Last week, I announced the three awards for Central PA Racing Scene, which were 410 Driver of the Year, 358 Driver of the Year and Track of the Year. I'm proud to announce that we will be giving away EIGHT total awards to the great drivers of Central PA in all the sprint car divisions. We will also be having the fans vote on who they think should win the 305 Driver of the Year, 360 Driver of the Year, Most Improved 410 Driver of the Year, Most Improved 358 Driver of the Year and the Best Looking Sprint Car of 2015 ( Can be any car in any division). The awards will see the fans vote for who they think should win the award and the members of Central PA Racing Scene and Slicks & Sticks will also cast a vote and debate amongst ourselves to see who should be crowned the winner which will essentially give a total of 7 votes to determine the winners. I will post the drivers for each category every morning, along with why each driver was chosen for the award, then the fans will have 24 hrs to cast their vote on who they think should win. We will be starting the voting the Monday after the National Open at Williams Grove in two weeks.
The Beer Hill Gang announced that at the National Open they will be giving out a $1,000 award to the "National Open Rookie of the Year". That's a damn good chunk of change for a driver and going to be an interesting race within the races to watch that weekend. We contacted The Beer Hill Gang to ask them what the rules are for qualifying for the $1,000 and was told the driver has to be running the National Open for the first time,has to race all three nights or the races that run weather permitting and is the highest finishing car will win the $1,000. Congrats to the Beer Hill Gang for putting up the money for the this and helping make the weekend even bigger. I hate the feeling that some driver with a big team who is making the trek to Central PA will get this instead of some deserving local team who could use that money, but all in all it's a very cool thing they are doing.
Now on to the racing action.....
Friday night set the tone for the weekend and there is only two words that can describe the weekend at a whole....CAR COUNTS.... Friday night twenty-one cars were pit side at Williams Grove Speedway. Twenty-one cars at the premier race track in Central PA shows there is something definitely wrong. To look a little deeper into those twenty-one cars in action that night there were six non-regular teams and I just want you all to think about that stat for a minute. Go ahead I'll wait.....That's not good folks. Now we all know the Grove will pack the pits for the Natty Open in two weeks, but to only have sixteen teams show up on a normal week is scary. At least it is for me. The stands didn't look much better, but most people will blame that on high school football; but I have no real response to that since I don't follow high school football or how many people actually go to the games. The racing on the track was great (which has been the case for most of the second half of the season) as Lucas Wolfe would come from 8th starting spot to take the win over Lance Dewease, Danny Dietrich, Greg Hodnett, and Brian Montieth. Dietrich and Hodnett were racing each other very hard throughout the twenty-five lap feature and we saw many instances where one driver would run the other to the inside going down the backstretch, or they traded some mean slide jobs in the corners making the race very fun to watch.
Saturday night we saw the 44th Annual National Open at Selinsgrove Speedway. A race that payed $10,000 to the winner and once again car counts were a major talking point as only twenty-four cars were pit side. Really, only twenty-four cars for $10,000 to win? The race was a swan song to promoter Charlie Paige who dropped the green flag on the feature event and Danny Dietrich would win the feature event leading every lap over Hodnett, 360 track champion TJ Stutts, Brent Marks, and Lucas Wolfe. I really don't have a clue why race teams don't seem to want to race at the track. Doesn't matter what division the track runs, car counts suffer, but really hope whoever takes over the track in 2016, makes the track successful, the track is too nice to let it close its doors.
Sunday night at Susquehanna Speedway, the 410's were in action and nineteen cars showed up to race. Danny Dietrich the big winner at Selinsgrove chose not to race as did Brent Marks and Kyle Moody. Hodnett would pick up the win but like the previous two nights nineteen cars? If 50+ cars do not show up this coming Saturday night at Lincoln Speedway, then what does that say about this past weekend?
Lets take a deeper look at car counts here in Central PA IN 2015. After taking some time to go back and look through all the press releases from each track here is what I have found and some of it is very interesting....
