As the 2017 Spring Season fast approaches, I figured now would as good of a time as any to share some personal thoughts as we head into another year of racing at the Sim Auto Racing Association. I’ll also announce a few of the plans for the upcoming season which is set to kick off the week of January 23-26.
Since taking over this league a couple years ago, I’ve worked very hard getting this league to where it is now, and that effort will continue 100% into 2017. At times this league often seems like a second full-time job, but I enjoy (almost) every bit of it. I know I say it before every race, even though for a lot of the regulars my pre-race speech probably goes in one ear and out the other, but I want to thank everyone who comes out and races with us each week. This league has grown into what I truly believe to be the top short track racing league, and we run not just one successful division, but four successful divisions. And that can’t be done with without the drivers that race with us, including everyone from top to bottom.
For two straight years now, we’ve run the same four divisions on the same nights in SARA. Monday’s have run SK Modifieds for 6 1/2 seasons (the division split a season with Legends when it was first introduced). Street Stocks have been on Tuesday nights since the league began in the Fall of 2012 and have now run 14 seasons. Pro Late Models were the 2nd division added to the league, which was the division I first joined when I got on iRacing, and have run 13 seasons. And the Super Late Models have been our premier division on Thursday nights for 9 seasons now.
However after running the same divisions for two straight years, I think now would be a good time for a little bit of change. When I mentioned to one of the drivers in this league that I was thinking about shaking things up since we’d been running the same stuff for so long, he said “cause it works.” He was right, we’ve had success, why change?
One big thing that started my thoughts of making some changes, is the one thing that looms off in the distance which still remains a mystery. DIRT. Just like most others, I’m excited for Dirt to come to iRacing, and to SARA. However it’s hard to plan for something without knowing many details about it. The biggest question has been: when will it be released? I know it’s been mentioned that it could be released at least by the next build in March, if not earlier, but I find it best not to get my hopes up just in case. iRacing has been known to push back content, so it could happen here as well. What features might come with it, such as heat races, or caution laps not counting? Which cars, or versions of a car, will drive the best? There are just too many questions to be answered that are preventing me finalizing any kind of details yet with Dirt.
The only thing I know for sure, is that we’ll be adding a Dirt series of some kind when it comes out. I think in order for us to remain as the top short track racing league on iRacing, we’ll need to venture into Dirt racing which will be sure to bring a whole new style of racing to SARA. In order for us to add another series though, means that we’ll need to remove a series to make room for it. While I wish we could add another night to our schedule, I think our Monday-Thursday block of racing has worked well and that’s one thing I don’t plan on changing.
So as I bring up one division and removing another, here’s where I’ll start to reveal some definitive plans for the 2017 Spring Season. There are a few changes coming, but not MAJOR ones, at least not yet. I’m considering this almost as a transition season until we know for sure what/when things are coming down the line at iRacing, and then we’ll make some more decisions at that point.
My first thoughts about a Dirt Series was to add it to Monday nights. I wasn’t sure which of our asphalt divisions would end up on which nights just yet, but it sort of made sense to me to add Dirt on Mondays and then transition back to asphalt for the rest of the week rather than sticking Dirt in the middle of the week. However since we still don’t know 100% when Dirt is coming out, Mondays will remain on asphalt for the 2017 Spring Season.
As far as the division, the first announcement will be that Modifieds will continue to be our Monday division, and the SK Modifieds will make the step up to Tour Modifieds, in what will now be known as simply the Modified Series.
With the Tour Modifieds having more horsepower than the SK, I think the added power will create some better racing, especially with the upgrades to the surface model over the last few seasons. The low power on the SK Mods sometimes made it hard to pass as the car had too much grip and not enough drive to make some moves. This might be hopeful thinking, but hopefully the extra power and having to use the brakes a little more in the Tour Mod will allow the tires to heat up more, which in turn makes the track surface hotter, which will allow the cars to search around a little bit for some different lines.
After a season in the SK Mods where we had 9 straight winners to start the season, I’m looking forward to what this change will do within the division and for a new challenge with a car we’re already fairly familiar with.
After 14 straight seasons with the Street Stocks, the division will enter into it’s 15th season, but will see a couple changes as well.
To start, and to continue the theme of changing up the division names, the Sportsman Street Stock division will now simply be called the Sportsman Series, with Callaway Investments returning as the presenting sponsor.
The bigger change to the division will come in the form of scheduling changes. One problem we have in the short track world on iRacing, is we’re fairly limited to the amount of tracks we can run, and I’ve learned over those 14 seasons that some tracks don’t really provide good racing so I stay away from those, which limits the track selection even further. This is a problem across all of our divisions though, but I think we have the opportunity in the Street Stocks to try something new with the schedule.
This season we’ll introduce an ARCA-style schedule to the division. For those of you not familiar with ARCA, they run on larger speedways as big as Daytona, road courses, dirt tracks, and asphalt short tracks. The major core of our schedule will continue to be run on true short tracks, but with the possibility of a midseason release of Dirt, the idea of running an ARCA-like schedule intrigued me.
The ONLY definite plan for Dirt that I have right now, is if it is released during the season, we’ll switch out two races on the Street Stock schedule from asphalt to Dirt. We’ll make the switch to the Dirt version of the car for those races, and will remain in the asphalt version for the rest of the schedule.
