COOPERSVILLE, Mich. — Column by Race Chaser Online Midwest Correspondent Juston Rosenow — Berlin Raceway via ARCA photo —
The 2016 racing season in the state of Michigan is shaping up to be a monumental one, for multiple reasons.
But just to narrow down the things that every race fan around should be paying attention to: here’s a look at the three biggest stories going into the new year, in the debut of Race Chaser Online’s newest editorial column, “From the Glove”.
Berlin Raceway goes NASCAR-sanctioned for 2016
Arguably, the biggest news coming out of Michigan over the offseason has been that Berlin Raceway will hold a NASCAR sanction for upcoming year.
This is immensely huge, because instead of being nearly-guaranteed a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion from either the Carolinas or the Northeast, drivers will now have to look at Michigan as well — because there are legendary names that can finally extend their families’ legacies as a possible NASCAR champion. Berlin alone host names like Senneker, Campbell, Bozell, and a few more, and any one of them could be a legitimate threat for the national crown.
There were a lot of logistics involved with a move like this, with Kalamazoo Speedway — a longtime NASCAR-sanctioned track — moving to racing on Friday nights to allow competitors at both tracks a legitimate shot at knocking down the national crown. This also boosts car counts in the top divisions at both tracks, as those who seek to chase points will likely be at both tracks on a regular basis in 2016.
In other words? Get ready, NASCAR, because the state of Michigan is here to play.
Thunderbird Raceway Set to Re-Open
Once a track closes its doors and shuts down for a season, the odds are very unlikely that it will ever reopen. In fact, just one-in-10 actually ever see the racing lights again.
However, one track has bucked the trend in Michigan going into the new year and new racing season.
The one-third mile Thunderbird Raceway is set to reopen in 2016, as Winston Speedway (Rothbury, Mich.) owner Tom Sprague has leased the speedway and won approval from the township where the track resides to reopen and bring back Saturday night dirt track racing to the West Michigan area. This is no small feat, as Sprague has invested countless hours laying new clay, and fixing several of the track’s facilities as they have fallen into a state of disrepair after sitting idle for the last four years.
With all the improvements being made to the facility, look for this track to take off to new heights under the watchful eye of the successful promoter.
Sprints on Dirt Make Dramatic, and Rarely-Seen, Rules Changes
The Engine Pro Sprints on Dirt presented by ARP has taken an extremely interesting approach to increase car counts and reduce the minimum cost to get on the track ahead of the 2016 season.
In the days where tracks and touring series are adding rules year after year, SOD has taken the opposite approach, eliminating almost all rules outside of a spec tire and safety rules to allow the series to fill its’ fields and help to get cars that are parked, because of one rule or another, back on track in 2016.
The series used to be ASCS sanctioned but after costly rules changes in the last few years, SOD abandoned the sanction in 2015 in favor of becoming a more independent route for competitors in the Great Lakes area. Series director Dain Naida has placed an emphasis on getting older cars back on track by removing all engine and weight rules, balanced by a caveat that the car must be proven safe before being allowed to compete on the track. The series will no longer require 360 cubic inch engines, as engines of any size will be allowed to compete.
It’s an interesting approach, one that the series hopes to gain momentum and restore it back to prominence in the Midwest and compete with the other series like the NRA Sprint Invaders, IRA, and the All-Star Circuit of Champions in the Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio area.
Michigan race fans, we want to hear from you! Which of these stories do you think is the most impactful ahead of 2016, or are you thinking of another news item that you’d like to share? Let us know you thoughts in the comments section below, but please, keep it family-friendly!
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, Speed77 Radio, the Performance Motorsports Network, their sponsors or other contributors.