Some food for thought as we move deeper into the offseason:
1. How many?: I think there has now been adequate time for the storm clouds to settle and common sense to prevail. It’s been the better part of two months since the decision to drop the hobby stocks and keep the stock cars was made. News should begin to surface soon on how many hobby stockers will be moving to stock cars or possibly sport mods. I think you may be surprised. I’m thinking more will make the switch to the sport mods. We should have a better idea by the January track banquet, but from offseason driver conversations I’ve had I’d say put your money on the sport mods.
2. The buzz is good: And speaking of the sport mods, that is the class that seems to come up most in offseason talk. I think we’ll see a solid growth spurt in that division, both next year and in the seasons to come. I think we’re on the verge of another golden age of modifieds, much like the mid-2000s when the former “A” and “B” classes combined for more than 40 cars every Sunday night.
3. Why so late?: I’m kind of puzzled about the later-than-usual starting date of April 14. In recent years, the first race was usually scheduled for as close to April 1 as possible. Granted, rain is a given in April (and likely, May, too), but in recent years the rain in April has come in the middle of the month. We have been able to race the first couple of weekends, then get hit with a few washouts. I’m afraid we might not race until May if weather patterns stay the same. I won’t want to watch Sunday night baseball on ESPN in April, I want to be at the track.
4. The drive for five: While still a little on the sad side about losing a class for 2013, I think five is a better fit for Sunday nights since Monday morning is a work day for most. The majority of Sunday nights presented no major time problems with the six classes, but when a blip on the radar appeared — an extended red flag or a problem with the track — it was rather disheartening to get home after 11 p.m.
5. The biggest leap:There are two drivers poised to step to the next level in 2013, and both are in the late model division. We saw hints of this progression in 2012 and I’m
predicting a major breakout year next season for both Jake Griffin and Clint Kirkham. Jake is simply a developing talent whose future appears unlimited. Clint has made some changes in his program and style and is on the cusp of becoming a bona fide title threat.
6. Good move: 34 Raceway’s decision to go UMP for its late models should be applauded. The move should pay huge dividends for what the track wants its marquee class to be. It also provides two UMP tracks in the region for local drivers.
7. The beginning of the end?: An old friend could soon be struggling, as far as late models are concerned. Time appears to have passed the IMCA by, and there was no bigger sign than the second track defection to UMP in as many years. UMP now has a foothold on the southern edge of the IMCA with Quincy and 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa. Look for more switches in the coming decade. The UMP simply does a better job of catering to the desires of both the drivers and fans
8. Other to watch:I mentioned Jake Griffin and Clint Kirklham in the late models as potential breakthrough drivers, but there are more to keep an eye on in 2013. I think Craig Spegal in the modifieds, Tanner Klingele and Brad Holtmeyer in the sport mods and Pat
“The People’s Champion” Dunker in the sport compacts are four more drivers ready to take the next step.
9. Don’t forget about these guys:Aside from the usual suspects in each of the classes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one of these dark horses rise to contender status next summer: Keith Pratt in late models (as long as he can keep the No. 33 on all four wheels),
Robbie Reed in the mods (if he runs a full points season), Tanner Klingele in sport mods (he’s that talented), Michael Larsen (because he’s a wheel man from the old school) and Bryce Baker in sport compacts (if he can overcome all of the mechanical issues).
10. 2013 Hall of Fame class: So who will be the drivers to be inducted next season? I’m actually going to table this discussion for a short period and devote a full blog to it in the near future. I just want you to start thinking about it, too. This is always one of the top offseason topics, and we will provide due diligence. And no, Pat Dunker is not eligible.