Williams Grove Speedway has had a car count of 26.92 all season and that includes the Outlaw and the All Stars. Now that is scary for the most historic race track on the east coast. The 358 division brings the same amount of cars to the track for their races....23.9. So if they should get rid of the 358's because of low car counts what should they do about the 410 division? The lowest car count for the 410's this year was nineteen which happened twice on May 29th and August 7th. The highest car count for the season was forty for the spring outlaw race. They managed thirty-nine for the other two outlaw races in July as well as the All Star race in the spring. The best non sanctioned race the Grove had all season was Speed Week which drew thirty-three and thirty-four respectively. In contrast the 358 division never dropped below twenty-two the entire season, seeing a high of twenty-eight cars on July 10th and a season low of twenty-two. The best car count of the entire season was the first 360 show which saw forty-two cars pack the pits, but that was for one race. Would that happen every week? I don't think it would, but that's just me.
Looking at the other two regular 410 tracks Lincoln and Port Royal here is what I found...
Lincoln had the most successful season with an average car count of thirty-one. The highest coming in at forty-seven cars and hitting forty one other time in 2015. Lincoln Speedway has never had less then 24 cars for a show in 2015.
Port Royal has had an average of 28.59. Not to far off from Lincoln Speedway, but Port has seen more races with forty plus cars with three races. Their best race was forty-seven while their lowest was twenty. They had five races in 2015 that did not have a full field. So while their average is close to Lincoln's they have struggled to get full fields more then Lincoln Speedway has.
Lincoln was able to counter balance the low car counts in the 410 division by having the 358's on the card most weeks and when they did they came out strong with 29.8 average for the season. Only dropping below a full field one time. That's two sprint car divisions with strong car counts folks.
Trail Way Speedway struggled to get cars all season only averaging 12.5 cars a week. The topped out at eighteen cars twice in 2015 and only dropped down into the single digits twice.
Selinsgrove Speedway which switched to 360's in 2014 saw an average of twenty-three cars show up pit side, but they didn't race as much and had other sanctioning bodies to help bring car counts up. This season, they ran with a season low of fourteen cars and the highest being a thirty-three car field.
So, after looking at all of that what does it tell you? We are hurting big time for cars in every division and at every race track. It's that simple folks. Doesn't matter what division or what track car counts are down most weeks. Lincoln and Port seem to be in the best position right now, but they are the two tracks that seem to have the best reputation of good race surfaces and treating teams well.
Well, that's it for this week folks. Lets get ready for the next two weeks in Central PA, which will bring us all the two biggest races in Central PA, where car counts will NOT be an issue. Friday night, Williams Grove will host the 410's in their Outlaw tune-up before the huge three day $50,000 to win National Open along with the final 358 race of the season at the historic half mile. Chase Dietz holds a slim 20 point lead over Doug Hammaker for the 2015 track Championship, and both drivers have been strong all season. Hope we see a safe, clean race between the two and let the chips fall were they may.
Saturday night, everyone will be either racing at or watching Lincoln Speedway for the second annual Dirt Classic. $20,000 to win and a great payout back through the field will bring a lot of teams to the track. I would bet money this race will have the biggest car count for the entire season in Central PA. The thing that worries me, just like it did last year is the format. If you want to run double heat races then they need to figure out a way to make them exciting for the fans. They also need to keep the fans up to date on the whole points system. I should not need to bring a calculator and a trig book to help me figure out who is on the front row. Last year nobody had a clue what was going on including some of the drivers. But I will be there early so swing by and have a cold beer with me, and let me know how much you like or hate the site.
Until then I hope everyone has a great work week. I will see everyone Friday night at Williams Grove Speedway. Try to stay warm this week, and make sure you have your beverage of choice on ice, because the racing this coming weekend is going to be red hot.
© William McIntyre & Central PA Racing Scene 2015