The Money in the Bank 150 at Berlin Raceway on Monday night personified everything that’s still awesome about asphalt Super Late Model racing.
First, there was a fantastic entry list that featured NASCAR stars Kyle Busch and Erik Jones returning to their roots to do battle with an impressive list of current short track mainstays from all corners of the East Coast.
The finish with Bubba Pollard shoving past Carson Hocevar and Kyle Jones before holding off Steven Wallace was memorable, if not outright controversial, but local fans packed out the grandstands to witness it.
The purse was impressive as hell, paying $20,000 to win, $10,000 for second and $1,000 to start, especially positive considering the Money In The Bank was a one-day, six-tire event with relatively minimal practice leading up to it.
This should be the new standard for the discipline.
It’s not a bold thing to say that asphalt racing is in a death spiral with participation costs rising out of control and promoters working to make money off the back gate rather than the front gate. Promoters are often the tire and fuel suppliers, up-charging the costs of their product to make a buck off drivers now that fans are failing to show up with their previous fervor.
That’s not to blame promoters — it’s just the way of the modern short track world.
But they encourage drivers to spend with their private test days, 16-tire events, and races spread across multiple days. The problem is that this behavior has pushed out blue collar teams in lieu of the wealthiest subset of driver and/or those with NASCAR aspirations.
We’ve collectively deformed Super Late Model racing from the major leagues of asphalt short track racing into a NASCAR minor league for teenagers.
And with all due respect to the next generation, their obvious talent and reverence for the discipline, fans aren’t paying to watch children race full-bodied stock cars. That’s one of the reasons dirt is enjoying moderate success with their veteran rosters and gritty personalities.
The hot lap mentality and prevalence of one-day shows is the answer.
So what does that have to do with the Money in the Bank 150? It was a brief snapshot of what the discipline used to be and could be again with a little diligence and work on everyone’s behalf. The industry needs to get together to minimize the costs of participation.
One day shows need to replace weekend-long affairs.
The crowd at Berlin, on both ends of the catchfence, proved that if you pay big money for a one day event, the industry will respond.
The race featured a great mix of veteran mainstays like Pollard, Wallace and Brian Campbell, mixed in with the likes of Hocevar and Harrison Burton. Those NASCAR guys certainly did their part: all the more reason for additional weekday shows and the minor league baseball environments they create.
In short, the Money in the Bank 150 was the template for what the asphalt industry needs to explore even further.
Ya did good, Berlin.