Green is a familiar color to those who trek up and down backroads during the late hours of the night to reach the next race track.
Obviously, it’s the color of money, which as we all learned at a young age makes the world go around.
Most professional race car drivers have felt the impact of green in more than one way.
It’s all a part of life on the road, which has a unique twist to it this summer following the pandemic-plagued 2020 season. Every series, track, team and driver scrapped to salvage as much of a regular race season as possible last year when COVID-19 struck. Promoters were forced to cancel marquee events and some had to shut down their facilities.
Although the uncertainty throughout last year had a similar uneasiness to it, the winged sprint car industry met the challenge head-on.
Not only did all of the major racing series enter 2021 with a full schedule, the big events are back and have been joined by some new friends.
Tod Quiring and his team at Huset’s Speedway in Brandon, S.D., and at Jackson (Minn.) Motorplex created The Showdown. It features five World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series races in a six-day span with the inaugural Huset’s 50 running June 21-22 at Huset’s Speedway and the 43rd annual AGCO Jackson Nationals returning to Jackson Motorplex from June 24-26.
The Huset’s 50 finale pays $30,000 to win and the final night of the Jackson Nationals offers $50,000 to the winner. Plus, if a driver captures the finale in both events, he or she will be awarded with a $100,000 bonus, creating an opportunity for a driver to garner $180,000. Those staggering numbers are part of a $600,000 purse for the week.
“I’d call it somewhat of a speedweek,” said Doug Johnson, the general manager at Huset’s Speedway and at Jackson Motorplex. “We’ve seen that in our ticket and camping reservations. We’ve had pretty much people from all over the United States coming because they can see six races in seven days. The $100,000 bonus is to make it more enticing. Whoever is going to win on Tuesday, there’s a lot of hype going into Saturday whether they can pull it off.”
Two-and-a-half weeks later, Ohio’s Eldora Speedway will host a pair of Kings Royals back to back to make up for last year’s postponement. The 38th Kings Royal is July 15 and the 37th edition is July 17 with a full World of Outlaws show the night before each race. Both of the Kings Royal features pay $175,000 to win as the week boasts a $800,000 purse.
Arguably the best-known winged sprint car race is approximately one month later when Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa, showcases the famed Knoxville Nationals. The event, which runs Aug. 11-14, has a purse of more than $1 million with the winner scoring $150,000. There is also lap money of $1,000 per lap during the 50-lap finale, meaning a driver who leads the entire race would go home with $200,000.
“It’s really good,” said David Gravel, who won the most recent Knoxville Nationals in 2019. “We were supposed to have this last year and COVID took that away from us. It’s good to get back on track with what we were going to have last year. I hope it’s a thing for the future. I feel like sprint car racing has deserved this. Late model racing has had more big events.
“When you sell out races at the Knoxville Nationals and Kings Royal it’s really cool to see,” he added. “It’s awesome to see them step up and put big purses on the line. It’s more of the glory days of the early 2000s. It’s cool to see new events and bigger purses.”
Those aren’t the only major World of Outlaws sanctioned events this summer.
Skagit Speedway owner Steve Beitler announced during a drivers’ meeting at the season-opening DIRTcar Nationals in Florida that he was shifting his usual two-day show into the three-day Skagit Nationals. The event, which runs from Sept. 3-5 at the three-tenths-mile Alger, Wash., oval, offers $25,000 to win the finale.