PENN YAN, NY — Blog by Race Chaser Online New York correspondent Steven Ovens — Matthew Boyce Photography photo — We finally made it race fans; race season here on the dirt in the Northeast has arrived!
However, Mother Nature has certainly had her say in the matter so far in 2014. I believe Williams Grove is still trying to reach .500 in terms of having as many completed nights as rainouts.
One thing has already started to strike me as the 2014 season has arrived — the desperate need for our local tracks to align their rules for the entry-level classes in our sport. My definition of entry-level classes here on the dirt would be your Pure Stock, Street Stock and 4-Cylinder Stock divisions.
It’s pretty amazing if you sit down and look at the rules packages for racetracks that are only an hour and a half apart or less. These tracks that I come to think of even run opposite nights of each other — with a few running Friday nights and a few running Saturday nights.
The opportunity for cross-promotion and full fields at all of these tracks is something that is not easily attainable these days but it certainly used to be. If you go back even 6-8 seasons ago there were rule packages that were minimally different from the Woodhull Raceway in Woodhull, NY and Yates County Speedway located in Dundee, NY.
There was a combined point fund to encourage drivers to race Fridays at YCS and Saturdays at Woodhull. There were higher-paying races sprinkled throughout the season with a championship race putting the bow on that particular race season. We still today have the Street Stock 100 (now called the Empire 100) weekend that is one of the richest paying and most competitive Street Stock races in New York State.
What we have now are rules for each track that require drivers to make fairly significant adjustments to their cars to be able to travel track to track in a given weekend. These are rules that have put the race competitors in a box and made them choose what track and what night of the week they are going to race.
Changes such as tires, adding or removing jacking bolts from the front end, or moving an engine forward or back depending on the track your run that night are common right now. This doesn’t include the rules packages further east toward Binghamton, NY where different chassis and transmission rules apply. Who really wants to change the transmission at midnight after a full night of racing?
We also don’t see full fields at the racetracks in these divisions any more. There is rarely a combined event other than the Empire 100 weekend, as several tracks seem to have dug their heels into the sand.
One Street Stock track that has made some noise in the offseason is Yates County Speedway. Early on in the winter they revealed to the Street Stock competitors that a new sponsor, Greg’s Auto Body, had jumped onboard as the division sponsor and would pay $500 to win for all regular season events in the division, a move that they hoped would boost the car count for a division that in 2013 averaged roughly 10-15 cars.
Drivers have been raving over the potential this sponsorship brings to the Street Stock competitors. Drivers I have spoken to also say what YCS has going for them is that it’s fairly easy for drivers from other tracks to conform to YCS rules. With the increased purse announced over the winter, rules that are fairly simple to conform to and $500 to win weekly vs. $225 or $250 — I’d say we have a recipe for the revival of this division in 2014.
The numbers do not lie either my friends. I’m a numbers guy and when I need to gain perspective as an outsider I first go to the numbers. The opening night Street Stock number for Woodhull Raceway was 8 cars, compared to the opening night number for Yates County Speedway at 19. Those 19 cars even included a former Woodhull Street Stock driver (now Sportsman Modified driver) who pulled his car out of the weeds to come run for $500 to win.
In an effort to increase car counts in the Street Stocks an extra $200 was added to the April 26th winner’s purse at Woodhull. This only attracted 1 Yates County car to come compete at New York’s Toughest Bullring. I don’t intend to start any kind of rivalry between tracks but I do think the numbers show that a change of some kind is needed.
I close this edition of the Broadslidin’ Blog by calling on all of the track promoters and tech inspectors in the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier of New York. We have to find a way to band together to promote each other and ultimately, the drivers and fans that support our area racetracks on a weekly basis. 8 or 9 cars for one division is not great racing.
We can’t make changes mid-season and we can’t just blow the whole system up and start over. But what we can do is start having a conversation and look at what the numbers are showing us to get that conversation started.
Keep it on the cushion guys, and we’ll see you at the race track.