And it’s over.. The journey on dirt has come to an end for 2015, and tomorrow, everyone starts the season anew in Arizona, well the Sprints and Late Models do anyway. We’d love to see some Big Blocks out there for a tune up someday though, even though the teams would all pretty much have to hit a lottery to do so. But we’re not done with the year that was until we talk about a few moments from it, that we won’t forget. So get your champagne (or cheap, rot gut, mid grade liquor) in your hand and raise your glass as we toast the year that was in DIRT!
Abreu Dazzles In Tulsa
There might not have been a more clear cut moment of dirt fans on the same page, than the moment that took place at the annual Chili Bowl in January when fan favorite Rico Abreu took home the coveted golden driller. It was a moment we won’t forget, because no matter what division you like, no matter what you appreciate most, you have to appreciate that Abreu’s victory saw probably 90 % of all of us stand and cheer. Some say that before you throw a hero up the pop charts so to speak, that you should look long and hard about what or whom your rooting so hard for. As far as we can see, there’s not one thing not to love about Abreu, and we looked hard.
Whether it’s the pure talent, the fun loving personality, or the way he is a great example off the track, there’s something for everybody to identify with Rico, with the exception of his height of course. So how do we know this? Just take a trip to Charlotte at the World Finals, perhaps the best mix of different fans in the world. When Abreu was on the track, there was an audible Rico chant at work, and the hoodies of the fans taking part all had a different type of car on the back. To see him get the win at the Chili Bowl, with the eyes of many of us on him was a great moment to bear witness too.
Stewart Purchases All Stars
By the end of 2014, fans were in a semi panic mode regarding the long running All Star Circuit of Champions. Former owner Guy Webb had taken precarious situation that saw the sanctioning body splinter with the formation of a rival series (Renegade Series) due mainly to Webb’s mismanagement, and poured gasoline on the proverbial fire with comments that several of his contracted drivers were closer to daily doses of Metamucil, than to being relevant to large scale sprint car racing again. All really seemed lost, the newly formed Renegade Sprint Series had already booked dates at former ASCoC mainstay tracks, and saw drivers take their allegiances elsewhere.
Enter one Tony Stewart. We don’t need to get into how much he does for the sport of dirt racing, we’re all aware. But that’s part of the amazing thing. He didn’t need to step in and save the All Stars. With a full plate of Nascar, Eldora direction, and other endeavors, he could have been forgiven for saying “Hey, sorry but I just can’t take it on right now.” But on January 28, he took another step by becoming a series owner, purchasing the ASCoC from Webb, ensuring the series could remain intact. What’s even more impressive, was that his effort saw him put or keep the right people in place, and in turn, that saw the series undertake an upturn in quality, organization, and driver happiness that was desperately lacking by most accounts.
|Kyle Elay Photo|
Bloomquist Loses 25 Pounds
We’re not sure if he lost it in the john before the race, or if he threw something out the window during the race, but one thing is for sure. In between the moments of preparing for and taking the checkered flag in the annual Dream 100 at Eldora Speedway, Scott Bloomquist lost 25 pounds, and nobody has seen it since.
The perennial dirt late model dominator appeared to win yet another crown jewel at Eldora, passing late model driver of the year Jonathan Davenport in the waning laps en route to crossing the finish line first at the $100,000 to win event. And then was found light at the scales, by exactly 25 pounds. It was a moment that helped define the late model season, as Davenport was awarded the victory, and subsequently went on a tear the likes of which have never been seen before (more on that later). Bloomquist would still have a good year even by his own standards, but one has to wonder if he was on his way to a Davenport like year if he doesn’t lose the weight.
Rumley’s Engineering And Davenports Dominance Spawn Lucas Oil Late Model Rule Changes
Kevin Rumley and Jonathan Davenport are like the best combinations a dirt racing fan can think of. Peanut butter and jelly, coffee and cream, hot chocolate and marshmallows, they’re all great, but pretty much fail in comparison to the Rumley/Davenport combo in 2015. Rumley could have been given a TDN award for crew chief of the year (all divisions), and engineer of the year as well. And the way in which he took what Davenport was feeling in the car, to what needed to be done in the way of adjustments was nothing short of sheer mental telepathy.
They were both dominant, and the Lucas Oil Series sought to make some rule changes to level the playing field. Whether you like the rule addendum’s or not, one thing remains clear. To change the game, is the ultimate tip of the cap. It’s akin to the NFL developing pass interference and other rule changes in wake of the Pittsburgh Steelers Steel Curtain defensive domination in the 70’s. They changed the game in 2015, bringing the engineer factor to a new level for dirt late models, and the day Lucas changed their rulebook is a moment nobody will forget from 2015.
Goodbye Moody Mile
We won’t soon forget that fateful day in October. The Sunday that saw the final checkered flag fall on the Moody Mile as years of north east racing history were finally put to rest. The sun of the Super Dirt Week universe was done for in 2015, thanks to some politicians who quite frankly needed to turn their attention to much more pressing issues in upstate New York.
Stew Friesen won the final edition of the former 200 Super Dirt Week finale, and in the end added his name to the winners list three times in all. The list itself is an impressive who’s who of modified racing in the couple, mud bus and current modified eras. This is a sad entry in our list. Because it represents an end to a era. Sure it was a race that was not practical for many home track modified guys due to cost. Yes, many car owners spent more than they could ever hope to win. And it contained pit stops with amateur help in haphazard fashion where there were sometimes as many injuries as there were successful pit stops. But the 200 was the only one of it’s kind. A place where we could see just how fast the machines could go. The only dirt race that involved pit strategy, and truly showed which drivers could deliver a win while driving at a specific pace, making sure the car lasted all 200 laps while running up front.
More than that, the Moody Mile represented an annual meeting of a dirt family with regards to fans. This was a place where friends met like clockwork and grew up attending together. We hope that part of it carries on to the new surroundings in 2016, and we’re pretty sure it will. The venue will be different, but as long as the people are still the same, SDW may even gain some new fans and drivers too.
Tim Kerr Pulls Biggest Upset of 2015
And we end our moments we won’t forget on a happy note. This one would have made a 5 year list perhaps. The scene is Charlotte at the World Finals. The driver, is none other than Tim Kerr, a carpenter by week, and a dirt modified driver on the weekends. Upsets are borne of opportunity and luck often times. But Kerr, a weekly racer who races some mid week specials now and then, stunned the world against the best of the best, and it was no fluke. Kerr started eighth on the grid, and passed seven fantastic drivers with ease en route to the SDS tour victory in Charlotte…some of which were right smack dab in the middle of the season championship points battle and needed the win badly.
It was an awesome moment to bear witness to, because perhaps Kerr has more in common with fans than some of the full time guys, and he did it on such a big stage. We’ll never forget that moment for years to come! Read the full feature story here