NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Keepin’ it Short – The Battle at the Beach was NOT short track racing

When the designers laid out the race track for the Battle at the Beach, it was obvious they had every intention of generating some contact among the combatants. The problem in all three of the feature races was that there wasn’t just contact, there was intentional wrecking. The leader of all three features at the white flag ended up facing the wrong direction at some point on the final lap and none of them made it back to the checkered flag first. Many of the post race interviews contained the same phrase: “That’s Short Track racing!”. Note to the future drivers of NASCAR’s top series – Short Track racing involves rubbing, pushing and occasionally bumping your fellow competitors. If your actions result in a competitors car facing the rest of the pack after you made contact with their car, you have wrecked them and wrecking is not racing.

The winners of the three Battle at the Beach races led a grand total of four laps. Kyle Larson, who won the Late Model race on Monday night, got under C.E. Falk III’s rear bumper off of four and did not lift until Falk was in the infield and he was across the line. Steve Park chased Mike Stefanik into turn one and, by the time he came out of turn two, was going to the outside of Stefanik’s spinning race car. Park claimed he was pushed from behind but it seemed like he was already headed for the contact by the time Eric Goodale got into his rear bumper. Gray Gaulding followed the lead of his predecessors in the first two features but failed to make it back to the line first. Gaulding dumped Michael Self in turn two, got around his spinning car and then drove hard into turn three. Unfortunately he took it in too deep and slid high coming out of four. That opened the door for Cameron Hayley to slip by and score the win. In the end, the drivers who were poised to score one of the biggest wins of their career were all robbed of the opportunity by people not observing simple racing etiquette.

The beauty of short track racing is that the cars are in very close proximity. You can’t get away from the pack because the track is SHORT. Competing in such tight confines forces drivers to become better and more exacting in their car control. Contact is inevitable but the contact does not have to be so severe that the driver contacted loses control of his car. When a driver behind another car is faster, he can let the car in front know he’s there and faster by giving a slight bump. If the car in front decides to keep the position and not move over, the driver behind can bump a little harder. That might move the car in front out of the groove, at the least it will make sure that the driver knows that there is a faster car behind him. The following driver can now put his nose underneath going into the corner and the driver in front can let him go or shut the door. Generally, depending on when this occurs in the race, the reaction by the driver in front will vary. If it is early in the race, the smart driver will move over and let the faster car by, planning to take the spot back later. Late in the race, the driver in front will block because it is too close to the end of the event. When that block occurs is when the time for the Bump and Run arrives.

The Bump and Run can take two forms. First, heading into a corner, the driver behind hits the leading driver square in the bumper and pushes him into the corner hard enough that he’ll go up the track and open the bottom groove. The second form is when the lead car is already in the corner. This is a much more delicate process. The trailing driver gives a nudge to the left rear of the leading car which will break him loose and force him to catch his car, washing up the track and opening the bottom groove. This move can much more easily result in the lead car spinning out. Either move is designed to get the lead car out of the way and allow the trailing car to pass. The key is not wrecking the car in front which, for some reason, has become less and less important on short tracks over the last few years.

My personal opinion is that this primarily stems from two things. The preponderance of SIM racing leagues and races, and US Legends/INEX racing. I’ve never been a big supporter of SIM racing. I will not deny that it does serve some purpose in preparing racers to compete on real race tracks. However, it also teaches racers nothing of the effort needed to build an actual racecar. When a SIM racer’s car rolls down the front stretch and the wheels and bumpers fly everywhere, all they have to do is hit the reset button and they’re right back in action. Not having to spend days rebuilding a car, scraping to put together the money to make it possible, enduring the exhaustion and pain of working tirelessly on every nut and bolt of a car is completely lost on a SIM racer.

In the INEX world, all one needs to do is walk by the INEX/US Legends parts trailer on any given race day. The stack of bumpers is taller than most of the racers involved. Teams by replacement bumpers by the dozen and can go through one or two in every race depending on the skill level of their driver. Fenders are almost as numerous and are easily replaced on legends and banolero cars. The result is drivers learn to drive through and over people instead of working around them. Setting up and passing a car, or possibly executing the proper bump and run is replaced by dumping and punting cars to get them out of the way, and damn the consequences.

