Name Game: Senseless Mixture Of Division Names Creates Unneeded Perplexity In Short Track Racing

The Limited Sportsman division in action earlier this year at Thompson Speedway (Photo: Fran Lawlor/RaceDayCT)

It was a simple mistake, but one that speaks volumes for an issue that plagues short track racing.

After each Saturday night event this season, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl staff posts a graphic on social media highlighting the feature winners from their racing card.

When the Speedbowl staff posted the graphic on Sunday it listed Jason Chicolas as having won the Limited Sportsman feature Saturday at the track.

Problem being, there actually is no “Limited Sportsman” division at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl this season.

There is, what the track calls, the Sportsman division. That’s the feature Chicolas won Saturday. It’s what the track calls that division this year. Yes, it’s a singular division that over the last 30 years at the Speedbowl has rotated among five different names with the name changing six times.

The current Sportsman division at the Speedbowl is the same division that was actually called the Limited Sportsman division from 2015 to 2017 and was called Street Stocks from 2009 to 2014 and was called Sportsman from 2000 to 2008 and was called Strictly Stocks from 1995 to 1999 and was called Limited Sportsman from 1992 to 1994 and was called Strictly Stocks from 1988 to 1991.

Confused yet? What happens when we tell you that essentially what is the same division at so many other short tracks has entirely different names everywhere?

Think about if you were someone just learning about short track racing. Think about it if you were a youngster trying to grasp more knowledge of the sport.

The fact is, short track racing desperately needs to find the families and fans that will create the next generation to fill grandstands at tracks. Though one problem is sometimes it seems short track racing in general goes too far in making what should be simple way too complicated.

Making anything too complicated is a sure fire way to keep people away. If they don’t understand it it likely means they’re going to lose interest.

And division names in short track racing is a near perfect illustration of making things too complicated, seemingly for absolutely no reason.

We won’t even get into the argument here about how there are entirely too many divisions at most short tracks these days. That’s a fight for another day. Let’s just start with the complication all those divisions create with names.

The Sportsman division at the Speedbowl is nearly the same as the Limited Sportsman division at Thompson Speedway and the Street Stock division at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Who is right? Well, nobody is wrong, that’s all we can really say.

But we dare you to explain to an individual trying to understand the ins and outs of short track racing why three divisions that have near identical cars and similar rules have three different names at three tracks within an hour of each other. And two of those same three divisions actually had different different names last year. Street Stocks at Stafford were DARE Stocks and Sportsman at Waterford were Limited Sportsman.

If you’re a new fan, on the fringe of it all – trying hard to get it – figuring that all out is only going to lead to frustration. People frustrated by a product typically avoid the product. Companies spend small fortunes to perfect product names, packaging and designs so as to make sure the consumer is not frustrated. But in short track racing it feels like there’s a concerted effort to create more confusion and frustration and misunderstanding.

Spend any time talking to new short track fans and you’ll get the question: What is the difference between this division and that division? When you tell them there’s no difference except for what they’re called, you get funny looks and more questions and confusion.

What’t the difference between a Super Late Model and a Pro Stock? Is a Limited Late Model the opposite of a Super Late Model? Why is the same Sportsman car a Limited Sportsman at another track? Is that track’s cars less than what a Sportsman should be? Is a Street Stock a more sporty Sportsman or a less limited Limited Sportsman?

Take all that in and think about trying to explain it to a new fan.

And then think, if the management at a local track can’t even remember what their own division is called this year, how do you expect fringe fans to keep up or want to stay interested through the muck and complication of it all?

Many will pan this opinion and simply say: “The people who are in the pits know the difference”. And that’s the narrow view of the sport that permeates too many of the lifers and ensures that the grandstand attendance will continue to remain in steady decline.

Somehow, across the industry as a whole, short track racing needs to find a way to create a standardized set of division names and try to keep them in check.

Did you like this? Share it:

Comments

  1. Now I’m confused!!! No really,these tracks need to get together for the common good of short track racing. Call em street stocks with similar rules and be done with it.

  2. Couldn’t agree more! The rules need to be uniform also at each track in every division also

  3. I do know in the early 80’s they were called Super Stocks

  4. They are fun to watch at every CT track but you just don’t know the name of what you’re watching. CT tracks should have the same names for ALL the divisions they run and the same rules. That is a whole different topic. By the way, I heard a top Stafford SK driver is making his 2018 debut at the Speedbowl this weekend. Any ideas who that may be? I may go just to confirm the rumor.

