A new form of classless society has taken over both local paved speedways for this season's weekly stock car racing.The Beltsville track and Old Dominion in Manassas will mix late model and limited sportsman class cars in their feature events rather than have separate finals for each.
Both track will use one-lap time trials to determine most of the final starters. Het races or a consolation dash will fill out the field.
At Beltsville, a half-miler which opens Friday, promoter Hoss Kagle plans a single, 50-lap final for the fastest cars, with 1,000 to the winner and $600 for second place. A consolation event will qualify six cars to the feature in addition to the 18 fastest from the time trials. Heat races from the time track. Heat races and a final for street stock and sedans complete the revamped program.
"This keeps purse money in this area and helps local drivers compete," said Kagle. "We don't draw many drivers from other places so we must give some real incentives to our regulars to keep racing. Otherwise fields will get smaller."
The winner's pay-off is double that of other local tracks, said Kagle. "Even fifth place is worth twice last year's purse of only $150."
Kagle said the drivers approved the idea of one big feature because they don't like using up their cars in heat races that don't pay very much.
"With tires costing $90 each, you can't blame them," he added.
Beltsville's program has time trials at 7:30 p.m. with racing at 8. Kagle thinks the streamlined program could be completed by 10:30 p.m.
Dick Gore of Old Dominion, which has Saturday racing, will run features of different distances everyweek. "We don't always have to have a 30-lapper,t he said.
He will continue to have qualifying-heat races over the three-eights mole oval with a consolation and feature for the late model-limited class. The street stock machines will compete in three heats and a final. Time trials will establish the heat and feature line-ups.
"Beating up cars is not a problem here," said Gore. "The fact is the late models are pricing themselves out of the racing with cars costing $20,000 and more. I'm planning on starting a hobby class for cars with V-8 engines later this season. They will be faster than street stocks, but not too expensive. I think they will be the class of the future.
Late model sportsman cars are full-bodied sedans from 5 to 10 years old with some modifications allowed to the engines. They are about a second a lap than the older limiteds which, despite of their name, have freer rules covering alternations.
The equalizing factor will be weight. At Beltsville, late models usually have 350 cubic-inch engines and weigh 3,400 pounds. The limiteds, powered by 302-cubic inch engines, can be 600 to 700 pounds lighter. Roughly the same ratio will be used at Old Dominion.
This makes good sense at both ovals, for the limiteds have become very expensive to race and drivers or owners are reluctant to abandon them to move up to the late models. The result was smaller fields for the late models and less competitive racing.
Kagle reports several new late models have been built or bought for this season. His brother, Reds, has returned as full time mechanic to Bobby Ballentine, who invested "maybe $25,000" in a new mount. Reds Kagle will continue to race his own machine as well.
Carson Baird, best known as a road racer, has backing for a Chrysler "kit car" for oval tracks. Jack Bland aslo has a new car for short tracks.
"My idea for a bigger pay off may also bring back drivers like Jimmy Mairs, Mike Gray and Dick Boswell," said Kagle. All three are local favorites sidelined by rising costs.
Both tracks will continue their long-distance features this season. The first of these will be the King of Kings 100-lap event at Beltsville May 13. Bobby Allison won at last year and Kagle promises three or four drivers of his caliber will be on hand this season.