May 9, 2014 11:10:36 AM
Before the 2014 dirt track season began, Neil Baggett had to choose between two motors: larger, heavier, and stronger, or smaller, lighter, and better for handling.
A year ago, Baggett, who finished second in the points standings, watched competitors win races using a 358 SPEC motor.
"We ran larger motors last year and got beat by guys with the (358) SPEC," Baggett said, "so we decided to try it out."
So far, so good.
Baggett has won three super late model points races this year -- all at Magnolia Motor Speedway -- running a 358 SPEC motor and a 12-inch spoiler. Cars that run a 430 (7.0 L) use an eight-inch spoiler, and though the engine produces more power, drivers sacrifice some traction and handling, Baggett said.
Despite having success racing with a larger motor, Baggett was willing to make the switch, even if he was one the only member of the Rickman Racing Team to do it.
"You're always looking for that edge," Baggett said, "and sometimes you can get stuck out in left field just as quick as you can get yourself ahead. But we've gotten off to a pretty good start. It helps when you've got two or three other racers to bounce ideas off of. You got one guy running a certain spring, a certain tire, no matter what it is ... we all want to win and help each other do well."
Baggett, who is 25 points behind leader Rick Rickman in the Super Late Models points standings, finished third at Whynot Motorsports Park in Meridian. He took fourth at St. Tammany Raceway in Slidell, La., and seventh at Columbus Motor Speedway.
Baggett will be among more than 35 entrants this weekend at Magnolia Motor Speedway, where he'll run Crate Late Model and Super Late Model races.
Magnolia -- or Greenville, depending on weather -- could be the last time Baggett runs the SPEC motor this season. After encountering some issues with his shock setup, Baggett is keen to make the switch before the points series returns to Columbus Motor Speedway.
"We'll have to have it when we come back to The Bullring (Columbus)," Baggett said. "It's better for that track."
Baggett, a Shannon native, moved to the Golden Triangle two years ago to be closer to his fiancee, Tarran. In November 2013, he moved all of his racing equipment to the area to work with the Rickman team.
After a couple years of going through plenty of changes, Baggett is anxious to win the points cash ($9,100 was awarded to last year's winner).
"I haven't looked at the points standings because sometimes that can go to your head and cause you to lose focus," Baggett said. "But I know Rick (Rickman) is in the lead and I'm in the top three. I expect us all -- Rick, me, David Breazeale, Chris Smith -- to go back and forth throughout the year. There's always seven or eight guys who can win the race."