  5. Short tracks need to start working together and building alliances to improve short track racing as a whole and fight against this downward trend. Naming conventions, rules packages, pricing, concession, etc. Get together and agree on some commonality between the tracks. This not only helps the drivers and owners, but it makes the fan experience much better.

  6. Mike Serluca says:

    And… how about the fact that at some tracks, Sportsman/Limited Sportsman are Modifieds! Lol. I’m particular to the “Street Stocks” but in this day and age, they’re not “stock”. Some people say they should be called Late Models, but that wouldn’t be accurate either. I wish they would be called the same at every track though. It would be a heck of a lot easier for the average fan. SK Lights are called that at all 3. SK Modifieds®️at 2 of the 3. The. There’s the “Late Models”. 1 track runs a true late model and the other 2 run ACT legal Late Models. Mini Stocks are called just that at both track that run them. Bandoleros and Legends are called that everywhere they run. I am guilty and am the main culprit in this article. I have been inaccurately been calling them “Limited Sportsman” all year. It’s a mistake on my part and I’ll own it. Simply didn’t pay attention when I came on board. Totally my fault and I will make sure I call the division by the appropriate name. Sorry to all.

  7. Great article Shawn!

  8. It’s baffling to me that everybody in the pits and grandstands agree on the idea of common divisions (naming titles and rules)… except the track owners and promoters. How does a sport progress with such a communication barrier between track executives and its competitors/fans?

  9. Shawn – i agree 100 % . Was at Stafford 2 weeks ago and I can’t tell the difference on the track between a limited late model and a late model. With only about 10 cars in each feature I had the experience you described firsthand. I had to explain to my buddy, a first timer at Stafford, what the differences are because he was asking why wassn’t it just a 20 car feature? He was slighltly less confused by the 3 modified divisions . Stafford had a nice crowd for the VMRS race 2 weeks ago and a healthy car count for the VMRS, SK’s and Lites. All the proof I need that healthy car counts will bring out the fans. The kids in the Lites are not only the future but they are the show now from what I saw. What a race! But the fendered divisions are weak. Thankfully we didn’t have to endure heat races for the fendered cars that night. Personally I’d like to see only one entry level division with fenders at any track. There seem to be too many fendered divisions with not enough cars in any of them to make them worth the ticket price. Fans would get out earlier, cut the ticket price a bit and I might go more often. That’s just me but I bet others will agree. I would have been home at least an hour earlier 2 weeks ago if a couple of the fendered divisions didn’t run.. The only purpose I can see for keeping 3 fendered divisions at Stafford or multiple fendered divisions at any track is if you are like me you get bored watching them so you get up and go spend money at the consessions, and in addition the track makes up at the back gate in the pit fees what they aren’t getting up front in ticket sales. It wouldn’t happen overnight but I have to imagine eventually one fendered class with rules that contain costs would build up a healthy car count and put on good show thaat isn’t as drawn out. Heats might even be worth watching and with enough cars, a consi would probably be worth the ticket price all by itself. If ever the cliche “less is more ” was applicable, it is with the state of short track racing aroound here today. Less entry level divisions with lower costs to enter the sport will eventually add cars on the track and draw the crowds. And drivers will learn how to run in traffic not just in a single file parade before they are turned loose in an open wheel car . Just keep it simple. One long time fan’s humble opinion here.

  10. John Sanford says:

    Very well written article. It’s just the tip of the iceberg of the major issues at these tracks,especially Stafford. There’s a reason why Joe Logano moved from here to make it to the top and Division names is just the beginning. Again, great write up!

  11. Spot on

  12. great article..

    the same article can be written about modifieds. the rule books are waaaaaay too big for these cars too! SK Modifieds, Thompson Modifieds, True Value, Whelen, etc… there should be weekly modifieds (2 barrels) and touring modifieds (4 barrels) interchangeable at every track and within every series in the northeast. making simple things complicated.
    the point about explaining it to potential new fans is spot on too. Keep It Simple, Stupid!!

  13. Geoff Nooney says:

    I remember Riverside Park had, strictly stocks, late model, pro stock, modified, and trucks towards the end. All very distinguishable.

