The Making of the Dirt Classic Format
There’s an understanding in racing that no matter what you do as a promoter, someone will love it and someone else will hate it. There is no time when that is more true than when you decide on a format.
The unique Dirt Classic format has become one of our signature attributes, and it’s why many fans and drivers are attracted to our events. But it took a lot of finesse to get it to that point over the years. Let’s pull back the curtain and look at how that came about:
When we talked about the vision for the Dirt Classic in year one, the format was one of the qualities that we wanted to differentiate the event from other marquee races.
We wanted the format to be unique.
We wanted the format to create the most competitive racing possible without penalizing good drivers.
We wanted the format to provide value for the fans.
We did not realize up front what a challenge this would be.
Uniqueness wasn’t necessarily a problem at the outset. We could come up with all kinds of fun schemes to play out on the track. But finding something that worked well for both fans and teams and that hadn’t already been done was a challenge.
We also wanted something that could be iterated on over the years so that we could learn from mistakes and improve the fan experience.
What was most important to us was the balance between competitive racing – which doesn’t always happen when using a traditional, straight-up time trial format where the fastest cars start at the front – and penalizing fast drivers or leaving it up to chance, which you see with pill draw/invert formats.
That’s why we employ a points system that values both time trials and two sets of heat races – one lined up by time trial results on an invert and one lined straight-up. The points tallied from these activities set the lineup for the A-Main.
In this way, the format rewards drivers that can time trial well – a skill set that’s important for most marquee events.
It also rewards drivers that can pass other cars, a skill set that’s important for, well, all of racing. It’s also what the fans want to see.
When we launched the Dirt Classic, we knew we’d have a competitive field. But we didn’t realize that we’d have 54 top-notch cars in the pits and just how competitive the racing would be. We quickly saw how difficult passing was for fast cars in the back of the inverted set of heats because of the number of highly competitive cars. This helped us to shift the points structure in the second year to more accurately reflect the level of competition.
Another thing we learned is that there’s a tight balance between giving fans a lot of laps of competitive racing and asking teams to put a lot of competitive laps on their equipment. And, we found out in year one, there’s a limit to how many rubber-down laps you can put on a racetrack, even when you’re only running a two-division show. That’s an adjustment we made over the course of the last two years to create a track surface that both drivers and fans like.
We’re excited to make another change to the event format in 2017: the Dirt Classic Ohio at Attica Raceway Park will employ the unique attributes of the Dirt Classic format. With seven hours of highway between Attica and Lincoln Speedway, it’s likely that many Ohio fans are not able to attend the Dirt Classic season finale on September 23rd. We got great feedback from a lot of fans who would like to see the Dirt Classic Ohio drivers up against the Dirt Classic format and are happy to make that adjustment.
Adjustments. Feedback. Changes. Commitment. Vision. That’s what has gone into creating the current Dirt Classic format, and we’re excited that fans want to see it and that racers want to race it.
– Kristin Swartzlander, DirtyMouth Communications