Jason Barnes (28) leads former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champions Peyton Sellers (26) and Philip Morris (01) during the June 9, 2018 Late Model Stock Car race at South Boston Speedway in South Boston, VA. Jaden Austin Photo

As racetrack owners and promoters planning their 2019 seasons are in full swing this month, I thought it’d be a good time to one praise one regional track for what they’re doing and encourage others to do the same.

South Boston Speedway in the last few years has undergone a complete transformation. You can see it when you arrive from the new grandstands to the new track surface and everything in between. However, the most important transformation is what you can’t see when you arrive. The management team at this historic track has transformed their racing program into the best in the region.

To say that Late Model Stock Car racing had become stale would be an understatement. Every track in the region was suffering but South Boston Speedway which is easily THE premier race track in the LMSC region and one of the most recognized in the country wasn’t about to do down without a fight. Car counts in the LMSC division were slipping away from every track and racers could no longer afford to race but Cathy Rice and the rest of the management team at South Boston knew they could do something to help the racer.

One year ahead of plans to repave the track surface they moved from a costly four-tire racing program to a two-tire program that saved the average team nearly $350 every race. At the same time, they boosted the purse for the drivers not finishing up front to pay $500 to start. The savings on tires and increased purse gave the racers over a $500 swing in the budget to race with for each race and on a 15-race schedule that amounted to over $7,500.

That was the first domino but maybe even without knowing what it was going to do for the racers, a decision based on what was best for the new track surface became the best move any track has made in years. They moved from a soft Hoosier F-45 tire to a harder F-50 tire. This move wasn’t popular with the front-running cars and teams but for the guys racing mid-pack and back it was a lifesaver that led to increased savings to go with the tracks two-tire program.

The Hoosier F-50 didn’t save any more money on the actual purchase but the repeatability of the tire for practice sessions put smaller teams on an even playing field without buying new tires every week to test and practice on. And the racing program has been much better for it.

This past season South Boston Speedway had a 13-race schedule and the races were some of the best not only in the region but probably in the entire country. The F-50 tire helped teams to be more competitive and while the bigger teams and star drivers such as Philip Morris and Peyton Sellers still won most of the races, the little teams with drivers like Thomas Scott and Jason Barnes were not only competitive but led laps and had little things like cautions fell their way or not came at all, they might have snuck a few checkered flags.

South Boston Speedway’s staff deserves a pat on the back for their accomplishments and their willingness to try anything and to stick with the Hoosier F-50 tire. It’s decisions like this that really separate racing programs for drivers and teams and it’s growing their base of racers while allowing new drivers and teams to move up from other divisions and continue a strong tradition at the historic track.

Other track owners, General Managers and promoters should be taking notice. There’s no reason in 2019 that any track should be competing with the Hoosier F-45 tire. None at all. There’s savings to your teams and an ability for the lesser funded to compete with the big teams in switching to a harder tire. There’s also no reason any track should have a 4-tire program at this point. The economy for that in this level of racing is long gone.

I would also commend Carteret County Speedway for what they’ve done with their tire program despite sticking with a 4-tire deal, they offered a steep discount for those four tires and allow teams to compete with the Hoosier F-50 this past season. Additionally, Southern National Motorsports Park made a late-season switch in their Limited Late Model division to the Hoosier F-50 tire and they’re constantly running buy two, get two free and other promotions to lure in racers and save them money.

Kingsport Speedway has also stayed the course with a two-tire program instituted by Robert Pressley when he reopened the track in 2011. This has been a huge savings for their drivers and teams. Hopefully, they’re spending their off-season looking into the Hoosier F-50 tire as well. This would bring their field tighter and make for even better racing amongst the solid field they have week in and week out.

Motor Mile Speedway’s reopening will be greeted with many of the changes from South Boston. They’re going to introduce the Hoosier F-50 tire for this season and will also utilize a 2-tire program to save teams money and hopefully close the gap from the haves and have-nots. They’re also reportedly lowering pit pass prices and offering a discount price on their tires for every division among other promotions they’ll announce soon.

Whether it’s South Boston, Carteret, Southern National, Kingsport or Motor Mile these tracks are on the right track to helping their racers save money. There are other tracks not mentioned that are doing great things, but they can all do more. Every track in the region needs to step up to the plate and make changes to help the racer.

Selling 4-tires is no longer a good option. Running the Hoosier F-45 should no longer be an option. It’s time to get this right and there’s nothing stopping every track from making the changes needed to protect the racers from extinction.

*NOTE – The American Racer/McCreary Tire that Dominion Raceway is another great alternative that many lower budget teams and drivers rave about. Whether it’s the Hoosier F-50 or an AR alternative, every track should be looking at options to be more racer friendly.