RPW Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – CONCORD, NC – It may be just a stopgap between Super DIRT Week a year ago and Super DIRT Week a year from now, but the officials at World Racing Group and DIRTcar are determined to make OktoberFAST 2020 the perfect event for their racers.
The event, which consists of six nights of racing at a variety of DIRTcar-sanctioned tracks across the state, gives teams in all four Northeast divisions, Big Block Modified, 358-Modified, Sportsman and Pro Stock, the opportunity to race for great purses while showcasing their talents on a worldwide stage.
While no fans will be allowed in the grandstands each night due to COVID-19 restrictions, officials plan to broadcast all events through their online streaming platform, DIRTvision. Fans are the backbone of DIRTcar Northeast racing, and according to Executive Director of Events for the organization, Jeff Hachmann, they were the primary reason for the change this season.
“Super DIRT Week isn’t Super DIRT Week without fans,” Hachmann said. “Unfortunately, the state just extended their executive order for crowds to September 27th so there really wasn’t any light at the end of the tunnel. Opportunities to run the race with fans were starting to shrink so that’s why we decided to postpone.”
DIRTcar officials did everything in their power to keep “Racing’s Biggest Party” on the schedule for 2020. However, in the end, it just wasn’t in the cards.
“We fought the good fight and stuck around as long as we could to try and run at Oswego,” he said. “We submitted different plans in the hopes to get some fans to the event, possibly up to 50 percent capacity. Super DIRT Week has been and always will be built on fans. While the racing is great, there’s a lot more that goes on at the event.”
Now, the focus shifts to the newly-created OktoberFAST and racing at six of DIRTcar Northeast’s popular tracks. Starting on Tuesday, October 6th at Albany-Saratoga, the swing will go to Utica-Rome, Fulton, Can-Am and Land of Legends before ending at the birthplace of DIRT Motorsports, the Weedsport Speedway on Sunday, October 11th.
Since the announcement, buzz has been high for each of the events on the schedule, not just from Super DIRTcar Series racers, but also drivers who may only run weekly at some of these iconic facilities.
“Dean (Reynolds) has talked to some of the drivers as the Series director,” he said. “From my conversations with him, response has been great for the event. He said he’s received phone calls from drivers like (Stewart) Friesen who’s stated he’s in. He’s also heard from guys like Justin Haers. What’s cool about that is the fact that Justin’s not even a platinum driver. However, he’s a Modified driver and said he’s in. We’re hoping for some great car counts.”
While Brian Carter, DIRTcar’s Chief Executive Officer, had the final decision on the tracks in the series, working closely with the state of New York, officials wanted to run at several of their flagship speedways while showcasing the racers that support those facilities at the same time.
“We tried to make a run through the state so we could capture all of our drivers,” he said. “If you’re a Big Block team, you may want to run all six events. Some 358-Modified (three races), Sportsman (five), or Pro Stocks (three) will try and run all of their events scheduled too.”
While they wish to have as many teams as possible follow the entire swing, officials understand that may not be feasible given the current climate. They are hoping that how things are laid out, with races from the Albany to Rochester markets, will give a multitude of drivers a chance to run as many races as they choose.
“Some teams may run a race or two, possibly the ones that are closest to them,” he said. “I think where the tracks are located has allowed us the opportunity to capture everybody in the state that wants to race.”
While plans are currently being formulated for the length of each event, officials already have ideas on how to make them as familiar as possible for race teams.
“Every event will be run like a Series race,” he said. “We’ll release the race lengths when the competitor notes come out but things will culminate with a 75-lap Big Block finale at the birthplace of DIRTcar, the Weedsport Speedway. I mean, why not finish there?”
While officials are hammering out the details, they already know how much the racers will be running for and plan to have full control over each event.
“The Big Blocks at Weedsport will be $10,000-to-win while all the other Big Block races will have a $7,500 top prize,” he said. “We are renting all of the tracks and utilizing each speedway’s staff, where needed, to operate these events. However, the investment is solely on us.”
With the Big Block Modifieds scheduled to run on each of the six nights, the topic of having a series champion was brought up. In the end, however, the decision was made to go a different route.
“We thought about it, but this plan is what we vetted out,” he said. “We didn’t want to put teams in a situation where they felt like they ‘needed’ to follow all of the races. It was considered but we want to give everyone an opportunity to race as much as they wanted for a strong purse and on a grand stage.”
Unfortunately, a big stumbling block for many of DIRTcar’s race teams is the fact that the United States / Canadian border is currently closed. In a previous article, Canadian racer Shane Pecore told me that he loved the idea of running this type of schedule but he won’t have the chance to with the closing.
How does DIRTcar feel about the situation right now?
“We have a lot of racers, especially in the 358-Modified and Pro Stock divisions, from Canada, so I’m sure the closing is going to hurt in some regard,” he said. “Our hope is that maybe something good happens and the border opens leading up to the event. Some of our greatest drivers and fans are from across the border so we wish they can be a part and surely it will affect us.”
Even though OktoberFAST is replacing Super DIRT Week for the 2020 season, that’s it. Plans are already in the works to make next year’s week-long spectacle of speed at the “Steel Palace” bigger and better than ever.
“This is an opportunity to still have some racing during that week and take care of our dedicated DIRTcar drivers and fans,” he said. “Once the week is over, our focus will go right back to the 49th running of Super DIRT Week, October 6th-10th at Oswego.”