Short track racing is still the greatest form of sport and entertainment on the planet, but it is heading down a slippery slope that is not going to be easy to rebound from. Sanctioning bodies are going to have to start looking very hard and very sternly at drivers and legislate rough driving out of the grass root levels of racing. If they don’t, it won’t be long before short track racing and professional wrestling become indistinguishable from each other.

This Weekend’s Race Schedule

Friday 02/22/13 Tucson International Raceway Tucson AZ ASCS Winged Sprints
Friday 02/22/13 Tucson International Raceway Tucson AZ X-Mods
Friday 02/22/13 Bubba Raceway Park Ocala FL Winternationals USAC Amsoil National Sprint Cars
Friday 02/22/13 East Bay Raceway Park Tampa FL Winternationals 360 Sprints
Friday 02/22/13 East Bay Raceway Park Tampa FL Winternationals Mini Sprints
Friday 02/22/13 New Smyrna Speedway New Smyrna Beach FL 28th Annual Richie Evans Memorial Tour-type Modifieds
Friday 02/22/13 New Smyrna Speedway New Smyrna Beach FL World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing Pro Late Models
Friday 02/22/13 New Smyrna Speedway New Smyrna Beach FL World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing Pro Trucks
Friday 02/22/13 New Smyrna Speedway New Smyrna Beach FL World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing Super Late Models
Friday 02/22/13 Volusia Raceway Park Barberville FL UNOH Winternationals SDS Big Block Modifieds
Friday 02/22/13 Volusia Raceway Park Barberville FL UNOH Winternationals World of Outlaw Late Models
Friday 02/22/13 Royal Purple Raceway Baytown TX USMTS Modifieds
Saturday 02/23/13 Central Arizona Raceway Casa Grande AZ IMCA Modifieds
Saturday 02/23/13 Central Arizona Raceway Casa Grande AZ Pure Stocks
Saturday 02/23/13 Central Arizona Raceway Casa Grande AZ Southwest Mod Lites
Saturday 02/23/13 Central Arizona Raceway Casa Grande AZ Super Stocks
Saturday 02/23/13 Tucson International Raceway Tucson AZ ASCS Winged Sprints
Saturday 02/23/13 Tucson International Raceway Tucson AZ Hornets
Saturday 02/23/13 Tucson International Raceway Tucson AZ Mini Sprints
Saturday 02/23/13 Tuscon International Raceway Tucson AZ ASCS Winged Sprints
Saturday 02/23/13 Bubba Raceway Park Ocala FL Winternationals USAC Amsoil National Sprint Cars
Saturday 02/23/13 East Bay Raceway Park Tampa FL Winternationals 360 Sprints
Saturday 02/23/13 East Bay Raceway Park Tampa FL Winternationals Mini Sprints
Saturday 02/23/13 New Smyrna Speedway New Smyrna Beach FL FASCAR Triple Crown Championship Super Late Models
Saturday 02/23/13 New Smyrna Speedway New Smyrna Beach FL World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing Pro Late Models
Saturday 02/23/13 New Smyrna Speedway New Smyrna Beach FL World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing Pro Trucks
Saturday 02/23/13 New Smyrna Speedway New Smyrna Beach FL World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing Tour-type Modifieds
Saturday 02/23/13 Volusia Raceway Park Barberville FL UNOH Winternationals SDS Big Block Modifieds
Saturday 02/23/13 Volusia Raceway Park Barberville FL UNOH Winternationals World of Outlaw Late Models
Saturday 02/23/13 Royal Purple Raceway Baytown TX USMTS Modifieds
Saturday 02/23/13 RPM Speedway Crandall TX Factory Stocks
Saturday 02/23/13 RPM Speedway Crandall TX Limited Modifieds
Saturday 02/23/13 RPM Speedway Crandall TX Sprint Cars
Saturday 02/23/13 RPM Speedway Crandall TX Street Stocks
Saturday 02/23/13 RPM Speedway Crandall TX USRA Modifieds
Thursday 02/28/13 Southern New Mexico Speedway Las Cruces NM Legends
Thursday 02/28/13 Southern New Mexico Speedway Las Cruces NM USRA Modifieds
Thursday 02/28/13 Southern New Mexico Speedway Las Cruces NM USRA Street Stocks

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