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TDN Roundtable Volume 4

And we’re back for volume 4 of our TDN roundtable series. This is where we talk about all things dirt related, all divisions, drivers, sanctions and so forth. This week, we talk some Knoxville Nationals,  say goodbye to the NDRL, ponder Jonathan Davenport’s progress, and talk about the can. I’m not kidding either, we’re actually going to delve into the subject of the current condition of the golden throne at your local dirt track, enjoy!!


We’re now into the month of money on the WoO tour. This is typically a time that’s come to be known as “Schatz Season”.  He’s been true to his reputation as he’s hit his stride at the right time again it would seem.  The roles are completely reversed from 2013 this year as he’s the hunted, pursued by one Daryn Pittman. Is there any way Pittman can realistically run down Schatz and overtake him, or will Schatz prove just too strong? Not saying it’s over, but is it over?

” Isn’t it hard to believe that we’ve almost come to expect that Schatz will get on a tear at this time every year. As for Daryn running down Donny, I think that will all depend on the no. 15 car. Pittman has run great and has managed to keep himself within striking distance, and it’s hard to expect any more out of his team. The only way I see the points gap closing up is if Schatz catches some bad luck over a stretch of races.”- Tyler Beichner

“I think it’s pretty much over. I don’t think Schatz will try to be conservative at all in the final stretch either like Pittman may have been last year with his points lead. Granted, there still are three months left on the schedule but I will be surprised if Pittman or anyone else can make it close down the stretch”. – Trev Steele

“With the way that 15 team is rolling this year I’d say it would be an upset if anyone beat them. Donny just swept Canada and has eight straight podiums heading into Knoxville this week. Daryn won’t go away quietly, but man its hard to gain on someone who is as consistent and calculated as Schatz is”. – Jerin Steele

More bad news for “America’s Series” this week, as a predictable, but nonetheless weak car count led to some embarrassing moments during the great plains portion of their 2014 schedule.  There were 11 cars one night actually. What’s perhaps worse for the series now in it’s 44th season, is that a new sprint series was announced just this week, (Renegade Sprint Series), spearheded by Shane Helms, father of all star driver Caleb Helms. They look to have some support from some current all star drivers as well.

So, to summarize, we’ve seen unpaid point fund money, rumors of unpaid tow money, a fiasco at Wayne County Speedway, little to no support for the plains tour, and now a rival series. What can Guy Webb do to save this series? He’s still planning on 2015 dates and in a recent interview with Jeremy Elliot at pennlive.com, seems completely unfazed.

Two sides of the story as always. Here they are:

Shane Helms Side

Guy Webb’s Side

“After reading both of those stories, it just seems to me that on paper, the Renegade Sprints can be successful. If this series can listen to the drivers and make the right schedule and payouts, then the All-Stars are in trouble.  From the article, I gather that Guy Webb is expecting difficulties with scheduling races in the Ohio Region. If this is the case, then I think the focus for the All-Stars next year would be to focus on races in Central PA and the Florida Speedweek. But, I’m very skeptical that both these series can co-exist successful next season”. -Trev Steele

“This just might be the story of the off season when the schedules start coming together. stay tuned!”- Gary Heeman

We’re less than a month away from the Knoxville Nationals. Give us one or two drivers we’ve never heard of or heard little about that will stand out in this years nationals and why. And not just because they wreck a lot or wear pink fire suits.

“Two front runners (but not household names…yet) that will be tough all week long are Ian Madsen and Justin Henderson. Madsen’s Nehring Construction team has been on a hot spurt as of late, and Henderson is always up front when he’s running on the dark black clay. A name to keep an eye on is Brad Loyet. Loyet pilots his family-owned #05. He’s actually leading the ASCS National points standings so some may not find it to be a surprise, but he still has yet to make a splash in the 410 world.”- Tyler Beichner

“I’m going to go with Mark Dobmeier. Obviously he’s a bit more well known out in the midwest, but he’s not huge on the national scene yet. The Lunstra Motorsports team has multiple wins at River Cities Speedway and Husets, including a win against the Outlaws. He has a lot of laps at Knoxville and I fully expect him to make some noise at The Nationals”.-Pat Miller

“I am interested to see how Lee Jacobs performs out there. He has been very good this year in Ohio and PA, and I think he could definitely be a strong contender to make the Amain”.  – Trev Steele

“It may come down to Schatz vs Brown III this week, but I think Kerry Madsen is going to have a say in this years race too. He’s been so good when the big money is on the line this year and his experience at Knoxville is a huge plus. A dark horse this year may be Davey Heskin. The Knoxville regular got a win in a preliminary night at the 360 Nationals this past weekend. I like Tyler’s pick of Ian Madsen too. That is such a great local field out there every week so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise if  one of those locals keep the big check in Iowa.” – Jerin Steele

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby
 
“You pass failure, on the way to success.” – Mickey Rooney

The NDRL was put to rest a few weeks ago amidst a mixed reaction from fans ranging from “that sucks!” to “Told you so.”  and a mixture of both for many fans.  The series lived a brief but interesting life. From it’s inception, it looked as if it was heading in a good direction, a series with big purses for a one day show, geographic common sense, and it was flexible enough to encourage attendance from the likes of Moyer, Bloomquist, Mars, Birkhofer plus many other national and regional stars.

