By Todd Turner
The World Racing Group’s DIRTcar Racing organization has added one of the longest-running Dirt Late Model tours to the fold. The Kansas-based National Championship Racing Association, a 41-year-old short-track organization which sanctioned a Late Model division for 26 of the past 31 years, became the 10th DIRTcar-affiliated Late Model tour late last week.
“It’s a good group to be with,” said Chris Smith, NCRA’s director of competition. “We’ve been around since 1970, but we think the DIRTcar is a good way to go now for us, just because of the stability they have. … We think it’s a good thing; we wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t.”
The new association will change few things for a tour tentatively renamed the NCRA DIRTcar Series, Smith said, because most rules were already uniform and the series will maintain its already announced 18-race schedule. The biggest change is the addition of a regional DIRTcar points fund that gives drivers the opportunity for more postseason awards.
“I think it’s a good thing for us because it gives us more racetracks to be affiliated with,” said DIRTcar director Sam Driggers. “And any time you put more money in these guys’ pockets, the better off you are.”
DIRTcar’s addition of NCRA helps bridge a geographic gap between two existing tours, the Missouri-based MARS DIRTcar Series and the Colorado-based Championship Late Model Association DIRTcar Series. The Midwest DIRTcar Late Model Series also runs primarily in Kansas, so regional drivers heading east and west from Kansas can maintain DIRTcar ties.
“Hopefully down the road, it will help us get a few extra cars running for DIRTcar points,” NCRA’s Smith said.
In addition to touring DIRTcar events, Caney Valley Speedway in Caney, Kan., has added weekly DIRTcar-sanctioned Late Model racing this season, and NCRA has also added satellite tour for 2011 that requires less travel, the Great Plains Late Model Series.
Smith and Driggers first met during co-sanctioned MARS-NCRA events last season, and negotiations continued during January’s Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Okla. Paperwork was completed and contracts were signed last week, but details about how NCRA fits into the DIRTcar regional structure is being hammered out, officials said.
NCRA’s Late Model division began in 1979, running for 11 seasons before going on hiatus from 1990-94. The tour founded by legendary promoter C. Ray Hall resumed in 1995, later adding title sponsorship from O’Reilly Auto Parts that lasted throughlast season. Past NCRA champions include Billy Moyer (’94), Larry Phillips (’92 and ’86) along with eight-time champion Larry McDaniels and Kelly Boen of Henderson, Colo., who captured five titles over the past six seasons. Boen tops the all-time NCRA victories list with 56, more than twice as many as any other driver.
Besides NCRA, MARS, CLMA and MDLMS, the other DIRTcar-sanctioned regional tours are the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals (Midwest), Sunoco American Late Model Series (Ohio), Northern Allstars Late Model Series (Illinois), Four Corners Late Models (New Mexico), Western Allstars (California) and Northwest I-5 Tour (Oregon). Overall, 134 tracks are hosting more than 2,000 DIRTcar-sanctioned Late Model events in 2011, Driggers said.
The DIRTcar Racing organization grew out of the Bob Memmer-founded United Midwestern Promoters organization, which merged with the Xtreme DirtCar Series in 2004. The World Racing Group, parent organization of the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, took over the organization a year later and expanded its reach.