This weekend will find the annual Magnolia State Cotton Pickin’ 100 behind held at Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, Mississippi). Not only is this one of the south’s most prestigious races, but it’s also an event that has a lot of sentimental value to me. This is a race that I’ve attended for much of my life.
However, most importantly to me it represents my absolute-favorite type of major event. It’s one of the last-remaining, great unsanctioned races.
This weekend the state-of-the-art, 3/8 mile will play host to competitors from across the country, battling for a starting spot in the $20,000-to-win / $1,200-to-start, Super Late Model feature. Twenty-four drivers will take the green flag in Saturday evening’s 100-lap finale. Each and every one of the racers, who make the coveted field will earn their right to be there. There will be no provisionals of any type at this shindig.
Our sport is now in a place, where no matter the division pretty much every major event is sanctioned. Super Late Models, Sprint Cars, and Modifieds crown jewel events are not immune. Sure I understand that for many of these tracks and events it has only made sense to go with a sanction.
There’s no denying that a sanction definitely can bring a lot to the table. First you are guaranteed a core group of recognized racers to advertise for the event. This is a huge help to a promoter because these racers are required to be there regardless of weather conditions or other major races that are scheduled in other parts of the country. With an unsanctioned show you can be at the mercy of a sketchy forecast or specials that are closer to the locale of national drivers.
For some tracks the appeal of having a sanctioning body involved in their major events lies in the aspect of technical integrity. The reality is that there are no shortage of tracks in this country that lack a truly-qualified, technical inspector. He or she may be doing their job to the best of their ability, but that’s not always enough. With almost every sanction you bring a set of rules to the table that are publicly known and will be properly enforced. This is a big plus for not only tracks, but also for the racers.
One of the final aspects that a sanction can bring to the table for a major event, is name recognition. For the most part in the Super Late Model world even the most occasional of fan readily recognizes the name value of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (LOLMDS) or the World of Outlaws Late Model Series (WoOLMS). Associating these names with an event adds an element of additional value to the special. For many race fans this endorsement solidifies the legitimacy of the prestige of a select race.
So it doesn’t take much digging to reveal that sanctions can be a major value to many big events. However, in my opinion there are some races that are even greater because they aren’t sanctioned by a series. My beloved Magnolia State Cotton Pickin’ 100 this weekend is a prime example.
The Magnolia State 100 was born in 1989, when Mississippi businessman, Dewitt Singleton created the event. It started its existence at Jackson Motor Speedway (Byram, Mississippi) before moving to Columbus Speedway (Columbus, Mississippi) in 2001. It was held at the “Baddest Bullring in the South,” until going on hiatus in 2012. However, for 2013 the race merged with the nine-year old, Cotton Pickin’ 100 at Johnny Stokes’ Magnolia Motor Speedway. Thus was born the newest edition of the event, the Magnolia State Cotton Pickin’ 100.
In some form or fashion this event has existed for 25 years now. It’s done so without the aid of a sanction. Each year it’s drawn some of the very-best fields in the country. The all-time, high water mark for the event was 100 cars in 2003. Along the way it’s averaged well over 60 entries. In 2014 the event drew a staggering 72 entries in a day and time, when Super Late Model counts at major events have been on the decline.
Crowds have been fantastic as well with a steady growth in attendance over the past several years.
All of these factors together make the annual Magnolia State Cotton Pickin’ 100 the great race that is.
I get really geared up for this event. I love the history. I love what it represents. Sadly this type of race is a dying breed though. You can pretty much count on one hand the last-remaining, major events that aren’t sanctioned in Dirt Late Model racing. It’s just a reality. However, as long as I continue to have a role in the promotion of this special race, I will do everything in my power to make it successful as an endangered species.
In my opinion, our sport needs these type of events to continue to thrive. An event where there is no guarantee that a racer will qualify for the finale. You have to be elbows-up every time your car hits the track. Otherwise you very well could be watching the finale. The Magnolia State Cotton Pickin’ 100 is truly a “hand-out free zone.”
What’s your opinion? Do you prefer all major events to be sanctioned or do you too like the occasional, unsanctioned big race?