And it was gone just over a year later.   We could say the first sign of trouble was the Owens tire issue, the McKean County/WRG battle, or even the schedule war waged over the offseason that almost brought about a small coup within WRG itself at Canandaigua.

At the end of the day, is the NDRL’s first season a useful model of how a limited third national late model series might be successful. Or was the whole experience just proof that there’s no room for a third national series at this time?  What should be taken from the experiment?

“I think the first season can definitely be used a model for a successful touring series. They had a few marquee events with really nice payouts, and they really didn’t schedule against WoO or Lucas. They just tried to grow too fast, too soon. Not to mention getting in a proverbial “pissing contest” with WRG. As a fan it was a bit concerning. You would think the powers that run the sport would try to work together a bit better. There are only so many cars, and so many fans to go around”.-Pat Miller

“I wish there were a reset button on the whole NDRL debacle. Go back in time, find a better way to handle the Owens disaster from WRG point of view, and then take a different approach to scheduling in 2014, maybe only 8 dates or so and keep the 1-day $20,000 format. I think the minute it got personal between the two sanctions, it was pretty much over. Great business decisions and personal feeling just don’t mix most of the time. Here’s hoping maybe someone would be willing to try again, look over all the data, extract and use the info, and get creative again to bring the best drivers around and make it at least pay for itself. It would take a lot of corporate support, but I have to give the original version of the NDRL credit. They tried to do something different, took a chance, and at least gave us a few really good races where drivers from both series and the true outlaws got together.”- Gary Heeman

It looks like the Western PA late model landscape is or soon will be without any kind of regional sanction. It’s anyone’s guess for how long. Oh sure we see an occasional glimpse of the Three State Flyers at the Knob now and again, but MACS, All Star LM’s, UFO Series, and most likely NDRL Northeast have now all come and gone.  Is there a reasonable, responsible way to make a regional series in the geography without watering down the weekly shows? How many dates? What tracks would you like to see run them?

“This one is tough. Chris Zuver’s “ULMS” series found some success, but in the closing years, before the NDRL came onto the scene, it was beginning to struggle. A small regional series starts out strong, but then they come to a point where the only way the can continue to grow is by expanding their reach to tracks further away, as well as including more and more race dates. I’m not sure what the answer is, but the days of asking local guys to run 2, or sometimes 3 nights a week, are dead and gone.”- Tyler Beichner

“I’ve got no answer either. If one can start and have realistic expectations, a fair and enforced rulebook, and be a selection of special dates with reasonable purses that won’t break the back of the track, I’m all for it. It seems when that vision gets lost, we end up with too many dates, and too many large purses that get too hard to pay without losing one’s ass. It’s got to find some common ground and meet in the middle of driver and fan expectations.  Recently, Chris Zuver announced he was re-launching the ULMS with two dates to finish 2014 and a complete schedule in 2015. We wish Chris all the best, good luck!” – Gary Heeman

If he can find a way to win a 100 lapper of significance, Jonathan Davenport is about to join the Owens, Lanigan, Bloomquist, Moyer level of performance in the very near future. Truth or not?

“Davenport doesn’t need to prove anything. He can flat out wheel a late model. The guy almost swept the World Finals a couple of years back. He’s going to get a crown jewel in the near future”. – Jerin Steele

“He’s close. I think the big knock on him previously that although he was immensely talented, he tended to stay close to home where he dominated, and didn’t fare well at certain places consistently enough. His one year adventure on the Lucas tour looked as if it might have been a litmus test at the time, and by the results, it seemed that he didn’t pass.  But with AES and with team Rumley, he’s really shown what many have known for years. He can wheel it with the best of them. He’s been very competitive at places he hasn’t seen much before this year and I think that is as good a testament to his progress as can be found.  Gonna make a bold prediction here and say he gets that crown jewel before the year ends! (World 100).” -Gary Heeman

And our last talking point. There comes a time to unleash what you have consumed at one point or another. And when you’re at the track, it can be very inconvenient, though we all learn when the best time to take care of business is according to what we want to see on the track. The worst part is though, that some restrooms make you want to hit the woods rather than hit the head because they’re too disgusting to enter! Tell us, what’s the cleanest dirt racing restroom you’ve ever encountered! If you were giving out a TDN Golden Porcelain Throne award, who would you give it to? Who’s got the best head out there?

Come on, everybody knows Marion Center Speedway has the best restrooms. You know, that giant hole in the ground. At least they give you a curtain to shield yourself from the masses. Great racetrack, not so good restrooms. I’d give the best to Lernerville. They’ve certainly improved over the last few years.-Pat Miller

“What in the hell was I thinking on this topic? Oh well, it’s at a dirt track, and it’s part of life, so why not talk about it?  Promoters, we’ll still spend money on tickets to races even if we’d have to hit the bushes. But, we deserve a cleaner place to…well, do what has to be done! We don’t even need that much. Separate urinals (trough’s have got to go away, like years ago), and a urine free floor with a sink, soap and paper towels. Having said all that I’m going to have to vote for Sharon Speedway as having the best facilities in the immediate area. Congrats!”- Gary Heeman

Alright folks, have a great time at the races, get out there and support them, bring somebody new with you, and disturb all your co-workers with stories about the fun you had at the races this past weekend, you’ll win em over if you wear em down long enough!

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