As many of you know my family hit a pretty rough patch towards the end of the racing season and the shit really hit the fan right after the season ended. All of that has kept me pretty busy and away from posting any updates on here for way too long. Finally things seem to be smoothing out a bit although some things will linger for a long time. Anyway I figured it's about damn time I got back into the swing of things here. Now is a good time to take a look back at the 2010 season and also look ahead to next year. Here goes........
Most of our local tracks felt the grip of an ugly economy all year and with 2 of the tracks with new owners, it was especially risky this year. The fine folks at Hilltop decided to take some different approaches to things from the start and I'd have to say it really paid off. Once again the Millersburg bullring was the talk of the racing community everywhere I went, and for good reason. They started out with a crazy $100 registration fee that got you a free pit pass every night your car showed up. Nobody else had the balls to try something like that but from the looks of the car counts and the packed stands every week, it sure as hell seemed to work. Throw in some other new ideas like Dash For Cash races, the return of Enduros, and even a Mini Stock Nationals, and the Wardell gang showed they were serious about making Hilltop a success. They also managed to treat the racers and fans like friends and family all season long which is probably another reason I found myself hunting a while for a parking spot each time I made the trip. After such a strong season it would be easy enough for some owners or promoters to take a nice long break over the winter and just expect the same next year simply by throwing open the gates. Of course that's not what Jesse and the crew are doing. The kickass registration offer will return for 2011 as long as your request is postmarked by March 1st. They're also special Christmas gift pricing on season passes. Until December 20th you can buy one regular season pass and get a second one for half price. That's $300 for 2 general admission season passes or 2 season pit passes for just $750! I dare ya to find a better deal than that. Other plans for 2011 include reworking the track surface with some new clay. Hell yea! I have to say that I strongly disagree with one recently released change for 2011, and that's allowing the use of Bert or Brinn transmissions in the Street Stock class. You folks know how I feel about the Stockers by now and at least Hilltop doesn't call them Pure Stocks any more but hell with all the fabricated chassis cars and now racing trannies, they're just Modifieds at this point. We're told that this will help cut costs but how many current Hilltop teams will now go out and spend money on a Bert or Brinn since they will be at a disadvantage to any newcomers that already have them? I know plenty of racers that get years from a set of mini discs for much less money so where's the cost savings? Also, since no other track in the area allows the Bert or Brinn, what will it do to car counts across the board? I'm not here to beat up on Hilltop by any means but this is one crazy idea that just doesn't work for me. I guess sooner or later I was bound to find something to bitch about down there, and even with this I support them 100 percent. Who knows, maybe this change will lead to bigger and better things too. ;-) Either way, this will be THE place for kickass racing action on Saturday nights in 2011 and I plan to get there every damn chance I get!
Midvale was the other area track with new owners and while they didn't quite have the season that Hilltop had, the changes were pretty clear and more have already been started for the 2011 season. Randy Smith wasn't shy about digging into his pockets to make much needed improvements to the place. The pits sported some new concrete and asphalt this year and for the most part the typical ugliness in the pits was gone. After the gates locked for the season they quickly got to work reworking the entire area where the pit stands were, and it looks great! More importantly that nasty piece of shit they used to call a catch fence is finally gone and replaced with something that might actually "catch" something. While I certainly didn't agree with some of the games played this season during the points chase, there's no denying that things have been improved in a big way since Smith took over. Hell, Miller even got paid his points money this year unlike the year before. Speaking of the awards banquet, Miller also picked up the Mr. Consistency Award for 2010. I guess that's what ya get for running an entire season with just 2 finishes outside the top 5. The worst finish was 7th and that was with a very damaged car that we threw back together just to start the feature. I suppose winning the championship 6 of the last 9 attempts doesn't hurt either. Actually it should have been 7 times counting the one Adam screwed us out of last year. Ahhh shucks,,, who's counting? ;-) Next season will be especially interesting as the Sport Stock class will be gone and Modifieds will take their place. I'm pretty curious to see how this crate motor class works out and hope it really takes off. It would be great to see a full field of these things replace the very weak car counts that the Sport Stocks brought every night. Maybe with enough cars in the pits we won't be forced to run any more Pursuit races for points in order to stretch out the night. That would be a nice bonus!
Lakeville was my home on Friday nights of course, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Randy and the gang busted ass every week to put on a great show and with the exception of a couple rough nights I'd say they pulled it off nicely. As with any dirt track there were some nights when the track didn't exactly cooperate and while that's to be expected, Randy took it to heart more than most people know. He listened to the drivers all season long when they made suggestions and the good ideas were put to use right away. The best idea was to widen the track and DAMN that made a huge difference. We saw some of the best Late Model action anywhere all season long with guys like Conley, Markham, Hornikle, Lee, and Banal added to the already strong competition at Lakeville. The highlight of the Late Model season for me was seeing Rick Bond pick up the championship. Rick had some real struggles towards the end of the season but the big guy pulled it off by just 4 points. How's that for a tight points battle? All of the points battles remained extremely tight all year with the Pure Stocks being settled by 84 points, the 4 Bangers by 10 points, Cruisers by 108, and trucks by just 70 points. There was plenty of action every night to keep the fans on their feet for sure. A couple times that Randy may have made mistakes by listening to the racers really bit him in the ass, but that's the risk you take by trying to do what the racers say they want. During last winter he heard plenty of input wanting him to bring back the Mini Trucks. I think we all saw how that turned out with a huge field of 4 or 5 trucks on most nights. All I can say is that fella that worked so hard to keep "his truck series" away from Lakeville sure must be proud of himself. Mission accomplished, the trucks are GONE for 2011. To Randy's credit, he never shorted this class in any way all season long when any other track owner probably would have dumped them completely a few weeks into the year. The other advice that really bit Randy in the ass was during the Blowout. The track was in great shape on Friday night and the action was awesome. Saturday brought a whole different story and the majority of racers insisted he left the track alone expecting it to blow off and take rubber. Anybody that was there knows how ugly that turned out but again that's the risks you take. Had he tried reworking the track many would have complained about the delay and honestly there wouldn't have been enough time to really make the track as good as it was Friday night. There was simply no way to make everybody happy either way. Does this mean I think Randy made no mistakes all year on his own. Hell no, and he'd be the first person to tell you that. This guy is as open and up front as I've ever seen in any track owner. He's already making plans for improvements for 2011 and the biggest news so far is the new dirt being brought in. Extensive work will be done to improve the racing surface and even some guardrail and flagstand improvements are being kicked around. There are more plans in the works but those won't be made public until probably the end of December or early January. I like what I'm hearing from Randy so far though and look forward to a great 2011 at Lakeville.
By the way, with things still a bit hectic around here I probably won't get around to posting your yearly Christmas poem. Ya never know though, I might just get liquored up one late night and cut loose again, but just in case, Happy Holidays to all of you readers out there. To those of you in uniform overseas, stay safe and get back over here to take in some much deserved racing action in 2011. I'll even spring for your pit pass!