We’ll also be adding a larger speedway to the schedule this season. I attempted to run some fun events on Fridays last year at some point on some larger tracks, and the races were a ton of fun despite about only 8 cars showing up for them. But the racing was a blast, and with a larger field, that kind of racing should be even more exciting.
The last part of the schedule changes, will see the Street Stocks heading to Daytona for the first time….but on the infield road course, not the big oval. Sorry, I had to… Towards the end of 2016, I put out a league survey to a number of drivers, and one of the questions was specifically regarding road course events and whether drivers thought they belonged on our schedules. The responses were mixed, but a majority either said yes or said that they didn’t mind either way. So the decision was made for the league’s only road course of the season to be on the Street Stock schedule to fit into the ARCA-style schedule.
More details on the schedule will be released next week.
WEDNESDAY NIGHTS – Making the transition
As I mentioned earlier in this post, in order for us to make room for a Dirt series, it would mean that one of our current divisions would have to go. With that said, the first announcement for Wednesdays is that there will no longer be a Pro Late Model division. Despite my personal frustrations with the car, the decision to remove the PLM from our lineup was tough, because it was the division where I got my start in the league and for a while the division has been the most popular division in the league (based on car counts). But at this time, it feels like the right decision for the league as we move on to other series.
So as we get rid of the Pro Late Models, and with no definite timetable for Dirt, this leaves Wednesday nights completely open. Looking ahead, the next iRacing Week 13 will fall directly into the middle of our season, splitting up the schedule into 6 weeks of racing before the build, and 6 weeks of racing after the build. So assuming that Dirt MIGHT come out in that build, there came another tough decision on what to do on Wednesday nights before Week 13.
I thought of a number of different ideas that we could do to fill the void in the meantime. Some of those ideas including simply leaving it open and setting up test sessions for the Super Late Model races. Or running a short season with a different car, such as bringing back the Legends or K&N car. Or we could just leave it wide open as a night off.
It wasn’t until last night, that I officially made up my mind on what to do, and with that I introduce the Southern Series, which will be presented by Hides Pride. This series will be a mini-season for 6 weeks prior to the next build, and will run short double features each night at the Southern National Motorsports Park. Race 1 each night will have straight up qualifying to set the field, while Race 2 will see a 6-10 car invert at the front of the field (rather than inverting the entire field like our previous double features).
The twist for this series, is that it will feature not just one car, but six. Week 1 will see the return of Legends to SARA, and then each week after that we’ll move up to a higher division. Week 2 will see the Street Stocks, then Pro Late Models, Tour Modifieds, Super Late Models, and the season will round out with the K&N car for Week 6. Each week’s races will increase in laps as the divisions move up as well. More details about the series will be announced soon.
My plan for after the next build, obviously depends on if Dirt comes out, but for this post let’s say that it does come out. The plan will be to take some time to test the cars, and see which car will provide the best racing for us. I don’t want to jump into a series without knowing how the racing will be. Who knows, depending on if iRacing provides us with some better formats and tools, we could even fit in two series on the same night. Still too many questions to be answered now though, so we’ll hold off on making anything final.
While this long post has mainly been about the changes coming in SARA, the one place where the least amount of changes will happen is on Thursday nights with the Super Late Model division.
The Super Late Models will return to Thursday nights and will continue to be the premier SLM division not just within SARA, but all of iRacing. The division will also take on a new name, and will be now known as the Super Series, and will see a new presenting sponsor with The Button Box Shop coming on board.
Aside from the name change, a lot of things will remain the same. The division will continue to be broadcasted on the Digital Forge Broadcasting Network, and I’m happy to announce that the full schedule is now fully sponsored with great partners, some returning for a 2nd season, and some new ones coming on board in 2017. More details on these sponsors will come soon.
For some time I struggled with the decision to get the entire season broadcasted, mainly because of two reasons. One reason being the cost of it, but the second reason is that a lot of the time broadcasts just tend to bring in some drivers who want the “spotlight” and in turn that usually makes the racing worse. However heading into last season, I felt confident in making the move as I feel like the league was in the right place after taking necessary steps to clean up the racing. And I think it ended up as a success as we had great racing all season long, especially down the stretch late in the season. I feel that same sense of confidence heading into 2017 and think the racing will be even better.
The one addition to the Super Series, is there will now be some weekly, and seasonal purse money up for grabs. A couple different league members have stepped up and want to support the league, and will do so by providing something to race for each week which is greatly appreciated. There will also be some prize money up for grabs, and some money going to the Triple Crown in the SLM division too, so we’ll be giving back this season which we haven’t always had the privilege of doing before.
Well.. If you’ve made it this far into this post, congrats! And thanks for reading. I know this ended up as a long post, but I figured this would be a good way to give some of my thoughts and insight into the direction we’re heading as a league. I’m excited for what’s to come, not just in this upcoming Spring Season, but when Dirt comes out I think it will be just another piece to our puzzle of being one of the best leagues on iRacing.
We have some other updates and info to release over the next week or two as we continue to prepare for a new season. We’ll have some rule updates, some new contingencies to go along with our new division logos, some new things we’ll be doing with the website, bringing back some things we’ve done before, and more.