Written by league administrator, Matt Rolfe:
With the 2018 Fall Season just around the corner, I figured now would be a good time to share my thoughts in another one of these Admin Blogs. Rather than just post what the plans are for this season, and then go with it, I wanted to share why we’re going with these plans and share some insight on what to expect this season.
DIRT NIGHT SERIES
Dirt on iRacing has been out for about a year and a half now, and we’ve run dirt in our line up for the past four seasons. When it first came out, we had high hopes for what it could become within the league. We started off with two different divisions that had decent car counts to start with, and then by the end of the first season it had dropped off to 10-15 cars. That’s not horrible, but I thought we could get more people to show up each week. iRacing started adding a couple more cars and tracks, and we began to make changes.
Making all of those changes, each season, is what I consider to be our biggest mistake with dirt. We took what we initially had, and then for our second season, we switched around the nights we ran dirt on. To put it simply, we started chasing car counts. I felt like if we changed dirt to a different night, we might be able to gain some guys from other dirt crowds that we weren’t competing against on those nights. We tried adding cars and running split seasons. And when those changes didn’t work, we made changes again, and there wasn’t any consistency in our series to keep people racing with us on a week-to-week basis.
I also know that the overall “hype” regarding dirt, has declined quite a bit since it came out. iRacing has made changes to the cars, the tracks, and the dirt itself, season after season. Add all of that in with our inconsistent division lineups and trying to chase car counts, we’ve seen a decline down to the point where at times last season we had only 8-10 cars on a weekly basis, and at least 5-6 were all from the same team.
So a few weeks ago I put out a small survey in our league members group on Facebook, simply asking the question: “Why don’t you participate in this series?” When it came to our dirt series, I sort of knew what the answer would be, but I wanted to confirm my thoughts with what our drivers actually had to say. About 40 people took this survey, and right around 2/3 of those drivers answered with one or all of the following:
– I don’t like the current cars being used
– I don’t feel comfortable or competitive on dirt, so I don’t want to be in the way
– I feel like I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to setups
These responses pretty much confirmed my thoughts on why people weren’t racing dirt with us. We’ve changed cars so many times, but people didn’t like the cars we were currently running. And then let’s face it, SARA has always been an asphalt short track league, and yes we have a number of “dirt guys” within the league, but a majority of us are asphalt guys and we don’t necessarily feel comfortable or competitive on dirt, so we don’t have that large dirt community to fall back on. And then there’s dirt setups. If you don’t like the car, and don’t feel comfortable on dirt, you’re definitely not going to know what to do or even where to start when it comes to dirt setups. I don’t think setups are as important on dirt as they are compared to asphalt, but they definitely do make a difference. But if you’re lost when it comes to setups, then you’re never going to feel like you have a chance.
After having said all of that, we are going to be taking a step back and “starting fresh” with our dirt series. I want to continue to run dirt, and don’t have any plans on getting rid of it. But in order for us to start rebuilding and getting our dirt series to a place that we’re happy with, we’ll be starting over and focusing on growing the series.
For the upcoming season, we’ll be racing the Dirt Street Stock on Monday Nights, and we’ll also be switching to FIXED setups.
The most important part of this is the fixed setups aspect. We haven’t run a full fixed setup series since the early days of SARA, but based on a lot of the feedback we got, and in order to try and gain more interest back into dirt, I feel like fixed setups is a step in the right direction. This will put everyone on an even playing field when it comes to setups so there’s less of a feeling of being at a disadvantage.
The decision to run the Dirt Street Stock goes along with the plan of starting fresh. Some of the cars we’ve run the last couple seasons can be a bit difficult to drive, especially the open wheel stuff. But the SS should be a little more forgiving and more comfortable to drive for most, and hopefully will allow more drivers to show up each week without the feeling of being in the way. I encourage more drivers to come out and run dirt with us this season, especially where we’re taking this as a refresh so that more of you can come out and have fun without having to worry about setups or anything like that.
The ultimate goal for our dirt series could be eventually to move back to open setups a couple seasons down the line, and potentially move back up to a higher level car, but at this point we’re really focusing on trying to regain the interest that we lost, and I hope that a fixed street stock division is step one in this process.
For 19 straight seasons, the asphalt Street Stocks have been a staple of SARA. It was the first division ever run in the league in the Fall of 2012, before adding a second series with the late model in 2013. This is one of those cars in my opinion that you don’t have to put a whole lot of time into to be competitive, and allows for drivers to show up and race door-to-door, and it allows some beating and banging a little bit, which can be a lot of fun.
Throughout the years the car and schedules have been fairly consistent, focusing mainly on the smaller short tracks. We’ve switching things up from time-to-time by adding in a road course race, or a speedway race at a place like Michigan. We even ran a couple dirt races in the series when dirt first came out.
However now that we’re taking a reset on dirt and switching to the Dirt Street Stock on Monday nights, I also thought it was time to make a switch to our Sportsman Series as well. Rather than running two nights of Super Late Models and two nights of Street Stocks, we’ll be moving away from the asphalt SS for the first time.
For the upcoming season, we’ll be racing the Tour Modifieds on Tuesday Nights.
