Last October saw the birth of an event that was long overdue for the sport of dirt track racing. A race, where the grass root competitors took center stage at one of our sport’s preeminent facilities.
October 20-22, 2016 found more than $120,000 in prize money posted for a brand-new mega event at the Dirt Track at Charlotte. Despite what one would typically assume, the big money wasn’t being posted for Super Late Models nor 410 c.i. Sprint Cars.
No offense to competitors in those top-tier divisions, but those guys get more than their fair share of opportunities to chase big paydays throughout any given season.
This event – tabbed as the OneDirt World Short Track Championship (WSTC) – focused on the true backbone of dirt track racing. This race saluted the blue-collar racers and teams, who sometimes work as many 80 hours a week before going to play in the dirt on Friday or Saturday nights.
These are the racers, who typically have to pack the track to get it ready for the headliners to race. They are the ones, who many times are forced to pay increased pit passes at special events for other divisions, while still having to run for their regular purses.
More times than not they are the “red-headed stepchildren” of dirt track racing. They get rewarded the least, while being expected to do the most.
The bottom line is that they are the backbone and foundation that keeps our world spinning in circles at dirt tracks across the country.
So in 2016 OneDirt teamed up the World Racing Group to present a show that would bring these grassroots racers to the state-of-the-art Dirt Track at Charlotte.
None of us really knew what to expect from the first year. However, as soon as the pit gates opened on Thursday, we all quickly learned just how big this event could be.
Racers from across the United States and Canada converged on the 4/10-mile oval as the pit area began to fill at a break-neck pace.
For me, my favorite part was watching the haulers pull through their gate. Sure there were a few nice stackers, but these grand toters were far outnumbered by open trailers and homemade haulers.
In total, 312 racers in nine divisions filled the facility. I originally had hoped for roughly 200 cars for the first year, so needless to say I was more than humbled by the turnout.
Walking through the pit area I observed a vibe that I rarely get to feel anymore. It seems like so many times now that big events have become more status quo than anything. The level of anticipation and the thrill of the chase just seems to be diluted. Maybe it’s just me that’s become numb to the same ole situation, year after year.
However, the vibe and the enthusiasm at the inaugural OneDirt World Short Track Championship was something special.
As I made my way through the pits, I had competitor after competitor coming to shake my hand and to say “thanks.” The reality is that I was the one who needed to be thanking them for reigniting the fire inside me. You know – the one that reminds you exactly why you love the sport of racing.
Making my journey through a half dozen rows of haulers, I also realized that World Racing Group and DIRTcar Racing’s idea to allow competitors to camp in the pits was pure genius. The place just had a feeling of community as more than 100 campers accompanied the more than 300 racecars.
Several pit areas found generations of families all coming together to be a part of this historic event.
The practice night came and went, and when the final session was done for the night there was one simple conclusion to be drawn. Regardless of whether you raced a Hornet, a Modified, a Crate Late Model or any other division, you were intently focused on winning.
Sure the event was focused on fun, but these grass-root warriors came to the Dirt Track at Charlotte to claim wins and bragging rights.
Arriving to the track on Friday, the atmosphere in the pit area was twice as electric as I had observed the day prior. Teams were working diligently to prepare for battle, and many of the smiles were replaced by looks of determination.
Late that Friday afternoon I can remember having a chat with David Stremme. While the Indiana native has become well-known for his accomplishments as both a dirt racer and a chassis builder, his most well-known roots go back to his NASCAR days.
As we chatted before the program he glanced around the pits and said, “This is really something special, and something that is way overdue. Knowing that I’m part of an event that salutes grassroots racers from so many divisions gets me pumped up. Seeing how big this deal is this first year has me really excited on what it could be by year two or three.”
As he prepared to climb into his familiar #35 Lethal Chassis Modified, he glanced back at me and commented, “I know I’m not alone when I say that I want to win this inaugural event pretty damn bad!”
Stremme would ultimately not get the win, but he would finish in the runner-up spot to hot shoe, Kyle Strickler. I expect both will be back looking for more OneDirt WSTC glory this weekend.
The next two days saw some of the best racing that I had seen in quite some time. Racers truly left it all on the track, and fans – like myself – definitely did not leave disappointed.
So here we now find ourselves preparing for the 2nd annual OneDirt World Short Track Championships. This Thursday the event comes to life with a practice night, while Friday and Saturday will be jam-packed with racing action.
This year’s event will find eight divisions in action, and I would not be surprised to see the total car count surpass the 400-entry mark.
While the final tally won’t be known for a few more days, there are already some certainties as we head into the event.
First, the race will feature one of the most eclectic gatherings of drivers that you will see anywhere in dirt track racing. Next, we will see hundreds of families spending quality time together as they work diligently to help their loved ones achieve excellence.
Last but not least, we’ll see deserving men and women getting their chance to shine atop one of our sport’s biggest stages.
As we prepare for this fun-filled weekend of racing action, I pose a final question to you fine readers.
What do you love the most about this awesome event?