DOTY: It’s A Unique Season

Brad Doty

Kyle Larson has continued to do what he does, and that is to win races and make all of us who are watching shake our heads in disbelief at what he is capable of doing!

He recently won the USAC Silver Crown Hoosier Hundred after starting 22nd. He hasn’t driven a big, lumbering Champ Car in eight years, but that didn’t matter to him as he set fast time in time trials, which was the fastest single lap turned at the Hoosier Hundred in 25 years!

That put him on the pole, but he and the Sean Michael Motorsports/Heffner Racing team elected to change the right rear tire, which moved him back to the 22nd starting spot. He was running fifth by the lap eight and took the lead from C.J. Leary on lap 69 with a very bold outside pass going into turn one.

Oh, and that was the day after sweeping the World of Outlaws sprint car races in North Dakota at two tracks he and car owner/mechanic Paul Silva had never even seen before.

One of those North Dakota wins was a last-lap, last-corner, hair-raising pass of Logan Schuchart, who is having a great season, with five WoO wins, and is currently the WoO point leader. They had tangled a few laps earlier and Schuchart passed Larson for the lead, and it looked like the race was over, before Larson made up what seemed like an insurmountable gap on Schuchart and stole the win at the flagstand.

What is even more incredible and mind-bending is that the very next weekend, after only one short test session, Larson showed up at Port Royal Speedway in the Rumley-owned No. 6 dirt late model and proceeded to outrun some of the best dirt late model drivers in the country and win the 50-lap event. That was his 35th win in only something like 60 starts this season, with 31 of those wins coming since May.

There is no doubt 2020 has been a downright crazy year in so many ways, with everyone I know feeling a lot of anxiety because of the coronavirus. There are countless people who have suffered, and are still suffering in many ways, because of COVID-19.

When racing stopped, no one knew how long the shutdown would last. Fans felt a big loss by not being able to go to the tracks and many of them lost their jobs, hopefully just temporarily. But for them their livelihood was at stake and missing some races was not their top priority.

But, for the professional racers, all the race tracks and their employees, all the parts, food, and merchandise vendors, just to name a few who were affected, all lost their livelihood. When racing started to slowly reopen, obviously, there was hope that things would maybe get back to normal soon. Unfortunately, we all know things are still a long way from normal, and not just in the racing world but around the world in general.

Many major racing events have been cancelled or postponed until 2021, including the Kings Royal and, of course, the Knoxville Nationals, and many weekly tracks have had to cancel the entire season.

Fortunately, there are areas of the country that racing has been able to resume. Some tracks are restricted and limited to how many fans they can have while a few areas have no restrictions.

It has been debated by many, basically since its inception, whether Pay Per View online streaming is good for the sport and, more importantly, if it hurts the track promoters because of people staying away and watching from comforts of their own home, especially if the weather forecast is bad.

Not all tracks get a share of the revenue from the PPV broadcasts so obviously it’s a bigger issue and concern for them, but in many ways PPV has been the saving grace for dirt racing in 2020.

Many events were run with no fans in the stands, where the only income to the track or sanctioning body/promoter was from the PPV subscribers. Even where fans are allowed, but in smaller numbers, the PPV income helps offset the loss of not having as many butts in the seats.

2020 has been bad in so many ways, and race tracks and sanctioning bodies have had to be very creative to try to get in as many races as possible. There have been times the sanctioning bodies have had to reschedule and move dates to a completely different track, sometimes with only a couple weeks’ notice.

Although the racing season has had a lot of turmoil, for the most part the racing has been off the charts!

I mentioned Larson’s last-lap, last-corner pass. Well, just a week or so after that, Sheldon Haudenschild made a similar move when he caught race-long leader Brad Sweet in traffic and was able to make an outside pass to squeeze between Sweet and the wall, with multiple lapped cars in the mix, to take the WoO win by mere inches at US 36 Raceway.

At the All Star Circuit of Champions race at Grandview Speedway, race-long leader Aaron Reutzel was tagged in the rear bumper and spun out by Danny Dietrich going into turn one just after getting the white flag signaling one lap to go. Of course, Reutzel had to go to the tail of the field and Dietrich went on to win. To say that was an exciting and controversial moment would be putting it mildly! Those are just a few examples of some of the great races and excitement so far in 2020.

Larson’s historic season, with wins in multiple types of cars, and with the racing being exceptional at times (with some saying it’s the best racing they’ve seen in years) has been a much-needed distraction to all the politics and COVID concerns.

When everyone feels safe to go back to the race track, hopefully that’s by next season, I think that we may see dirt track racing have a record setting year!


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