HORSEHEADS, N.Y. — Column by Race Chaser Online New York Dirt Correspondent Steven Ovens — Tony Stewart Racing photo —
Change is often a great thing. It can give you the opportunity to make something better, or even help you achieve a goal more efficiently.
For 2016, the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series made a change to their provisional system that has me scratching my head. It’s also a change that, until last weekend, wasn’t really noticed by many — other than maybe the teams on the 2016 tour.
Last weekend we saw a rarity in eight time and defending champion Donny Schatz having to try to qualify through the Last Chance Showdown (LCQ or B-Main). Even more of a rarity, Schatz didn’t qualify for the A-Main.
To most, the thought was: “Well there goes his first provisional of the year, but they won’t need many of those this season any way. They’re Tony Stewart Racing with Donny Schatz behind the wheel.”
Not so fast.
With the new rules on provisionals in place for this season, Schatz’s team made the decision to put it on the trailer and call it a night, leaving fans at the track and all over the country mind blown that he wouldn’t start an A-Main for the first time since November of 2012.
The reason was simple — the new provisional rules do not allow you to advance your points position if you take a provisional to start the A-Main.
Let that sink in for a moment; my tea kettle is about to boil over.
Why on earth wouldn’t the World of Outlaws want their biggest star on the track to put on a show that all of the fanatics in the stands paid to come see? If you were a fan of Kyle Busch and went to a NASCAR race where he didn’t make the show, how would that make you feel as a fan after you spent money on tickets, lodging/camping, food, gas, etc?
Now consider if he had a chance to take a provisional to get in the race, but decided it wasn’t worth it because they could only get show up points? That would flat piss me off as a fan, both at my driver and at the sanctioning series that created the system that allowed this to happen.
We reached out to the World of Outlaws to get their perspective on the 2016 provisional rule changes.
“The decision to change the provisional rule came after consultation with team owners last year and comes in conjunction with the format change,” said Aaron Fiedler, World Racing Group Manager of Public Relations. “The move was made to return to a more level playing field for the teams as in the past the provisional rule has affected the outcome of things like the final championship point standings. ‘Show-up’ points were also increased by 5 which closed the gap between the first non-transfer position in the LCS and the A main.”
I think that although this move protects the teams that follow the series for the championship, this also has opened the door to what we saw Saturday night. Any driver on tour no longer has motivation to even want to try and qualify into the A-Main.
Sure, money could be a motivator at an event like the Knoxville Nationals or the Kings Royal, but Saturday night proved that it is not worth the risk at a regular season event. The risk of putting another race on a motor, or the risk of tearing a car up trying to score a better finish, isn’t worth it to the biggest team on tour.
That, my friends, is a big big problem for the World of Outlaws. Surely we won’t see the reigning champion put it on the trailer very often like we did on Saturday night. But when the sport’s most successful competitor doesn’t see value in racing in the A-Main due to this provisional change, why on earth will a lower funded team see value in it either?
We often look toward the Shark Racing team as an example of a team that has a set budget that they have to really focus on in order to survive the whole season. Numbers of races on motors, rear ends and other components really count for a team like this.
I reached out to Shark Racing driver Logan Schuchart to get his thoughts on this new provisional rule and what it means for a team like theirs and even some of the others on tour.
“In my opinion the Outlaws wanted to get rid of provisionals,” said Schuchart. “There is no longer a point in racing (in the A-Main on a provisional) when no points are at stake or (there’s) little money to be won.”
It would be a shame if what we saw on Saturday night ever became the trend or the mentality of the racers on tour in the economic climate we live in. They have absolutely no motivation to want to race in the main event on that particular night other than for the nice trophy if they won. For a series that has the momentum of a new title sponsor and security for the near future, they’ve sure stumped me and some of their tour regulars with this one.
As a series that provides a fantastic product to fans all over the United States and Canada, the World of Outlaws must do better than what we saw Saturday night. The sport’s biggest names can’t find themselves on the sidelines because there was no points or financial advantage to racing in that night’s A-Main.
If this thought makes me wrong, I don’t want to be right.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, Speed77 Radio, Turn 5 Live, the Performance Motorsports Network, their sponsors or other contributors.
About the Writer
Steven Ovens is the Northeast Dirt Correspondent for Race Chaser Online and the creator and host of the Turn 5 Live dirt track racing radio show, airing at 7:30 p.m. Eastern every Tuesday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Ovens has spent his lifetime in the sport of dirt track racing, growing up in the garages of the Kerrick and Ovens families. He spent 11 years behind the wheel between go-karts and 4 Cylinder Mini Stocks which brings a unique perspective to his dirt track editorials.
The 29-year-old has a career in the growing health care business world, and is also serving as the full-time announcer and PR Director for both Outlaw Speedway (formerly Black Rock Speedway) in Dundee, N.Y. and Woodhull Raceway in Woodhull, N.Y.
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