*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideCircleTrack.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the NASCAR and pavement short track racing topics of the day.
Have you ever been a part of a more charged atmosphere for a dirt race than that of the Volunteer Speedway last Thursday?
Richard: I tend to live more in the moment than in the past so I am not always the best at remembering past events. So as far as saying whether or not I have been a part of a more charged atmosphere I can’t really say. What I can say is that the excitement level was very high, and for good reason.
It was a stellar field of competitors that included some of the biggest names in dirt racing and NASCAR.
The racing was incredible. Fans definitely got their money’s worth watching Kyle Larson and Jonathan Davenport swap slide jobs and crossovers lap after lap as they fought for the lead then seeing Dale McDowell make a late move forward that would get him by Davenport but fall short of Larson.
The crowd was going crazy at the end of the race having seen an incredible driving performance by Larson as he used the cushion and the outside wall as a bumper virtually every lap then crossed the finish line with a cut left rear tire following last lap contact with Kyle Busch.
On a personal note, my sons were with me and we had a great time watching the incredible show being put on by the biggest stars in the sport. It was a great night.
Michael: The only thing I can compare it to is the North-South 100 a few years ago when Tim McCreadie and Bobby Pierce were both battling for second, caught leader Scott Bloomquist, and both passed him with a few laps in the race. The crowd went nuts after seeing Bloomquist lead most of the race and lose it at the end.
The race on Thursday seeing the battle for the lead for most of the race is the best race I have seen in a long time. Many consider Davenport to be the best Dirt Late Model driver right now. To see Larson, who might have 50 DLM races to his credit, battle Davenport lap after lap is something to behold. The only NASCAR driver I have seen that could come anything close to what Larson is doing was Tony Stewart. But Larson has won more with less experience.
If anyone didn’t enjoy that race, they don’t enjoy racing. Those types of races don’t come around very often. Heck, the highlights have made Sportscenter on ESPN and during Fox’s heat race coverage for the Bristol dirt race.
Kyle Busch raced at Volunteer Speedway
What is the impact, either positive or negative, of having NASCAR stars at a dirt track?
Richard: I know there are a significant number of dirt racing fans who will never admit that there is anything good about NASCAR. That bias aside, there is no way anyone who attended the Kyle Larson Late Model Challenge could say that having Larson, Kyle Busch and Chase Briscoe didn’t add to the excitement level of the event. The crowds gathered around the pit areas of those drivers were enormous. Each driver signed numerous autographs and posed for countless selfies.
The size of the crowd was almost certainly impacted in a positive way by the fact that such recognizable names were among the competitors.
I have to give credit to Busch for stepping outside his comfort zone to enter a Dirt Late Model race and to Briscoe, who has slightly more experience in this form of motorsports than the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion. As Larson often says, these are the most difficult cars to drive that he has ever attempted so for them to come to an unfamiliar track in what was expected to be an excited atmosphere was appreciated by many in attendance.
Because of the NASCAR influence and the incredible competition, that race was even highlighted on national television. Dirt racing simply does not get that type of positive attention without NASCAR involvement.
Overall, the impact of NASCAR on dirt racing is positive.
Michael: I think it’s a good thing to see the NASCAR drivers dabble in the dirt. It lends credibility to the sport. As I mentioned in my previous answer, ESPN was showing highlights of the race at Volunteer in an interview with Kyle Larson. I’d say the only time that’s ever happened was when they used to hold ‘The Prelude to the Dream’ at Eldora Speedway.
I hope dirt racing fans can appreciate the talent the NASCAR drivers have. Busch struggled in his heat race, but drove the car a lot better in his B-main. He actually raced the other racers instead of just riding around.
Kyle Larson congratulating Jonathan Davenport after a race at Tazewell(TN) Speedway
Could there be a positive impact of having a high profile dirt racer competing in NASCAR?
Richard: Along the same line of having NASCAR drivers at a dirt race is the fact of having perhaps the most prominent of all Dirt Late Model racers in a NASCAR event. I think most would agree that Jonathan Davenport made a very good accounting of himself in both the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race and the NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway. It was unfortunate that he was caught up in a wreck not of his own making because I would have liked to see where everything would have ultimately shaken out.
In the past, we have seen Bobby Pierce and Mike Marlar run well in Truck races at Eldora. What having someone like Davenport in a race such as this could ultimately accomplish is getting other dirt racers a shot in a one-time or more NASCAR deal.
I know some would wonder why a successful dirt racer would even consider entering a NASCAR race but most of these guys like a challenge. That’s why we see Donny Schatz enter Late Model events and why we have seen Brandon Overton in a Sprint Car before.
But most of all for the sport is the number of mentions it brings on a much bigger platform than dirt racing normally has.
Michael: Again, I think it gives some credibility to the sport when a NASCAR team will select a Dirt Late Model driver to race on dirt in NASCAR. The cars don’t translate one to the other. There has been more mentions of Dirt Late Model racing this past weekend during the television broadcasts than there will be during all other races combined.
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