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Dale Earnhardt Jr. opines on Late Model Stock engine debate, tire prices

The retired NASCAR star wants to remain in short track racing but only if cost containment becomes a priority …

Dirty Mo Radio

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has heard the Late Model Stock engine debate that has flared up over the past two years and he has an answer for which one he prefers.

“The cheapest option,” he said on this week’s Dale Jr. Download podcast when asked about the topic. “Whichever one is cheapest. I’m for whichever one lowers the cost to go to the races.”

JR Motorsports runs two entries across the Carolinas and Virginias — one for Josh Berry and another development car to be piloted by Adam Lemke in 2019. Beyond that, Earnhardt spent his formative years in a Late Model Stock and has a vested interest in the health of the discipline.

Thus, he shared some overall thoughts on what Late Model Stock Racing needs to remain viable moving forward.

“I raced Late Models in 1994 and 1995, 1996 and 1997,” Earnhardt said. “I needed roughly around $50,000 to $60,000 to run a full year. That’s a set of tires each week, and every once and awhile you need a set for practice and paying for a motor, which is $10,000 to $15,000, building the car and all that.

“Now today, running the same outfit, even less races, because we only run about 20 races a year. To run Late Model Stocks today, the same car, engines, tires and all that, we’re not doing anything different from the 1990s, it’s $150,000 to $200,000 to do that over a season. It’s ridiculous.”

The way Earnhardt sees it, the discipline is no longer accessible to “normal people.” It’s become less of a hobby a more of a significant business expense and that wasn’t the original purpose of the Late Model Stock Car.

He wants to see costs decrease and participation increase.

“Whatever gets us there is good for me, because I’m the owner and I don’t want to spend that kind of money, but I love racing,” Earnhardt said. “I want to keep sending cars to the race track but I don’t want to spend this kind of money. And I don’t want to have to keep trying to find that kind of money. I remember 10 years ago, I had four Late Model teams going to the race track, four Late Model teams going to the race track every weekend and that would take half a million dollars.”

In addition to Berry and Lemke, Elliott Sadler also has expressed an interest in running a Late Model Stock in a couple of one-offs for JR Motorsports.

Earnhardt also doesn’t understand why tires have doubled in cost since he stopped racing the cars full-time.

“The tires, when I was driving in the mid 90s was 100 bucks a piece, plus $20 to mount them,” Earnhardt said. “So, it was $400 a set. How much is it now? About 200 a piece for the same Hoosier 45s and it’s more expensive for some reason.

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

Of course, when it comes to the engine debate in Late Model Stock racing, cost isn’t the only issue. The problem stems from parity and the discipline’s inability to keep all the motor options on a level playing field. It’s a story that will continue to dominate headlines into the 2019 season.

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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