In a storyline that has plagued track promoters and puzzled fans for years, the lack of support for big-time late model stock car racing in the Hoosier state remains an unsolved mystery.
The latest chapter in the despairing trend at the Terre Haute Action Track may have made a potential encouraging reversal with last Friday’s World of Outlaws-U.S Summer Nationals program at Wabash Valley Fairgrounds.
While the fan turnout for the late model-modified doubleheader will not go down as the biggest crowd of the season, the sizable turnout under sizzling temperatures was encouraging.
That is if you are a stock car fan in the heartland of non-wing sprint car racing. Where the stockers have taken the backseat to the sprinters far too long.
With the exception of the popularity of the stockers at Brownstown Speedway, the bulk of Indiana race fans have shown little support for the late models.
It’s no secret as race officials and competitors concede their form of racing faces a major challenge in gaining acceptance from the open wheel fan base.
Outlaws series Director Sam Driggers says his tour faces an uphill battle if he hopes to win over the sprint car loyalist.
“We know we have a lot work to do if we hope to get new fans,” Driggers said prior to the Action Track card. “When Indiana short track promoters did away with the late models at their weekly shows, it really hurt us. Its nothing new. Its happen in other states besides here.”
Driver Mike Marlar is quick to acknowledge that it’s been a challenge winning over sprint car followers to his type of racing.
“It’s hard to understand why we don’t draw better at certain tracks” said the winner at Brownstown the night prior to the Terre Haute show. “We offer good racing. But we are creatures of habit. If we like something we tend to go in that direction. Around here it’s sprint car racing.
“The late models put on a good show and we’re not going away,” said the veteran racer who will run over 70 late models shows over the year.
Driggers isn’t about to throw in the towel on his attempts to make inroads on winning over new or luring back former Indiana late models fans.
“It’s a good show. We have good drivers, good cars. The potential is there. We just have to work at it,” he said “It was done in Florida when late model racing came back.
“It will take promoters to make a strong effort over several years to make it happen. They will just have to work at. It won’t be easy but it can happen.”
Joe Buckles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.