Racers and race fans in Southwest Virginia were devastated over the 2017-18 off-season as Motor Mile Speedway in Dublin, VA and Lonesome Pine Raceway in Coeburn, VA was shuttered for the 2018 season.
Since then racing around the region has resumed with many of the Motor Mile Speedway competitors heading to South Boston Speedway for sporadic starts and others making seldom appearances at other venues including Hickory Motor Speedway, Franklin County Speedway, Kingsport Speedway, and Dominion Raceway.
Most spent the season not racing. The closing of Motor Mile Speedway was devastating to many of the racers and left them without the desire to travel anywhere this season. When Motor Mile Speedway took to their Facebook page in July to announce a meeting to discuss the possible return of racing, racers and fans were excited to pitch in and help.
The first meeting was held on Sunday, August 19th and despite weather moving the Hampton Heat at Langley Speedway to run the same day with some of the areas racers competing there, the crowd for the for the meeting was exceptional. An estimated crowd of over 300 made the trip to the track for the meeting to discuss the potential return of racing.
Track owner David Hagan wasn’t expecting that large of a turnout but the racers showed out and made it known that they want to return to Motor Mile in 2019. The turn out encouraged the track to set up a secondary meeting with a smaller group of drivers, teams. That meeting took place on Sunday, September 9th.
The first meeting was excluded to media members but prior to this second meeting, track General Manager Michelle Vaught invited RACE22.com to participate in this meeting to ensure that accurate information would be given to those, not in the meetings.
The meeting was comprised of Hagan, Vaught, track PR rep JW Martin, race director Randy Merriman and NASCAR officials Jackie Lawson and Ron Orr. As well as five drivers from each of the five divisions that competed at Motor Mile Speedway during the 2017 season.
Each division was discussed about potential changes and thoughts on how to draw bigger fields whether from getting people with cars to get them out of the garages and on the track or by drawing in drivers and teams from outside the Motor Mile region.
Ultimately the track is looking at whether or not a return would be fruitful. They admitted they lost around $20,000 per race in the past and they were not willing to keep doing that upon a return to racing. They also stated that not racing this season and only running special events hurt their marketing revenue but that this season would overall be one of their best financially because of the losses they weren’t taking while running race events.
Overall changes discussed included doing away with the massive amounts of free tickets the track gave away to draw in fans. That program would essentially be replaced with a $5 ticket available for the racers to buy for their fans, family, sponsors and etc. The premise of this program was for the drivers and teams to be able to give back to their sponsors and family for their support and maybe even lead to teams picking up more sponsors in the future.
There was no discussion of the tracks cooler policy which prohibits fans from bringing anything to drink or eat into the grandstands. The policy has been discussed at length by fans on Motor Mile Speedway’s Facebook page with fans chiming in that the cooler policy is the number one reason they didn’t come to the track.
The other item discussed several times was a rule to penalize drivers who win more than two races in a row by adding weight. As you can imagine the room was split with some drivers thinking it was unfair while others understood that it was simply to make sure the races weren’t as predictable as they have been in the past.
Hagan also offered that he’d like to see the season be set at 10 races for each division with the possibility of some divisions being added to special events like the Monster Truck show. Those events would be in addition to the 10 race events that would feature all five divisions.
Here’s a short overview of what was discussed in each division. Keep in mind that nothing discussed was finalized and there will be another meeting to discuss things further before the decision on whether the track will return to racing will be made by October 10th.
The U-Car division was discussed first. Options discussed included using Kingsport Speedway’s Pure Four rules or the 2017 U-Car rules from Franklin County Speedway. Both are more open and inviting for out of town cars than the rules previously used at Motor Mile. They also discussed moving away from DOT tires to allowing for the option to run Hoosier 790’s. It was also discussed only paying the top three to make the payout more enticing to out of town drivers by paying more to the top three finishers.
The Super Street division was discussed next. The division was the lowest drawing division in 2017 but it was the divisions first season under a completely different set of rules. The division combined old Late Model Stock Car chassis’ and a true Street Stock division with no engine restrictions but racing on an 8″ tire that racers could race with all season. Options discussed during this meeting included moving to scuff 10″ tires from the Limiteds and Late Models.
While the track was disappointed in the turn out for this class in 2017 it appeared by all accounts that more cars were being built for 2018 before the track announced it wouldn’t be running. Many of those cars are believed to be close to ready or will be ready by the start of the 2019 season. A carburetor rule, which they had none in 2017, was discussed but it seems it would ultimately cost teams money with no real benefit.
The Mod 4 division was discussed next. This division has had the second highest average car count, second only to the Late Models which is padded by NASCAR Whelen All-American Series points chasers. Not many changes were discussed for this division except a discussion on how to draw cars from North Carolina to race with them.
Next was the Limited Late Models. Engine rules were discussed as a part of this division due to the fact that the division runs a 603 engine only and the 603 engine has been discontinued by General Motors. However, the parts for this engine are still all available. Options discussed were opening up this division to the 602 and 604 engines but some drivers were questioning how to equalize the 603 and 604 to ensure the guys who’ve been running Limiteds with 603’s would be getting beat in the engine department. One driver suggested using the Gripp Limited Series rules as the three engines in that series are very competitive.
Another point of contention for the Limiteds was the shock rule. Some drivers felt like adding or switching to the same rule of allowing Penske shocks like South Boston Speedway allows in the Limiteds would be a better move to help entice out of town cars. Another driver suggested the track buy a few sets and allow out of town teams to “rent” them if they don’t have the spec shocks the track has utilized in recent years. That would allow the track to keep their current rules and make it easier for a team to come from somewhere else and run a single race. Tires were also discussed with Hoosier F-50’s being the preferred tire of choice from competitors and also a rule to allow teams to only buy eight for the entire season.
The Late Model Stock Car discussion was last. Hagan asked the Late Model competitors if they’d be opposed to merging with the Limiteds and the drivers representing the division said they were all opposed to that change. I’m told during the first meeting one of the more prominent drivers in Late Models suggested that as an option but it was quickly shut down during this meeting with that driver not in attendance.
The primary change discussed for the Late Models centered around tires with the consensus among those in attendance being that the Hoosier F-45’s were not a viable option. Hoosier F-50’s and American Racer tires were discussed. Drivers seemed fairly open to either with one Martinsville winning driver suggesting that American Racers were the best tires he’s ever ran on. A two-tire rule was also discussed and unanimously agreed to by the drivers to save them money.
The purse was also discussed with mentions of South Boston Speedway’s purse and Kingsport Speedway’s. The vibe from the track seems to be that the Late Model purse is one of the areas in which a big change will need to be made for the viability of the track. Motor Mile is known for paying the largest purses from first to last over the years. No decision was made on the purse or anything else for that matter.
The next meeting with the purse being one of the primary points of discussion will take place on Sunday, October 7th with a likely decision on whether to race or not coming on October 10th. RACE22.com will once again be in attendance at this meeting and will share with everyone what is discussed and we also hope to share with you the news of a return of racing there when the decision is made public on October 10th.