  14. John Sanford,
    The comment on why Logano moved south has nothing to with division names. It had to do with at the time he was too young to race full size cars in CT. People forget for a season or 2 Ryan Preece had to haul to PA weekly tracks or to NH for the MRS because he was also too young to race weekly in CT or on the WMT.
    On to the division names. The Pro Stocks pretty much started out a division unique to southern New England in the 70’s, first at Seekonk then at other tracks.(pretty much a hybrid of a NASCAR style Late Model Sportsman and a Modified, but cheaper) But over the decades the rules\bodies eventually fell in line with the other type of Super Late Model cars in the country.

  15. Great article. There are a few problems with short track racing. Names of divisions is certainly one of them for new fans. It is the one problem that could be easily fixed if the various tracks could come to an agreement.

    I used to bring a newbie each year to Stafford or Seekonk to introduce them to the sport. Now I have made a few into casual fans over the years. Now, I will not subject friends to what is being put on the track these days. I don’t go as often as I used to anymore. The reason, I don’t find the shows as entertaining as I have in the past. The shows are too long, the fields are short, and worse yet they aren’t all that competitive in some divisions. I don’t think it is worth the time and money to go like I used to. I guess, if I am bored as a race fan, what chance does a non race fan have.

    I think the bigger problem with local racing is there are too many divisions of similar looking cars. Friends would ask a bunch of questions, mainly what’s the difference between the different divisions. what is the difference between this modified and the last modified?, why do they have a wing and the others do not? What’s the difference between a pro stock and a late model? Why don’t they run the similar looking divisions together and make a more entertaining race. How come none of these cars look like cars in the parking lot? These questions are from people who have been to their first race ever. While I try to explain the difference to them, you could see some confusion throughout the night and this is at a single event.

    In my opinion over the last couple of decades promoters have gone from a front gate perspective to a back gate mentality in their decision making. They have all these divisions of similar looking divisions to get cars and their support staff into the pits and create a feeder system. I question is it coming at the expense of an entertaining show for the fans in the stands? I will say locally is not as bad as some other areas as far as car counts and divisions running nightly. When Stafford added those legends on the mini mile I thought they were going there. Thankfully, that only lasted a year or two.

  16. Hillary 2028 says:

    Rocco if I had to guess. Didn’t he bring his car down the last time the MRS was there? That #67. Ran the heat race but didn’t come out for the feature. Puleo wrecked it a couple weeks ago. Williams has been know to show up once or twice a year with the family car also.

  17. Hillary 2028 says:

    Mike Serluca opening up a can of worms lol. Seems to me the sportsman type division has had the most name changes at all 3 tracks. Why is that? Stafford seems to be a bit confused with the videos they post of the late models. They’ll say they’re showing the limited late models when it’s the regular late models. Funniest division name I’ve ever heard is when Wall called a division M.A.D. Modified affordable division. I think now they call em sportsman.

  18. Actually, just noticed the article missed the most obvious local one. That is Thompson calling their version of the SK’s the “Sunoco Modifieds” I know that is sponsor related.(and possibly not wanting to give Stafford credit for anything) However, many tracks have a presenting sponsor for their divisions, but also don’t change the name of the actual division because of it. And hilariously if you click on the results section for Thompson, it takes you to a different website that has not been updated since the Icebreaker. And there it somehow refers to the Sunoco\SK’s as “Asphalt Big Block Modifieds” They have not been running big blocks in pavement for at least 35 years.

  19. It’s been years and years that people have been asking the tracks for more universal divisions/rules and the voices of the teams and fans aren’t heard. The irony is when you have track executives complain that social media bashing is killing the sport.

  20. You say poh-TAY-toe, I say poh-TAH-toe.

  21. Great article Shawn, you put into words thoughts I have been thinking for years. Just my two cents, but but if you ever attend any northeast dirt track events, they have more than adequate fields of modifieds whether their headline division is Big Block Modifieds or 358 Modifieds. Crate 602 Sportsman would be their equivalent of Connecticut’s SK Lites. The kicker is there are probably 20 to 25 (maybe more) northeast dirt tracks where these cars would be legal to run under the same rules. World Racing Group (the NASCAR of short track dirt racing or DIRT) has dome a great job of standardizing rules in the northeast and good fields of cars at most tracks are the result. If only northeast asphalt tracks could settle on standardized rules and divisions I think it would be a win win for all involved. Last month I went to a weekly show at Grandview Speedway in Pa, headline 358 Modifeid division had 38 cars fighting for 28 spots in the feature, and 26 Crate Sportsman. And a HUGE weekly crowd in the stands. Last Saturday night at Orange County NY, 30 Big Block Modifieds, 30 358 Mofifieds and 28 Crate Sportsman. Many of these tracks are weekly Saturday night tracks and they can all draw good fields of cars week in and week out, while asphalt tracks with their scrambled rules can barely draw enough cars in each division to fill a heat race. Thanks for listening

