The first race of the much ballyhooed Tri-Track Series has come and gone, and by most accounts Sunday’s Bullring Bash 100 proved a rousing success at Lee USA Speedway.
There was a quality car count, a stout group of big name competitors and a major event feel to the festivities at Lee.
The most unfortunate part though was that in the end, the actual race lacked something important: Dramatic racing.
It’s no knock on race winner Matt Hirschman Not even close. He played the game to win by the rules set before him and he accomplished just that.
And it’s no knock on the organizers of the event. They put forth a set of rules that unfortunately based on the elements at play with the facility and the factors in play these days with some of these events, played right into the hands of drama sapping the event.
Let’s be straight up honest: Hirschman sandbagged to a win. There’s no sugar-coating that. He laid back, way back, and saved saved saved his tires on the rough tire-eating surface at Lee until he could wait no longer. Then he went to the front of the pack with ease. And unfortunately while he saved, many in front of him were in saving mode too, pedaling around Lee well below 100 percent.
It’s a type of event that has become a scourge on short track racing. The one where everybody plays the waiting game, everybody tries to save, and in the end the guy that ultimately was able to go the slowest for the longest time ends up winning.
Doesn’t that sound totally contradictory to what the sport of auto racing is about? The guys that was able to go the slowest for the longest time wins?
That’s essentially what happened with Hirschman, who at times during the event far lost touch with even the second-to-last car in the field as he half-pedaled slowly around the .375-mile oval. Hirschman even remarked after the event that while he was trying to slow to a minimum, the leaders were slowing right along with him and running the same lap times as he was trying to go slow.
Is that any kind of event to keep fans clamoring to come back for more? Ultimately, the object is to win? But at what cost for the fans?
There’s few other sports where a competitor or team can essentially not even make an attempt to be competitive for the first three-quarters of an event or game and still have a chance to win at the end.
Some might say that the banzai run to the front that a driver must make after using the no effort for the bulk of the race strategy makes up for the lost drama.
Unfortunately, in short track racing today, with lowered car counts across most all events – including many big dollar open shows – that factor is often eliminated by a number of factors. By the time the one playing the slow game makes the charge there often ends being little or no drama left to the run passing cars because there’s few left to pass and many of the one’s being passed can’t even put up anything worth a fight.
Yes, cars were sent home on Sunday, but there likely should have been more cars on the track. It would not have been outlandish to possibly start 30 cars, or even 32 instead of the 26 that did start. Face it, decades ago when there were open shows, the bulk of the field was close. That wasn’t the case Sunday with a field stretched from quality Touring teams used to competition on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Valenti Modified Racing Series, to weekly SK Modified teams.
It’s no knock on those low dollar operations that were in the field, but the fact is, it changes how the whole scenario plays out in a show like that, and played perfectly into the hands of a driver like Hirschman, who knows going into the event that three-quarters of the way through the show, most of those guys won’t even be left on the track to pass or won’t have anything to even put up a minimal fight.
That seemed to be the case Sunday. When Hirschman turned it on and decided to go he went from the back to the front in the blink of an eye. There was no wow factor to it. Even the pass for the lead was made to be a forgone conclusion by numerous rehashed restarts where Hirschman kept easily being Steve Masse for the top spot before another caution would come out before the lap was completed.
What are the answers? Right now the solutions actually, and unfortunately, probably don’t exist in racing. More competitive cars are needed for a show like that at Lee to stop a team or multiple drivers from laying back.
But until the fix is made, fans in the grandstands are the one’s that will suffer watching events where those that are the best at going slow for the most of the event have the biggest advantage at the end.