On The Short Run: No Need To Mock Those Who Spend Extended Time In One Division

On The Short Run is an occasional feature from RaceDayCT offering a quick opinion of a recent hot topic in racing …

Support division. Learner division. Entry level division. Steppingstone division.

Many people have plenty of monikers for the multitudes of divisions that make up motorsports, from the top levels to short tracks.

Recently it seems across short track racing it’s become the vogue thing to do by many to criticize drivers who spend an extended amount of time in any one support division at the short track level.

Yes, at most tracks the perception is that weekly divisions in a lot of ways are looked at as a ladder progression from perceived lowest to highest. And for much of the history of short track racing, that “ladder” progression was always expected to continue up, from weekly short track racing to a regional tour, then from a regional tour to a national division, with the dream for many stock car racers of reaching the pinnacle, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series.

Sadly, there’s become a perception around the sport that if a driver stays too long in a division it’s a bad thing, that they’re not trying to move up.

And that’s just a bad philosophy to have.

Friday Stafford Motor Speedway hosted its Dunleavy’s Modifiedz Night, with the SK Light Modifieds competing in a 40-lap feature for the biggest purse the division had ever raced for.

After the race some were critical that the second through fourth place drivers were all competitors over 45 years old.

Yes, the SK Light Modified division is looked at a “steppingstone” division. A place where young drivers looking to climb the ranks of the Modified racing ladder can get experience on the path to moving up.

But that doesn’t mean anyone should be critical of those who make that division or any division their home. No racer should be criticized for racing at the means they have available to them. No racer should be expected to quit racing because they don’t have the financial means to move up the perceived ladder.

The fact that longtime SK Light Modified veterans like Jay Goff, Joey Ferrigno and Glenn Griswold are racing against teenagers climbing the ladder shouldn’t be looked at in any way negatively.

People always seem to forget that NASCAR roots were born in barnstorming. Years ago it was Cup drivers who made their side cash heading to short track events when they could to grab the money from the locals. Stock car racing has always been built on a foundation of welcoming drivers to compete in any division. It’s celebrated by many when a Cup series driver makes an appearance in a Modified Tour race, but then some of the same people will criticize older drivers for sticking around in short track divisions they see as being entry level.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense.

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Comments

  1. Shawn, I agree the age thing is wrong. It is the terrible driving these guys do week in and week out that give them a bad rap. It ends up not being how old they are, just how soon they run out of talent in the corner.

    Ed

  2. NH Mark says:

    Well obviously the teenagers couldn’t beat the old timers. I hate this whole youth movement. It has ruined racing at every level. Not sure how it started but age shouldn’t even be a topic at the weekly level. Build a car and go racing. Age is irrelevant.

  3. Nice write up! Racing, or any other competitive sport, will always be different things to different people.

    It appears to me that some of the younger folks who look at each division as a stepping stone to another are often better funded from others, and have plenty of outside help. I enjoy seeing the experience of an older self-funded and minimally-crewed driver compete against a newer driver in fresher equipment.

    Anybody who enjoys well-funded kids moving up the ladder with very few veterans on the track can always follow the K&N (Kids & Nephews) series.

  4. AMEN to that !

  5. Sharpie Fan says:

    If a division is seen as a “learner” division then there must be “teachers” or veteran drivers to show the learners how to race side by side and put on a show. It’s not about wrecking everybody to get to the front and then dumping the leader. That will come back to bite them soon enough.

  6. Fast Eddie says:

    Shawn, you hit the nail right on the head! I commend ANYONE with the dedication and drive to pursue racing in ANY division! Just as we try to live within our means, racers also have to try to race within their means, whether that is INEX Legends, WMT, or somewhere in between!

  7. 100% correct. It should always be about having fun at this level no matter the age or time spent in a single division.

  8. The young guns are moving up just fine and you can simply review the SK points standings to see all the graduates of he Light division. I just wish we could know who is complaining. It ain’t me. And let’s face it, the only reason there are any complaints is because it was a special night and they were throwing around a little more money then usual.
    There is one argument against the older guys staying to long in a support division and it only applies to some with big mouths and no perspective. It’s when they lecture the young guys trying to learn the ropes that they aren’t driving like the old pros. Jim Ward who spent a lifetime in the old Street Stocks and was very successful did that to me as a young guy trying to learn my way around traffic and it drove me nuts.
    Great opinion piece Shawn. Keep em coming.

  9. wmass01013 says:

    In todays world of car counts I am happy to see big competitive fields in any division!

  10. Richie O says:

    It is always about having fun and racing with a division that you can afford to run. Age should not matter, but I do agree full size cars should be limited to 16 at a minimum.

  11. It comes down to money. Local racing is not a money making sport. Look at the payouts. Thompsons 125 coming up. $1400 to win SK, 550 for 4th, finish lower than 9th less than $300, does not even cover gas or tires with a $20K+ investment in a team. Most self funded drivers can’t afford to move up so they stay in 4cyl or ltd sportsman division if they love racing and want to keep at it. Affordable racing for guys who still love to race without the big$.

  12. In 1981 or so Stafford had the real ground pounding Modifieds, Late Models and Street Stocks. The Modifieds were just awesome and that’s what everyone came to see. It was the glory days for them for sure. Street stocks had full field and the Late Models were pathetic. More so then now. I have no idea why that class can’t thrive but weak car counts just seem to follow them. I don’t know if it’s good having the Limiteds and Late Models fill time or not. Clearly most of us come for the SK’s. I just think the Lights deserve to be the second division.

  13. Doug, everywhere you go car counts for second tier (LM) are low. Last year Riverhead eliminated a division similar to Ltd. LM, and their LM car count went up somewhat. I think that would be ideal for Stafford. Come up with a division that COMBINES the two. I think you would then at least have a full field of cars.

  14. Agree with you 100% Ken L and thanks for filling me in on what Riverhead did. I was simply reflecting on how hard it would be for track management to mess with a formula that seems to be working pretty well now no matter what the flaws are.
    I just can’t say enough for the SK Light guys and all the tremendous action they provided Friday night. The side by side racing for laps and lead changes. They are the second division. They need to get second division promotion and paydays.

  15. Billy Vee says:

    Shawn,
    Well thought and well said. Who didn’t like Fred ‘Fuzzy’ Baer? J.D.McDuffie had a great following. There is a nation full of people out there who compete to the best of their ability. Should our children who can’t run fast not be allowed to run in a race at school? When a driver becomes a hazard on the track week after week then some action is required, but be careful of the discrimination word. I can recall in the 80’s premier division drivers being dropped down a division because they couldn’t cut it. I think it was Rick who mentioned the payouts. Therein lies a problem in accomplished drivers not moving up. The newer drivers are having their pockets picked by the accomplished ones. Their is also the psychological problem of wanting to be the big fish in a small pond. Their are those who hesitate at being the little fish in a big pond. Perhaps it is time to go backwards a few decades to a division where there is more home fabrication instead of store bought. A race car that someone has to drive and not aim. Perhaps age gaps would have more to share and respect, both directions. Anyways, my 2 cents

    p.s. Must have been giving away free hotdogs in Waterford someplace the other day. There was all manner of stuff slithering along Rt.85

  16. Joe White says:

    Shawn, I appreciate your comments and wish to apologize to anyone I might have offended with my comments. Opinions are like butts. Everyone has one, including me. Thanks for setting me straight.

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