I could be wrong! Now mind you, were still thinking like a typical race fan and asking the question, is winning every week good for the sport?
Since I’m a bit focused on Virginia short tracks, how ’bout Motor Mile Speedway out there in Radford Va? Certainly, by now, you have heard of another young racer from Semora, NC named Lee Pulliam who tends to win a lot too. If you haven’t, then where have you been? Full of raw emotion and showimg no fear, Lee Pulliam dominated the track in 2011, posting 16 wins. Though I never made it out to Motor Mile to witness fan reaction for myself, I was hearing that fans loved Pulliam at first but towards the end, some fans had started to grumble a bit about him.
But durn, what’s there not to like about Lee Pulliam? He is certainly fan friendly, always smiling and the kind of guy you can pull a joke on. But it’s something about racers winning every week isn’t it? Don’t you worry about it fans, all the boo’s, middle fingers, all the screams and rants that come from the stands are very much heard and seen by those racers. But just a thought, ever considered that maybe the comments and gestures could serve as motivation? Like Lee Pulliam, CE Falk and Phillip Morris need any!
Now with those 3 examples given, they certainly had things go their way! To their credit, they’re well established race teams and clearly built to win. But fans, they still have to run all the laps and everything has got to go right, in order to be successful. So much can go wrong and then it happens, fortunes change. I really believe many fans know exactly what I’m talking about and if you do, there’s an earned respect for those guys. For others, it just doesn’t matter, all you came to see is those guys lose and get to talk about just how it all happened. So…is winning every week good for the sport? In my most humble of opinions, as a student of the game, it’s my observation…you’re damn right it is!
Whether you have a favorite driver or whether you’re a race fan in general. Our great sport has a place for all fans with all kinds of opinions. So many of you come from so far away to see all the door to door banging, last lap passing and see last weeks winner fall while a new face wins. I know that there’s no need to explain the race drama or who gets done dirty to gain a position. One moment were excited, but by the next lap were angry, frustrated and wanting revenge. So much emotion, so much intensity, how you can not love racing is beyond me.
Here’s one more perspective for you. I really believe that the emotions that so many of you fans feel, those racers feel it all too. If you think those guys ever get tired of losing, you better believe it. To constantly look at the rear of the guy in front of you every week means one thing…you’re losing! While we all appreciate a good run, I’ve never met a racer who didn’t think, with a little more work, they could have done better. So those racers go and do that little extra work to get themselves better. They study film and see what’s working for the winners in hopes that they can apply what they learned.
Hopefully, the funds to practice are there where they learn new lines of entry, center and exit in and out of the turns. All just to find that extra two to three tenths of speed that wasn’t there just last week. I just wish for all you fans that one day you’ll get to look in the eyes of these great racers and their hard working race teams, searching for just a bit more in their cars. The commitment and dedication is stunning! When you combine 20 to 30 Late Models and nearly 4,000 plus raging, screaming fans, you get excitement that keeps bringing you back each and every week. Without the race teams, without a facility to race and without you, the fans, winning is not near as significant as being able to get to race every week! Thank you all for the greatest sport on all four wheels!!!