As someone who had heard about The Short Track Nationals from the early days of my sprint car involvement I can honestly say that The 2010 Short Track Nationals lived up to its billing. 2010 was memorable for me personally as my team won our preliminary race and was involved in a controversial finish with Greg Wilson that allowed Brad Sweet to steal the win late. Personal involvement aside that race was so much more. There were over 120+ cars in the pits that weekend and while the final night was marred by a rubber-down race track I found the racing to be incredible. All of that is gone now. This year’s edition of The Short Track Nationals will be fortunate to draw 100 cars and on top of that, some of the top 360 racers in the country will now be racing in a Lucas Oil ASCS National Tour event at Creek County Speedway that same weekend. How did this all happen? How did it come to this?
I’m not going to pretend to know what was the cause of the rift between I-30 Speedway and The ASCS. The reality is that probably only a select few people on each side of the rift do. I’ve heard several rumors of personalities not getting along, lack of tow money to ASCS racers and the belief that The ASCS isn’t even needed. The fact of the matter is, no reason or explanation why these two entities can’t work it out is good enough.
The 2010 Short Track Nationals was one of the first races that I ever saw Kyle Larson compete in. It was the same race that I saw Knoxville Nationals champion and All Star regular; Tim Shaffer take on ASCS legend; Gary Wright and California star; Tim Kaeding. Think about it, can you name a race that has a more diverse field in all of sprint car racing? The advent of The Ironman 55 has meant that several 410 drivers now miss The 360 Nationals at Knoxville Raceway. As a result, The Short Track Nationals has become the last race where the best 360 racers in the world could take on some of the best 410 racers from all over the country. More importantly, it was a race where a low budget racer could run wheel to wheel on a track that lent itself to a talented driver over top notch equipment.
Neither side is better off, no matter how much they may tell themselves that. I’d be lying if I said I could pinpoint why but The Short Track Nationals has been losing some of its lustre. I think it’s fair to say though that since that 2010 race things have slowly gone downhill in terms of the general feel of the race. The car counts haven’t been matched and there really hasn’t been that epic, signature race that you might expect.
To be fair, me saying this race isn’t what it was, makes it sound like it’s not still impressive. You are still going to get 70-100 very good 360’s and one of the most diverse and talented fields you will see all year. The purse is still one of, if not the best in 360 racing depending on who you ask. The racing in general is excellent. It just seems like there has been something missing and losing ASCS support for this race doesn’t help and contributes to the general feel that this race isn’t what it was.
On The ASCS end of things, they come out as losers in this deal as well. On one hand, you can say they were getting stiffed because they weren’t going to get tow money but now their loyal racers have lost the opportunity to race for one of the best purses they would have raced for all year. The race also helped legitimize the view that The ASCS is comprised of the best 360 racers in the country. The Short Track Nationals was the race where ASCS racers like Shane Stewart, Jason Johnson, Tim Crawley and Wayne Johnson proved that they could race with anyone in the country and win.
Everybody is losing. I-30 Speedway is losing, The ASCS is losing and the fans and competitors are losing. They are going to lose until something gets worked out. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that both sides and keep doing what they’re doing and both will survive just fine, it’s just not what it could be.
One thing that needs to be understood is that I don’t think either I-30 Speedway or The ASCS are doing anything underhanded. I truly believe that the Clay family that owns I-30 Speedway is doing what they believe is in the best interest of The Short Track Nationals as a race. I truly believe that The ASCS feels as though they are protecting and taking care of their competitors and that they truly don’t need The Short Track Nationals on their schedule.
I think they’re both wrong.
I don’t know what the rift between I-30 and The ASCS is and frankly I don’t care. I don’t care if it’s financial, I don’t care if it’s personality-based and I don’t care if it’s both those things and so much more. Sit down and figure it out. I don’t care if someone’s ego gets hurt, I don’t care if someone takes a smaller piece of the pie financially. Sprint car racing needs this race to be successful. If the people putting the show on have to deal with people they don’t want to deal with, I don’t care. The Short Track Nationals isn’t The Short Track Nationals without The ASCS.
This race is more important than what is ripping it apart. We live in a time when The Gold Cup no longer pays $50,000, The Brad Doty Classic no longer pays $20,000 to win and The Silver Cup has had its purse lowered and the race bastardized. Remember The Historical Big One or The Fram Dash? We are losing our major events and they are being downsized. This is one of the last crown jewel events in sprint car racing. It’s one of, if not, the last time competitors, fans, and teams see each other before what seems like the eternity of the offseason. It’s one of the only races where a weekly racer up can go up against some of our sports giants and feel like they have a fighting chance.
I-30 Speedway and The ASCS need to take a long look in the mirror and stop thinking about why they can’t work together and start thinking about why they should. They need to remember what this race used to be and what it truly could be. Sam Hafertepe Jr., Johnny Hererra and Wayne Johnson should be at The Short Track Nationals. It doesn’t feel right that they won’t be. Sam has torched The ASCS tour this year, Hererra is arguably their best short track racer and Wayne, who is a former winner of the race is riding a wave of momentum right now. Make no mistake, one, two or all three of those drivers would be major players if they were at this race.
The two groups just need to sit down and iron things out. Maybe The ASCS feels stiffed about apparently not getting tow money. Okay, schedule the Creek County race a week earlier. Let the racers decide if they want to run The Short Track Nationals and not get tow money. If they don’t want to then fine, no skin off anyone’s back. There are ways to work around this, there are ways to compromise. Figure it out!
Make no mistake, The Short Track Nationals and Creek County will both be great races and I highly recommend attending either event. It’s hard to beat sprint car racing on a bullring. At the end of the day though it’s the fans and sprint car racing that are losing and no matter what they believe, so are I-30 Speedway and The ASCS.
No matter what your political views are, I think we can all agree, we need to make The Short Track Nationals great again.