The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

June 27, 2014

Shawn Wood's Inside Track: Highs and lows of a big change

Selinsgrove Speedway bills itself as the “fastest half-mile on the East Coast.”

They need to add: “And our 360 sprint car features will take your breath away.”

Halfway into the first season of the 360 sprint cars as the headline division for the track, the jury is still out as to whether or not it was the right move by the track. The one thing that is certain, despite the low car counts when there are no traveling series sanctioning the race, is that those who do race are putting on one whale of a show.

It may take a few seasons before we know if going the 360 route was the right answer or not, but eight different winners in nine races is not a bad way to start a new chapter at the track. But for now, if you don’t walk away shaking your head in a good manner after the sprint car feature, something is wrong.

T.J. Stutts and Mark Smith have no problems running the high side and last Saturday night they darn near pushed the guardrail out a few more feet during the feature.

People will say it is the quality, not the quantity, that counts, and at times that is correct. Conversely, having a full field — which can come with time — will eventually lead to even fuller grandstands and potentially more exciting racing.

It’s a known fact — and the late model fans will cringe when they read this next part — that the majority of the fans who come to Selinsgrove are there to see one thing: sprint cars.

The question that has to be raised is, are they satisfied with 16 cars or fewer for a regular show?

If you only look at the feature, they are.

But where are the incentives for other drivers to come and race at the speedway?

Yes, the track did up the pay, but only in the top five positions in the feature. Why not pay it back through the field more?

I understand the concept that the track was looking at with its decision. It gave 360 sprint car teams who race and or support the United Racing Company, Empire Super Sprints and Patriot Sprint Tour a place to run on an off night.

Yet only a handful of times have drivers come to race at the track when that occurs.

The most common reason I hear that drivers won’t race at Selinsgrove is that the track is too fast.

If this track is too fast, then I guess 230 at Indy is too slow?

If drivers don’t want to race at a track that is “too fast,” they have the right. But when tracks start shutting down, management isn’t the only one who is to blame.

But how do you go about getting other drivers to come and race when they are off for a weekend?

That’s the biggest question that the speedway has to address.

With diesel fuel near $4 a gallon, it is easy to see why a driver may not want to make the tow from New York, New Jersey or Delaware to race.

But if they are really wanting to race, then is there an issue with sponsorship dollars?

With the economy still not back to full song and gas and food prices soaring, folks are tending to stay home, even with more and more signs for “help wanted” appearing every day.

There are a number of  drivers who are dedicated to racing weekly at Selinsgrove for a points battle that will pay far less than they will have spent all season to compete every Saturday night.

So, what will the second half of the season hold? What will the future of the track look like in five to 10 years?

Only time will tell, but imagine a night where a nonsanctioned 360 sprint car feature has 24 cars starting.

You remember those nights from the glory days of the 358s, right?

Talk about walking out of the track breathless!

n Shawn Wood covers motorsports for The Daily Item. Email comments to sports@dailyitem.com.

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