Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saturday Notebook: UMP Late Models to 34 Raceway

After announcing last Sunday a return appearance by the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars on June 7th, 2013, promoters Jeff and Amy Laue made news again this week when they released the full schedule for 34 Raceway. The track located near Burlington, Iowa, has been a mainstay for the IMCA Late Model division, but after hosting the Deery Brothers Summer Series on April 6th for the annual Brent Slocum Memorial the Late Models will switch over to the UMP sanction for the remainder of the 2013 season with ten appearances on the schedule.

Amy told me on Thursday that she has commitments from twelve drivers already and she believes that number will grow if some of the drivers who are based near Burlington decide to either compete with their current configuration, or to make the change over to the UMP rules package. Nearly all of her commitments were from drivers who raced UMP this past season down at the Quincy Raceways, a track that made the switch from IMCA to UMP in 2012, and it is likely that some of the "open" Late Model holdouts in eastern Iowa such as Jake Meier and Skip Frey will also join the field from time to time.

The decision makes sense if you consider the two tracks that run weekly Late Models that are closest to 34 Raceway. The West Liberty Raceway runs the IMCA sanction on Saturday nights just under sixty miles up the road and their car count has been on the upswing. The Quincy Raceways runs UMP on Sunday nights and the switch to UMP proved successful for them with car counts averaging up near the twenty count. So rather than competing for IMCA cars on the same night, 34 will give the UMP cars to the south a closer option to race on Saturday night than what they had this past year.

I like the move and I hope that race fans will have the proper expectations when it comes to the car counts for the division. It would not surprise me a bit to have a night or two when there might only be eight to ten cars, but it also wouldn't surprise me to see the car count swell to as many as twenty or more for a night or two and that does not include the two events that will also be on the Cornbelt Clash series. With the IMCA car count at 34 Raceway dwindling over the past few years the alternative would have been to drop the division altogether, something that the Late Model fans who have frequented this track for the past thirty years would not have wanted to see.

It was no surprise to me this week when the Knoxville Raceway chose not to fill the position vacated by Toby Kruse in September and announced that the legendary facility "will be run by committee" with Brian Stickel, John McCoy and Gary Schumacher leading the way. Stickel has been the man on the ground for the past several years as the track's Marketing Manager and after being the top official in the infield for several years, McCoy moved to the booth as the Race Director this past season following the retirement of Ralph Capitani. Both gentlemen know their jobs, do them well and given the new setup they should thrive.

The Late Model "state" points for the Dakotas and Minnesota were on the Back Stretch this past week and I will continue to post more states as I get them completed over the next month or so. They are tabulated on the same 5-point scale as I do the All Iowa Points and the drivers don't get diddly squat for "winning" the title. I do it for fun as it allows me to know something about the drivers that I see and read about, thus allowing me to enjoy the races more as a fan. When I share those standings here some people think they are stupid and useless, while others go out of their way to let me know how much they enjoy them. Because of that second group, the state points will continue to be shared here :)

Barry and I, and perhaps another fan or two are planning to load up next Saturday morning, November 17th, and make the trip down to the Springfield Raceway for the annual Turkey Classic that will include Late Models, Modifieds, B-Modifieds and Legend Cars. It will be the final event for the 2012 All Missouri Points chase so you can look for those final points standings here the week of Thanksgiving. The last time that Barry and I went to Springfield we saw some great racing and Barry clicked off a great three-wide picture during the Late Model heat races. We look forward to some more great racing action on this trip and it will be a great way to round out the season. We hope to see some of you there!

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