Close To Home

So NASCAR announces that due to the economy, they will not allow its teams to test at tracks that host a race in their top-three series and Camping World East and West Series. When I read this, a few things came to my mind that could possibly be a good thing for short tracks.

The first thing was pretty automatic; some local short tracks may become a testing facility for NASCAR teams. But as many have already said, they may stick to tracks that formally hosted a race like Rockingham, Pikes Peak, etc. Or if they agree with Jack Roush, not test at all.

But the one thing that I have been thinking of will this keep some young drivers close to home rather than moving down south? Will their development programs slow down because they basically have been using development drivers as a major part of their testing program?

We have recently been seeing a trend where these teams pluck young talented drivers from our weekly tracks or regional series to move to the greater North Carolina area. A lot of them have gone down to become test drivers and get a few starts in the Truck Series or Nationwide Series.

It’s a big risk on both sides. A team is taking a chance on a young hot shoe and that young hot shoe is moving to the NASCAR area with the hopes of being the next Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer or Johnny Benson. But now one has to wonder if these hot shoes are going to stay close to home.

Here is what I am hoping for; they develop close to home in front of our eyes with the support of the NASCAR teams.

There are so many great super late model series around the United States that it may be in their best interest to have these young drivers develop and improve their skills by staying close to home rather than move to North Carolina and get rusty by not getting enough seat time.

The funny thing is that I am not giving a new suggestion; I am simply bringing back an idea that seems to have fallen by its wayside.

Back in 2004, when the original American Speed Association (ASA) National Series was competing, Ganassi Racing supported Reed Sorenson on the circuit. They used ASA to help develop Sorenson to where he is today.

Now, many are going to argue the point that these teams will bring in way too much money and will do nothing but hurt the series. Your argument is valid unless the operators of the series stick to their rules and treat them as equally as they treat everyone else. Yes, they may show up with a better hauler, but their car will need to have the same equipment and race under the exact same rules. And I feel that the different series will do that.

Short track racing needs to keep the local talents close to home and I think that with NASCAR basically shutting down testing, they will be racing close to us.

I also think that in the long run, this will settle down the whole notion that parents feel that if their child has a chance to race in NASCAR’s top three series, they need to get behind the wheel of a late model at the age of 14.

No matter where we are in the United States, we all have heard a story of a young driver going to North Carolina to live a dream only to have reality set in and they move back home. Hopefully with the suspension of testing in 2009, maybe these teams will keep the drivers close to home and race at tracks near us.

Short track racing needs young talent to stay close to home and become our local heroes, I think that is one of the biggest things missing these days.

Local stars do sell tickets to short track events. And many will say that when you develop your skills on the local bullrings or half-mile tracks, you will be better prepared when it comes time to tackle the big tracks.

I just think the day of being an overnight sensation is starting to fall away and we will be going back to the old way of making it to the top. That is being very successful on the local and regional level first. And being successful will not be measured in one race or one season.

The process will be longer and it’s simply because the NASCAR teams really don’t have the opportunity to get you behind the wheel and believe it or not, the economy will make them focus on who they have now and slow down the process of their planning for the future.

The expectation will be this, if we call you to come and race, you better perform now because we can’t afford to develop you. You need to develop on your own. They don’t want to see your potential; they want to see your success.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2008

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