They say things of value don’t come easy.
Things certainly didn’t come easy for ASA STARS promoter Bob Sargent on Saturday night in the inaugural event for his national Super Late Model tour at Five Flags Speedway. There were some scoring challenges presented by a unique race day format, Boris Jurkovic tossed a fire extinguisher at Billy VanMeter as he drove by under caution, and the night ended with Bubba Pollard fighting race-winner Casey Roderick in technical inspection.
There were too many crashes, cautions were too long, and the race took over three hours to complete. It was a bit of a shish show as they say.
Then came the midweek penalty report, which stripped both Pollard and Jurkovic of their points and earnings plus fines for their various infractions. ASA fined Pollard $3000 while fining Jurkovic $750 plus the $145 to replace the fire extinguisher he tossed at VanMeter.
It does seem kind of backwards, admittedly, because Jurkovic literally hurtled a pressurized tank at the direction of a moving vehicle with the intent of having it land (and potentially release) inside the cockpit. Meanwhile, Pollard walked into a closed off inspection area with the intent of exchanging fisticuffs.
What’s really worse from a safety and optics situation?
Arguably, Pollard should have thrown a pressurized canister at Roderick on a hot track instead of tackling them after the event had concluded. It certainly seems like the more economical choice with the benefit of hindsight.
At the same time, the penalties needed to have teeth. Despite the messy opening night, Sargent wants the new ASA brand to be associated with professional short track racing and any penalties had to discourage actions detrimental.
For the sake of comparison, CARS Tour president Jack McNelly has suspended drivers, including Pollard, for initiating fights in the past. Just last year, CARS Tour was forced to suspend Late Model Stock points leader Carson Kvapil for intentionally crashing Zack Miracle into the wall after taking the checkered flag, simply because it was the precedence.
Sargent wants there to be consequences for behavioral infractions but suspending Pollard actually would have punished both fans who want to see him race on May 7 at Madison International Speedway and themselves by encouraging the driver to race elsewhere.
But the sanctioning body has to have rules, in the sense that tolerating both actions after Saturday night makes ASA look like lawless territory and discourages other competitors from wanting to enter future shows — not to mention telling observers that Sargent doesn’t take the discipline seriously.
Discipline is the operative word here.
With that said, it’s equally understandable why Pollard might have felt compelled to take matters into his own hands, issuing a degree of justice when race control seemingly failed the entire field on Saturday night.
It doesn’t entirely make sense why Roderick wasn’t sent to the rear for spinning Pollard, even if it occurred after the caution waved for a separate incident, even if it’s believed Pollard would have gotten his spot back if he had been able to continue.
Maybe the argument is that Pollard checked-up too fast and was the cause of his own incident. Certainly, Roderick wouldn’t have wanted to intentionally spin Pollard in that scenario. He definitely seemed sincerely apologetic for it in victory lane too.
Ultimately, it’s just unfortunate that the race was marred by these topics, because the event itself was quite the spectacle. It felt like, and still feels like a big deal, to have a national Super Late Model series operated by Track Enterprises.
Having World of Outlaws announcer Johnny Gibson on site to call a four-wide salute during pace laps was absolutely a big deal. History might remember the Sunshine State 200 as the second-best overall field behind only the Snowball Derby.
The race was historic in nature.
Don’t misunderstand, the theatrics aren’t entire a bad thing, and a Pollard versus Roderick feud isn’t entirely bad for the industry either. The history of short track racing is full of rivalries, and the sort of politically incorrect displays of emotion that separates it from other forms of motorsports.
Conflict is absolutely a revenue generator in the promotional playbook. Fans want to see high-stake interpersonal conflict interspersed with a quality racing product and there is a tremendous amount of potential for a quality racing product within the ASA STARS National Tour.
It’s just going to take Sargent time to refine his show.
He is already second-guessing race length, what to do with caution lapss, the scoring software used in the tower and various other procedural and pace of show matters. He has proven to be a really nimble and thoughtful leader when it comes to interacting with the community.
Sargent will make changes based on what happened last weekend. He too is familiar with the idiom about things of value not coming easy, and he also knows the idiom that Rome wasn’t built in a day as well.
They’re just starting to lay the foundation.
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