Madison International Speedway dips into the past for new season

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staff, Gazette
Friday, May 3, 2013

— The best of today and tomorrow—it's the desired combination for Madison International Speedway.

And track management believes the 2013 schedule is the best combination of the two at MIS in over a decade.

Gone is the sportsman division and a majority of limited-late-model events, to be replaced with various touring series that are better fits for the fastest half-mile in Wisconsin.

"This is a horsepower race track, and some of the best racing seen at MIS had a lot of horsepower," said Jason Tyler, business manager for the track. "By bringing back super late models, we're bringing back horsepower and we'll put on that much better of a show.

"We've decided to make the season nine premier events."

The ARCA Midwest Tour, Midwest Trucks and Big-8 Series all will make stops at MIS. Madison, by far, hosts the most truck events this season (7) and Tyler said the series—entering its first season sanctioned by ARCA—originated at MIS.

"The truck series was born at MIS and we feel we'd like to give them a home track again," he said. "They've always put on a good show here, and they've done a good job of growing as a series since they began at Madison."

A rare show also is included in the schedule, as Madison is one of just two speedways in the country to host "Border Wars"—which pits the best of the Midwest Tour and CRA Super Series in a showdown race. The other event was held at Toledo Speedway last month and lured NASCAR names like David Ragan and Rich Bickle.

Thanks to the series' point distribution, MIS can expect to have top names also compete in its event.

"Drivers get bonus points to show up and race in these Border Wars," he said. "There are no other tracks in the area that run this show or a show of this caliber."

Both the trucks and super late models will provide the horsepower sought by Tyler and MIS. Tyler—a former driver with experience at MIS—said the track's layout is more suited to higher speeds.

"At 18 degrees of banking with long straightaways and tight corners, this track was made for the speed of super late models," he said.

But the quarter-mile ring centered in the MIS infield hasn't been forgotten. In fact, it represents the "best of tomorrow."

MIS will continue the legends division, which has become a nationwide farm system, showcasing the drivers on their way to the regional touring series. Some of those drivers can't legally own a driver's license, because they're too young. But if they wait until age 16, they've missed valuable seat time.

"Legends are great, because they're a stepping stone for drivers to get experience and (it's) giving them a place to start," Tyler said. "Plus, they're front-wheel drive, which gives them a feel for the series like ARCA."

The stepping stone Tyler wants to reach is one that returns MIS to the thriving venue it was in previous years. He said car counts and attendance have been down in comparison to seasons when the track hosted a bulk of special events.

He added that hosting weekly events for sportsman and limited-late-model divisions weren't helping raise car counts or attendance.

"We couldn't get enough support in those two divisions and get the caliber of show that we needed," he said. "But we've already had 34 super late models pre-register for races this season. That's more than we'd get on a regular basis from sportsman and limited late models, combined."

However, better racing often means higher cost. Therefore, MIS has just nine weeks of scheduled stock car racing. Not only is hosting a top series expensive for the track, it becomes expensive for teams and fans. That's a tightrope difficult to walk, in an effort to restore a speedway to prominence.

"We know it's tough for people to make it to the track every week, and we didn't want to interfere with other events," Tyler said. "We're still having a championship for three divisions, but because of the cost all around, we wanted to put on good, big shows that won't be a financial burden to the teams, track or fans."

The season begins Sunday at MIS with the Joe Shear Classic—an ARCA Midwest Tour event—along with Midwest Trucks.

Last updated: 10:40 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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