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Qualifying vs Heat Racing: What Works Best for Everyone?

By admin | November 29, 2013

Jimmy Owens is a multiple time winner of the North/South 100 at the Florence Speedway

Jimmy Owens is a multiple time winner of the North/South 100 at the Florence Speedway

By Richard Allen

Recently, Kentucky’s Florence Speedway announced that it will remove time-trials from its famed North/South 100 Super Late Model event weekend and will instead use an expanded system of heat races to determine the starting lineup for that Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series sanctioned event.

According to a story posted in DirtonDirt.com’s Dirt Wire section, the race will add a second set of heat races and will employ a passing points system similar to that used in the I-80 Speedway’s Silver Dollar Nationals.

Upon hearing of this move, I posted a question on Facebook and Twitter to provoke a discussion of the issue. The question read:  

I kind of like how the North/South 100 is doing away with time-trials. Would you like to see more heats and less qualifying at your track?

Responses came from fans, drivers and crew members both in favor and opposed to the new North/South 100 format. Fans seemed to be in favor of the idea of having more racing and less qualifying although there were some who liked the old system that put heats, consolation races and the feature all on the same night at Florence Speedway.

@NoSympthy on Twitter wrote, “Never liked the qualifying for the SLM at my home track.. same 2 always qualified up front and one or the other always won.”

@Watkins_Daniel1 wrote on Twitter, “Good to see less qualifying as a fan. Depending on the event, qualifying can take awhile.”

Also on Twitter, @aaronpellowski said, “Yes do the draw of the number and let them race”

Bobby Price on Facebook replied, “Qualifying is over rated. As a fan I want to see more racing than single cars. But I also understand that more racing leads to more chance to tear your stuff up, and heat races don’t pay. So it’s kinda catch 22″

Let’s talk racing. Follow TennesseeRacer on Twitter and Facebook.

Based on these and other comments posted by fans, it seems reasonable to say that group would like to see more heat racing and less qualifying. But as always, there is more to be considered. The cost of running heat races is one that drivers are wary of. Wear and tear on engines, tires and potentially to body pieces and parts creates costs that come out of their pockets.

Here is what some of them had to say during our discussion:


East Tennessee Late Model regular Matt Henderson

East Tennessee Late Model regular Matt Henderson

East Tennessee late model racer Matt Henderson(@MHenderson17 on Twitter) opined of the Florence Speedway announcement, “Their car count will show you what the racer thinks of it. That’s going to hurt them.”

Henderson went on to add, “It will add excitement just because people will want to see what happens. However, if your best drivers draw in the back and the track sucks, the big names go home and their fans may travel with them.”



Jimmy Owens crew chief Chris Fox(center)

Jimmy Owens crew chief Chris Fox(center)

 Chris Fox(@ChrisFoxTeam20 on Twitter), longtime crew chief of Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion Jimmy Owens, believes that the outcome of races using this type of system places too much luck into the equation. “Only 3 out of the 6 cars that were inverted to 3rd in their heat at this year’s North/South made it through the heats, and all 3 finished 3rd,” he pointed out of inability to pass during heat races.

Brad Loden of Roush-Yates Engines

Brad Loden of Roush-Yates Engines

Roush-Yates Engines’ Dirt Late Model program director Brad Loden(@B_Loden on Twitter) joined the conversation to point out that dirt racing often comes down to one key element. “At a lot of tracks, qualifying just helps make it a one lane track, especially when a track qualifies 5 classes,” he posted. “Track prep/quality of racing surface. Knoxville inverted 10 places in heats. Great surface=no complaints.”

I think everyone can agree that qualifying can be pretty boring. And often times, it takes up far too much time as multiple classes go through time-trials. This is often made worse by the inability to hear track announcers call out times due to the noise of the cars and/or the track’s inability to post the results on a working scoreboard. Qualifying sometimes has the feel of sitting through a movie in which the dialogue is taking place in a foreign language, leaving fans with little idea of what is happening.

At the same time, I think everyone can agree that no one wants to see drivers have to go home early because of some issue encountered during a heat race. It does no one any good for Jimmy Owens, Scott Bloomquist, Billy Moyer or the most popular driver at a weekly track to be on the trailer or damaged to the point that they cannot contend before the feature ever takes the green flag.

Tracks are put in the difficult position of trying to give fans their moneys worth while not costing their competitors so much that they can’t afford to race.

I applaud the Florence Speedway for trying something different in their biggest event. But I also hope that drivers and teams have a racing surface that will allow for passing, with little or no damage done to the cars, so as to make for the best show for all involved.

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2 Responses to “Qualifying vs Heat Racing: What Works Best for Everyone?”

  1. Aaron S. Says:
    November 30th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    I can tell you I avoid tracks that only qualify….I wanted to leave the steel head nats at 411 when I found out the format.

  2. Tony Geinzer Says:
    January 15th, 2014 at 8:56 am

    I think, more and more, I think us fans want Every Weekend Twins. I know at the NASCAR Level I’d be gung ho jet li about it, but, what about every weekend issues,too,Rich?