We’ve run the Tour Mods and SK Mods as a part of our division lineup in the past, and once again the Tour Mods will make their return this Fall. When the new iRacing build came out near the beginning of last season, they made some great changes to the Modifieds, making them a lot more enjoyable to drive. We featured a three race Triple Crown, and I saw a lot of great racing in those three races, and now I’m excited to bring the cars back as a full time series.
When I added the Contender Series to our division lineup last season, to be honest I was a little worried how it would work out. We were taking our Thursday car counts and basically splitting up the division into two, and I wasn’t sure if we could maintain car counts in both series. Thankfully we didn’t have to worry about that and the Contender Series was a big success in my book.
The series served two purposes. One was to allow everyone an equal chance to race each week to gain experience and be competitive, without having to worry about being off the pace or being sent home. The other was to give some drivers a chance to prove themselves that they could run competitively and most importantly cleanly, so that they could potentially move up into our Super Series.
I was really impressed with a lot of guys in the series. There were guys who would previously fail to qualify for some of our Super Series races, that would go out and run near the front of the Contender races, proving how good they could be when given a chance. And there’s a number of other guys that impressed me, even if they didn’t run up front or get called up to the Super Series, I still saw a lot of progress and potential from a number of drivers.
All 12 weeks featured multiple splits, and two of those weeks had three splits of cars. The series averaged 44 cars per week, and honestly that probably could have been even higher if the Super Late Model wasn’t “broken” for the last 8 weeks of the season. And 14 different drivers ended up in victory lane, some for the first time in SARA. Then there were some drivers that did good enough in the series to earn themselves a spot in the Super Series, and a number of those guys were able to use their experience to pick up some top tens and some solid runs in the top division, which is exactly what we had hoped would happen.
For the upcoming season, the Contender Series will return to Wednesday Nights.
Davis Chassis Works is back on board, and the series will continue to mirror our Super Series, and be a proving ground and a place for drivers to gain experience and race competitively, all while developing their skills and setups before taking on some of the league’s best in the Super Series.
The series will:
• run the same exact schedule (with the exception of 1-2 weeks )
• have the same weather forecast
• have the same Time of Day settings
• use the same set of rules and procedures
By running the same schedule and same conditions, it will further provide a chance for the guys in the Contender Series to develop their skills and work on their setups which will translate up into the Super Series better. It will also allow teams that have drivers in both series, to test setups in the Contender Series the night before trying them in the Super Series as a better way to test.
Once again the Super Series had another great season in the Summer. We started off with 7 different winners during the first 7 races, while also going through all of the changes we faced with the car. Then the second half of the season featured some great battles between “The Big Three” and we had an exciting points battle that came down to the final race. And we also had a surprise winner in the final race that used the Contender Series to work himself up into a position to charge his way to a victory.
As we all know, the SLM went through some changes last season in the previous iRacing build that were widely viewed as making the car “a piece of junk” to some people. Not everyone felt that way, but the way the car drove became extremely discouraging for a lot of people. I knew that certain people and certain teams would be able to hit on something with their setups and we’d see some drivers excel while others would struggle compared to normal. And that was certainly the case last season.
But we’re headed into a new season with an updated car once again. In my limited testing the car still isn’t perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. I truly believe we have some of the best short track drivers on iRacing in our league racing with us on Thursdays, and I have no doubt that our drivers will figure the new car out and we’ll still be able to put on some great racing in the Super Series.
For the upcoming season, the Super Series will return to Thursday Nights as the premier short track series on iRacing.
Much like the Contender Series, most things will remain the same for the Super Series this season. Sim Marketing Solutions is back on board as the title sponsor, and we have our major event later in the season as well in the 4th Annual H&H Sign Supply Fall Brawl Spectacular.
The division will once again be an invite-only series. A majority of the drivers that were in the Super Series last season, or called up into the Super Series during the season, will remain on the roster for this season as well. We’ll post the full roster of invites later this week.
I can’t wait for the season to get going for this division, and can’t wait for the Fall Brawl which is shaping up to be a huge event. I know a lot of you that are eligible to run this series put a lot of time and effort into it each week, and I’m ready to get back on track in the most competitive short track division out there.
In case I haven’t said it enough already, I’m excited to get another new season underway. It will be our 20th season of league racing here at SARA. I really hope that these changes we’re making this season will draw more interest into our Dirt Series as well as the Tour Mods, and I have no doubt that our two SLM divisions with the Contender and Super Series will continue to be a great success.
I can’t and don’t do all of this alone. We have a lot of great partners that support the league, and they make a lot of this possible. I also can’t do this without all of the other admins that help out, whether it’s stuff behind the scenes, stepping up to admin a new series, or helping out launch SARATV, I owe a lot of thanks to them. And lastly I really appreciate all of the drivers that come out and race with us.
But that’s a wrap on this admin blog. If you’ve read everything to this point, thanks for taking the time to read it all. Hopefully that provides some insight into some of my thoughts regarding specific series/cars/changes/etc for the upcoming season. We’ll be announcing schedules all this week and we’ll have more info before the season kicks off in just over a week, on Monday, September 17!