Hey NASCAR, more short tracks please

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Oct 31, 2017 at 5:22 PM

It’s nearly impossible to get those in the local racing community in agreement on any issue, but Sunday night was one of those rare times.

They took to social media Sunday night to talk about what they witnessed at the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series race at Martinsville.

While Denny Hamlin wrecking Chase Elliott in the final laps was a hot topic, it wasn’t what had the local racers most fired up. They had seen Elliott bump Keselowski out of the way, race winner Kyle Busch bump his way past Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. rub fenders with Busch on the final lap — which ended with cars crashing all over the frontstretch.

Their consensus was the action was terrific and NASCAR needs more short-track races.

Many posted on social media how the biggest problem with NASCAR lies with too many 1 1/2-mile “cookie cutter” tracks on the Cup Series schedule and not enough short tracks.

Nate Monteith, a two-time Kingsport Speedway champion, was certainly enthusiastic on his facebook post.

“Now that’s what ya call getting up on the wheel, hard core short track racing!!!” he posted.

Karen Tunnell, the general manager, agreed wholeheartedly. She has made a living around the short ovals of Kingsport and nearby Lonesome Pine Raceway in Coeburn, Va. It’s not unusual any Friday or Saturday night to see a local driver bump someone out of the way, or flat out wreck him.

It’s been said that Kingsport races have sometimes looked like they should be sanctioned by WWE instead of NASCAR. But, it’s what has led to it becoming one of the most successful short tracks in the country.

Tunnell wants to see that kind of action more often in the big leagues. She would also like to see the return of two tracks which haven’t been on the NASCAR schedule the last decade.

“Now this is what NASCAR needs more of. Bring back Rockingham and repave North Wilkesboro. It’s time to get rid of super speedways. Bring back the short tracks,” she posted.

Back in 1984, one-third of the NASCAR Cup Series races (10 of 30 races) were held at the short tracks.

During NASCAR’s great expansion of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the sport moved to major markets like Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami and Kansas City. In each case, new speedways constructed were either 1 1/2-mile or 2-mile speedways.

Two short-track races at North Wilkesboro, N.C., were dropped from the schedule, as were two races at the 1.017-mile North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. Even the unique Darlington Raceway saw a reduction from two races per year to just one event.

Tunnell sees this as the time when NASCAR got away from its roots.

“When the super speedway scene started, the fan base started dropping,” she posted.

Tim Southers, a writer for Motorsport.com who worked for seven years in NASCAR’s communications department, was equally fired up after watching Sunday’s race.

“No offense to my friends that work at intermediate tracks. No one ever tell me we don’t need more short track races in NASCAR. 1,000,000 time more exciting than 1.5-mile tracks, any day. Period.”

I certainly won’t argue. While Charlotte Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway are both places NASCAR fans in this region of the country should visit, there is something special about the short tracks.

When asked to name my three favorite tracks on the circuit, it’s easy, No. 1. Bristol, No. 2. Martinsville and No. 3 Richmond. It’s where you see the best racing all season and the reason that NASCAR must find a way to put more short track races on the Cup Series schedule.

Ambitious schedule

Volunteer Speedway promoter Mitch McCarter has announced a 26-race schedule for the 2018 season. 

It features four Super Late Model touring series races paying $10,000-to-win, featuring both the Lucas Oil Late Model Series and the World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

The season opens Feb. 24 with the "Frostbuster" Schaeffer's Oil Iron Man Championship Late Model Series $3,500-to-win race and runs through Nov. 3 with the Tennessee Crate Nationals.

Weekly track championships will be contested from March 10 through Oct. 20. It will be the 45th year of racing at the 4/10-mile Bulls Gap dirt track.

There is one more race scheduled for this season. The Tennessee Crate Nationals are scheduled for Saturday with the $3,000-to-win main event. Other races are scheduled for the Sportsman Late Model, Open Wheel Modified, Modified Street and Classic divisions.

No Carnival Rides

The final round of the Hot Summer Nights Supercross Series at the Appalachian Fairgrounds was cancelled last Saturday due to inclement weather.

The series’ points have been updated and we will have a list of the local champions in next week’s race notes.


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