Jamie Tollison competes in a Super Late Model race at Columbus Speedway in 2017. Columbus Speedway promoter Rod Taylor has added the Super Late Model division to the track’s weekly shows for 2019. Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch
December 14, 2018 10:02:02 AM
Super Late Model racing has a new home at Columbus Speedway.
After more than a month's worth of meetings with engine builders, drivers and potential sponsors, Rod Taylor, promoter at Columbus Speedway, has added the fledgling -- and most expensive -- division in Southern dirt racing to the track's weekly shows.
The decision is a tricky one -- most tracks have all but eliminated Super Late Model racing from weekly lineups because of low car counts and the expectancy of higher payouts. The division mostly lives through the Mississippi State Championship Challenge Series and at larger sanctioned shows. Magnolia Motor Speedway cut the division several years ago, but Greenville Speedway continues to run the division in its weekly shows, despite an average turnout of five cars.
Still, Taylor believes there's an opportunity to become a destination point for Super Late Model racers, particularly those who are on a limited budget. He has adopted a diverse set of rules and allowances -- shocks, motors, and tires -- that he hopes drives down the cost of racing Super Late Models and creates an even plane for competitors.
Taylor estimates having Super Late Models in 20 shows next season, beginning with the Winter Classic in late February 2019.
"It's about opening another door that's been closed a long time," Taylor said, "and giving drivers an option. Super Late Model racing is becoming a dying breed, and what we're doing will be key for the average working-class driver to be able to afford it."
The payouts for weekly shows will be depend on car count, like the rest of the divisions. Taylor hopes to offset the potential for lower payouts by limiting the expense of getting on the track. First, he will allow drivers to use American Racer tires, which are roughly $40 cheaper per tire than Hoosier, the preferred brand of most sanctioning bodies, he said. American Racer tires will be allowed for use in all other divisions that aren't affiliated with the Durrence Layne divisions, like Sportsman and 604 Late Models.
Drivers still will have the option to use Hoosier tires at weekly shows at Columbus, Taylor said.
"That's $160 for a set of tires that will be a direct savings for the racer," Taylor said. "And we're going back to the old school racing with everyone on a hard tire. At the end of the race, the tire will have to punch 60 (hardness). I think drivers should be able to get three races out of each tires (for 25-lap features)."
The sales deal with American Racer, which is owned by Ray Cook, promoter of the Southern All-Stars Super Late Model Series, is one of many strategic partnerships necessary to return the division, Taylor said. He has worked out various title and contingency sponsorship deals. For instance, he has a deal with Velocita Racing Gear to give away fire suits, shoes, and gloves.
Taylor recently spent three days networking at the Performance Racing Industry trade show in Indianapolis.
"It takes everyone's support to make it happen," Taylor said. "It's one of those things where you need all the help you can get. PRI was a great chance to get around the vendors and promote the track, and (we) hope we can get a few to come on board and be a sponsor."
Prior to Indianapolis, Taylor had discussed "wants" for the division with drivers like Wesley Greene and Shay Knight. The central theme was keeping costs low. While tires will factor significantly into race budgets, shocks rules will drastically lower costs at Columbus. Highly funded programs will run $12,000 shocks packages, and a hearty investment in shocks can be the difference in running consistently up front. To level the plane, Columbus will run a $450 buyout rule.
Taylor said Boland Performance in Cuba, Mississippi, has "used" shocks that sell for $300 apiece. He also has collaborated with Shortys Shocks and Afco Suspension Products to establish the rule.
"You'll have to be in the top 10 and on the lead lap to protest," Taylor said. "You can take your high-dollar shocks off and come race, as long as you're willing to sell that shock. If not, you lose money and points, and a second refusal will result in a two-week suspension."
Other rules variations include the option to run different motors, from IMCA and Supr Spec to wide-bore open. Those who run a cheaper spec motor can get more laps for a third of the cost of a wide-bore motor, Taylor said. Spoiler limits will depend on motor type.
Taylor said he consulted engine-builders like Jay Dickens and Robert Brown before finalizing engine rules.
"There are several shops that have spec engines laying around, waiting for people to buy them," Taylor said.
NOTES: Taylor will begin adding fresh dirt to the race surface next week. He also is examining the feasibility of selling season passes next season.
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