Short Track, Big Thrills

Tracing its roots directly to Prohibition-era moonshiners, Circle Track Racing has a long and rich history. Today, Circle Track is known for its affordability, close racing, and family-friendly attitude. Chevrolet Performance is proud to be part of this important grassroots series. The durability and affordability of Chevrolet Performance engines and parts has meant that just about anyone who wants to start racing, can. In this issue of FUEL, we hear from the people who work behind the scenes—from magazine editors to series directors—and get their take on what makes Circle Track so special.

IT'S A FAMILY THING

Growing up in New Jersey, Rob Fisher, Editor-in-Chief of Circle Track Magazine, spent his formative years at the old Flemington Raceway. Like so many others, he was addicted the moment he arrived at the track. But it was more than just the racing that drew Fisher to Circle Track, as he states, “Twenty-five bucks gets you a pit pass and you’re in the back door. You can go up and meet and talk with the racers—all your hometown heroes are right there.” The friendly, down-home nature makes Circle Track inviting for aspiring racers. “Adults—and even kids—can participate at an ‘arrive and drive’ event where they get to try out a racecar for the first time. After that, they're hooked.”

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  • IMCA starting grid
    IMCA starting grid.
  • NeSmith Late Model doing laps.
    NeSmith Late Model doing laps.
  • Close racing in Jeg’s All-Stars Tour.
    Close racing in Jeg’s All-Stars Tour.
  • Number 83 down the back straight.
    Number 83 down the back straight.
  • Fastrak cars line up for the start.
    FASTRACK cars line up for the start.
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RACING WITHIN REACH

Another reason Circle Track has become so popular is its affordability and convenience. “Dirt Track racing is no different than any other hobby,” explains International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) Marketing Director Kevin Yoder. “Some people pick up a set of golf clubs or buy a boat; our folks just decided to buy a racecar.” Chevrolet’s CT350 and CT400 are among the most popular engines among Circle Track racers; the performance and affordability provide accessibility. And more so than most other hobbies, Circle Track is designed to get the whole family involved. Yoder says that there are in excess of 200 racers younger than 16 who participate within IMCA. “There’s no driving school or anything you have to pass; as a matter of fact you don’t even need a driver’s license. That’s really the beauty of this,” says Yoder.

The NeSmith Racing Series also works hard to keep costs under control. Series Director Adam Stewart explains, “NeSmith Racing gives people the opportunity to get involved in the sport in an economical fashion.” And central to making the series affordable is the Chevrolet Performance 602, 604, and CT525 crate engines. With the exception of the Street-Stock styled cars, which solely use the 602, NeSmith-sanctioned cars are practically identical from division to division with CT engines used throughout. Only small alterations need to be made to the cars for those drivers who want to progress to the next level.

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  • Hot lap in Jeg’s All-Stars tour number 1 car.
    Hot lap in Jeg’s All-Stars Tour number 1 car.
  • Dirt Car number 11 getting worked on in the pits.
    Dirt Car Number 11 getting worked on in the pits.
  • IMCA 3-way battle.
    IMCA 3-way battle.
  • Trading paint in turn 1.
    Trading paint in turn 1.
  • Going down the front staright.
    Going down the front straight.
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ACTION-PACKED

Short tracks combined with short races mean the action never stops. Glenn Luckett is managing partner of one of the most competitive Circle Track series: Champion Racing Association (CRA). Luckett says, “There are whole groups of people who don’t know that some of the best racing in the country is on short track.” One of the top levels of CRA is the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Presented by Chevrolet Performance. This series showcases many of today’s up-and-comers. “Our biggest philosophy is that we try to keep everyone on an equal playing field. It keeps the competition fierce and the drivers hungry for more,” says Luckett. Most importantly, the equal playing field allows the most talented drivers to shine brighter, making it one of the best places to spot future heroes. The first three divisions utilize the versatile Chevrolet Performance CT604 engines. As racers climb the ranks, the power-to-weight ratios of the cars begin to resemble full-blown Late Models, nearing triple-digit speeds. Topping the ladder in the CRA program is the ARCA/CRA Super Series powered by JEGS Super Late Models—one of the best feeder series to NASCAR.

HARDER THAN IT LOOKS

Other Dirt Track series that Chevrolet is involved with include the DIRTcar and FASTRAK. Technically an open wheel series, DIRTcar bills itself as “the premier Big-Block Modified tour in the Northeast.” The competitive racing is done on clay ovals, with the prized jewel being the Syracuse 200 at the New York State Fairgrounds. FASTRAK, another dirt series, was the first dirt Late Model tour to utilize the Chevrolet Performance Crate Engine program and continues work exclusively with Chevrolet Performance. Founder Stan Lester sheds light on the learning curve of his series and how it teaches drivers car control; “Dirt cars are actually rear-steer cars, so our guys are used to being on the edge. Those guys who’ve never driven dirt cars before—if they start to spin out, they don’t know how to recover. Our guys are used to that. In fact, many guys have told me this is the hardest racing they’ve ever done.” In fact, many of today’s seasoned drivers have proven themselves in FASTRAK before moving up to the nations’ top series.

Looking to build off of FASTRAK’s current crop of talent as well as the prominence of trucks in racing culture, Lester is aiming to start a unique Dirt Track truck-racing program. Slated to start in 2015 at Stan Lester’s own Lavonia Speedway in Lavonia, Georgia, the new truck series will be powered exclusively by Chevrolet Performance Crate Engines.

Around the country, half-mile tracks brew up some intense racing, but the shorter track also means there’s not a bad seat in the house. Being right on top of the cars as they pound around the track, fans are enveloped by the sights, smells, and sounds of concentrated racing action. The perpetual cycle of fans becoming drivers and drivers creating fans with wild and intense races is what keeps grassroots racing alive.

YOUR TURN

No matter what corner of the country you live in, chances are you’re fairly close to a Circle Track. Chevrolet Performance has a long-standing relationship with the sanctioning bodies we spoke to, but they’re just one part of the expansive world of Circle Track racing. There are independent sanctioning bodies and tracks all over the country that run outstanding events alongside the ones we talked about. Make your way over to www.speedwaysonline.com to find one in your region. Also, feel free to explore the links below and see which series partnered with Chevrolet Performance suits your style and budget.

ADD MORE HP TO YOUR DESKTOP

If you need to satisfy your inner racer after reading about the lifestyle, culture, and the regular doses of adrenaline that come with grassroots racing, the best place to start is with Chevrolet Performance. No matter if you crave sliding on dirt or fender rubbing on asphalt, there’s a Chevrolet Factory-Sealed Circle Track Crate Engine for your budget and track needs.

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