  22. Beech Ridge- Pro Series, Sport Series, Wild Cats
    Thunder Road- Late Model, Flying Tigers, Street Stocks
    Claremont- Street Stocks, Super Streets, Wild Cats
    Star- Late Model, Roadrunners, Strictly Stock, Six Shooters
    Lee- Late Model, Sportsman, Street Stock, Ironman, Pure Stock
    Monadnock- Sprotsman Modified, Super Stock, Mini Stock, Thunder Stock, Lightning Stock, Young Guns
    Speedway 51- Tiger, Sportsman, Street Stock, Cyclones, Daredevils, Angels
    Seekonk- Pro Stock, Late Models, Pure Stock, Sportsman, Pure 4
    Riverhead- Tour Modifieds, Crate Modifieds, Blunderbust, Late Model, Street Stock, Mini Stock
    Spencer- Sunoco Modifieds, Super Sizes, Grandpa Dog 4 cylinders

    Ever hear of Yankee stubbornness. Hoping for unified anything is futile. And you want to get more frustrated try looking at the different rules.

  23. Excellent article. Many good points. I could never understand why the tracks can’t get together with a standard for naming these divisions. Also, the shows are too long and pointlessly so. Back in the 60s and 70s there were 2 or 3 divisions at these tracks and the racing was great and the stands were full. I love racing so I don’t mind a show running a bit late if I am watching a good show, but watching heat races with 6 and sometimes as little as 4 cars and then some features with 6 or 7 cars is an absolute joke and a disgrace to racing and the way it once was. That’s not even to mention the amount of times I have watched a heat race with only a few cars have caution after caution and restarted with less than 5 laps to go instead of being red checkered – painful to watch! Here’s to less divisions, higher car counts and better, more exciting races that will in turn fill the stands.

  24. You just hear it over and over again. People sighting the LM and LLM’s as a real bummer in the regular shows. Low car counts and no competition. Yet Stuart Fearn God Bless him seems to be in an alternative reality when it comes to the prospects for the divisions. That by the way have shown zero signs of gaining strength for literally years.
    But is Stuart right. Are all of us out of touch. That Stafford has it’s hand on the pulse of the fan base and is sticking to the status quo because they know something we don’t.
    Color me confused.

    PS. Don’t include the Streets in the flying bummer that is referred to as full fendered cars. The competition is great, they have added numbers lately and the chick contingent that is always in the middle of the action gives the young ladies some hero’s to root for.

  25. As a 40 plus years asphalt modified fan I think all the local promoters need to go observe the Sprint Cars that run in Cental Pa. Lincoln Speedway has had over 100 different 410 Sprint Class drivers so far this year. They race for huge purses in front of packed grandstands. The same can be said for Williams Grove, Port Royal, BAPS, and other tracks. Admission as well as concessions are nearly 1/2 of what the Ct. tracks charge. The main reason is the feature 410 Sprints. Across the country from New York out to Washington state and down to Florida the rules are the universal. Same tires, engines, weight , wings, all identical. World of Outlaws, All-Star Sprints, all the weekly tracks, same rules. Racers can go anywhere in the country to race and know they meet the rules. What they have going on is what it used to be like with the modifieds back in the 60’s and 70’s. Universal rules, good purses, great racing with huge fields, and reasonable admission and concession prices. The way it used to be around here in Southern New England. Now none of the local tracks work together or don’t care. This can be seen with the endless fan comments for change with the LM and limited LM 10 car fields at Stafford. Their answer to this is to do nothing for the 2019 season. As I stated at the beginning go to a Central Pa. Sprint track and observe. It is well worth the trip.

  26. Thompson, at least the used to, called them Lite Modifieds, instead of SK lights. Not sure if they still do

  27. Thompson, at least they used to, called them Lite Modifieds, instead of SK lights. Not sure if they still do…

Speak Your Mind

*

Copyright 2018 E-Media Sports

Website Designed by Thirty Marketing