046370_3842542_3405274_n[1]” alt=”” src=”http://motorweeklive.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/19851_252684161370_237930046370_3842542_3405274_n1-150×150.jpg” width=”150″ height=”150″ /> By Patrick Reynolds

The offseason. A time that diehard race fans dread. A time they claim lasts months on end. A time that, well, other than Christmas Day, is a time of misery that they feel is unnecessarily forced upon them so that racing is appreciated more.

The offseason does take place, but the day count seems to shrink every year. For the race fans that broaden their horizons beyond the NASCAR Cup world, some nice short track events around the country fill in the void between the haulers heading north from Miami and the gates swinging open in Daytona.

I have always been a proponent of quality grassroots racing. The short tracks where racers compete by spending their own money and sacrificing for the simple love of the sport is racing at its purest- and sometimes its best- form.

When Tony Stewart hoisted his champagne-soaked championship Cup, professional NASCAR on-track action ended for the season. But good competition in some racing hot spots began later that week.

  • Thanksgiving weekend blessed a pair of paved ovals that were about 500 miles apart. Concord Motorsport Park in North Carolina hosted the Pro All Star Series’ season finale. A beautiful day dawned as the PASS Late Models raced for 200 laps and crowned their season champions. Meanwhile, Wall Stadium in New Jersey staged the 38th annual Turkey Derby featuring the Northeast pavement modifieds and enjoyed weather as good as Concord
  • The same type of Late Models that thrilled the Concord crowd were in action the following weekend in arguably their biggest race of the year, the Snowball Derby. Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida unveiled the 44th running against a chamber of commerce weather backdrop and a packed grandstand. A $22,500 winner’s prize for 300 laps is a decent description of a big event.
  • Indiana promoters knew better than to roll the dice against Mother Nature in December. The Memorial Coliseum Expo Center was the perfect ingredient for midget cars to run the Rumble in Fort Wayne for midget cars. Staged over the last two nights of 2011, Stewart did not sit on his NASCAR laurels and swept both main events.
  • The first full weekend of January saw the Southeast Late Model crowd showing their anxious ways. Three tracks opened their ticket booths and concession stands before the New Year was a week old. The Red Eye 100 in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, the Ice Bowl at Talladega, Alabama’s dirt track, and the Shriner’s Bowl at Lanier Speedway in Georgia went two-for-three in the winter racing department. Lanier was the only one rained out.
  • As this is written, the Chili Bowl is grinding out their five nights of competition in Tulsa Oklahoma’s Expo Center. The midgets duel on the indoor quarter-mile dirt track with 267 entries whittled down to the final night’s 24 car A-main. This race has grown to become one the biggest short track races on the calendar.
  • January ends with a return to Lanier Speedway for another Late Model weekend and the opening of Speedweeks. The Grand Am sports cars tackle the high banks and infield road course in the 24 Hours of Daytona, a traditional end-of-the-offseason benchmark.
  • The Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City brings in three-quarter Midgets for another indoor event that grows every year in its young existence. February’s first weekend goes green with drivers gambling on the early season win. A sister event in Providence, Rhode Island is held in March.
  • This time of year there is naturally talk about the Superbowl. The one racers will follow a little more is not the one in the football world. Golden Isles Speedway in Georgia opens their year with the Superbowl for dirt late models. This $10,000 to win race makes a nice stop for short trackers on their way to Florida.

Then the cycle has completed. Daytona-area racing on the big track and short tracks begins the following weekend. Ah… my kingdom for a motorcoach and an expense account.

What offseason?

(Patrick Reynolds is a former professional NASCAR team mechanic who hosts Motorweek LIVE! on RacersReunion Radio Mondays at 7pm ET/ 4pm PT)