First off, let me say that I know a lot of people worked very hard Saturday night at Carolina Speedway. I know a lot of people worked hard before Saturday to organize the event. It's an event with a special purpose, and I'm glad that the end result of the event will funnel down to a child in need. That was the most important aspect of the Skyler Trull Memorial and I'm glad they were able to pass along over 5k to the Make-a-wish foundation.
That said, here's what the newbie experienced at Carolina Speedway this past Saturday night. I know that I might be wrong about the *reasons* behind some of this, but that doesn't change the experience that I had. "It was what it was". This is going to be a long post...
I arrived at the track around 3:15pm. There were probably 3 cars in the regular parking area that showed up before me. The lady working the ticket booth was as nice as she could be. I purchased a regular ticket, walked over to the pit entrance, and purchased an upgrade to enter the pits. My first impression of the facility was positive. The grounds were clean as were the stands and concession areas. They had a BBQ shack on site and a couple of trailers selling souvenirs and t-shirts.
I spent some time in the pit area taking pictures and talking to some fellow there with the two 22 cars. I then made my way to the stands to find some shade and check out the track.
The first thing that was surprising to me was that at approximately 4:30 to 5pm, the top 1/3 of the track had seen no water. It was completely dry. My newb instincts told me that this was not good. Someone walked by while I was watching the water truck and said "they better get some more water down and quick". I figured my new instincts were correct. I also noticed that the water truck never put down any water on the lanes leading to and from the track and pit area. They had a hose running a lawn sprinkler... a lawn sprinkler that barely seemed to work and was basically just in the way. It served no purpose. By 5:45 or so, the packers were on the track "rolling it in". I doubt they had much rolling to do.
During this time, I was standing on the edge of the track on the lane coming into the pit. Chris Madden was walking around the track. He seemed to spend quite a bit of time simply looking at the track. Someone from another team walked out with a screwdriver, went as deep into the track as he could with it, and took away a small piece. I guess this was to indicate how deep the moisture was. It looked to be about two inches. He was grumbling on his way back into the pit.
It was then that I met a crate late model driver. He indicated that he had fewer than 30 races under his belt. He mentioned that he was glad to be getting some seat time and that he had just recently finished building his car. He would be starting at the rear and mentioned that he'd likely end up that way at the end. This, along with my observations of the crate cars in the pits and their heats, drove home the fact that crates should *not* be seen as a replacement for supers. I think it's good for more inexperienced drivers that want time in a late model without the expense *and* experience needed to handle a super.
The drivers meeting was held around 7pm if I remember correctly- the time that hot laps were *supposed* to begin. By this time, the stands were full. The folks I ran into were very nice and gave me a bit of historical info about the track. I think the track was already worn out at the end of hot laps. The dust already filled the air.
I'll cut to the racing. My first thought is that for an event like this, run with a maximum of two support races. That's more than enough. I mean no disrespect to the folks in the support classes. There's a time and place for everything, and an event bringing in around 40 super late models isn't the place for 3 support races. There's also not enough time, as was painfully obvious on this night.
I then noticed the lack of a scoreboard during qualifying. This was upsetting. To have a field of cars like that with no scoreboard was a disappointment. It could have been better if the PA was in better shape. I believe the speaker facing down towards turn 4 was out. I couldn't hear much of anything. I was basically in the dark during qualifying and for that matter, the rest of the night.
What I'm about to say next gets close to being personal, because it boils down to a single individual, but... The announcing (when I could hear him during the lengthy delays between the action on the track), to me anyway, was annoying. I had a mental image of some guy in a rocking chair, sipping on some moonshine without a care in the world. Granted, there's nothing wrong with any of that, just not the tone I was expecting from the announcer during this type of event. JH- you're still the best I've heard. Ask for a raise. I'm sure this guy is a great person and was there doing his best for the event. I take nothing away from him as an individual. I was simply expecting more "pep" and excitement in this area.
It looked like they were having a hell of a time getting cars organized during qualifying and the heat races. This, IMO, was where most of the delays for the night came in- not the late start, not the track conditions, etc. The delays stemmed from what appeared to be chaos in getting cars ready for the next event. I think they were also having problems setting up the timer for the qualifying runs.
I'll briefly mention the controversy surrounding Chris Madden's departure from the track and Scott Autry's hair-rasing flip during his qualifying run. You can get details on another forum. Scott was OK. Glad to see that. Hopefully it wasn't the lack of track prep that sent him on that wild ride. On to Madden. It seems like Madden lost a lot of respect from people as well as some of his fans. Me? Being the newb, I could have cared less that he left. I think folks have a point about him showing a lack of respect to the folks in attendance. I was hoping to see the driver that everyone was talking about, but by the time he left, I knew he'd be in the rear so it didn't matter to me. Bye Chris, don't let the pit gate hit you in the ass on the way out.
I'll also touch on what I saw in the crate heats. Most of the crates were running pretty close together. It was pretty obvious that once they were on the straight-aways, there was no way they could pass one another. My initial impression after seeing these cars on this track is that this could be a great class for drivers looking to move into a late model car. I think it's great from a driver and team development perspective.
Finally, after several hours of frustration, feature events started at close to MIDNIGHT. That's right folks. I believe the first feature race (4 cylinders) started shortly before 12. I couldn't believe it. The 4 cylinders wrapped up and we were on to the main event.
By this time, any car moving through the pit lanes created a massive swirl of dust. This goes back to my previous comment about how they didn't put any useful amount of water on the pit lanes. Just having the supers come out on the track created a massive amount of dust through turn 4. While they were getting the supers on the track, the "show" car (a car with Skyler Trull graphics) was taking a few slow spins around the track, obviously in memory of Skyler. This was a nice touch... until another car came down the front stretch and came together with the "show" car. Doh!
They finally drop the green flag on the main event. BORING. The race was the worst I've seen in the short amount of time I've been watching dirt racing. The dust was so horrible that you couldn't see what was going on in turn 1 from where I was sitting coming out of turn 4. Sure, goggles helped to keep my eyeballs from turning into big chunks of dirt, but I could have closed them completely and not have missed a thing until the one bit of excitement on the last lap when the lead (who had around a 1/4 track lead on everyone) cut a tire or something and dropped far behind. I know better than to expect a great race every time I head to a track. However, in this case, I feel that the poor track prep contributed to this poor showing in a significant way.
I'll wrap this up by saying that I ended up leaving the track at 1:30 and there were still two races to run.
I know now that most of the Carolina Speedway officials were not involved in the running of the actual race event. At least I'll know not to blame those folks. That doesn't account for the state of the track. I made a statement in another thread that I would never return to CS. I might not take such a rigid position knowing that other folks were running the event. However, I still think they could have done a better job to prepare the track to reduce the dust. If they can't, and this is simply how it is, then I won't have any choice but to stay away anyway. I simply can't enjoy a race when I can't freakin' see it from the top of the stands.
That's about it from someone who's seen a total of four dirt races now. On to my next... I think I'll play it safe and stay closer to home.