Updated: Oct 7, 2019
In today's 21st century, social media age, everyone is even more entitled to their opinion, than ever before. Whether it's in a Facebook Group, Comment Section, Twitter Thread or below a picture on Instagram, anyone and everyone can have their voice heard, on whatever subject they take issue with. The motorsports industry has not been immune to this change in American culture, and arguments can be made that it has caused just as many negative storylines, as positive.
In the dirt track racing world, we have a lot of strong egos, opinions, and individuals with various visions for the future of our great sport, which is great, but if not handled in the correct manner, has a history of turning negative. In some cases, these social media encounters can be light-hearted, like a debate over whether Sprint Cars or Late Models put on better racing, or if Scott Bloomquist is the greatest driver of all-time, but they can also be about much more serious topics. Discussions over how a track, series or group of officials handled a certain situation, safety elements, an on-track incident or something someone said during an interview, are just a few examples of serious matters that everyone has an opinion on and will fight for hours over, with no logical solution in sight.
One of the most debated topics in dirt track racing over the past number of years has been if popular and successful dirt drivers should take the next step to NASCAR's three national series, or if they should stay put and become grass-roots legends. Superstars like Donny Schatz, Jonathan Davenport, Scott Bloomquist, Billy Moyer, and many others have made a career of competing and dominating in various national touring dirt track racing series, and seem to be very happy and content with their racing lives. Others, like Sammy Swindell, Steve Kinser, Jack Hewitt, Jeff Purvis, Rico Abreu, Brad Sweet, and Bryan Clauson, have gone and competed in NASCAR's top three series or taken their talents to Indianapolis and attempted to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, and then returned to their respective dirt track racing disciplines, full-time. Either way you examine the above, each situation worked itself out the way it was meant to or the way each individual driver wanted it to work out.
Recently, the discussion has been around Dirt Track Racing or Off-Road superstars, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Karsyn Elledge, and Hailie Deegan, who didn't grow up racing traditional forms of the sport, but rather on the off-road circuit, as well as winning on dirt in the NASCAR K&N West Series at Las Vegas and testing a Non-Wing Sprint Car on a few occasions. Some media members have pointed to these drivers feeding into the notion that NASCAR is the superior motorsports series and Dirt Track Racing top divisions are more of a stepping-stone or minor-league option. Others have said competitors like Elledge and Deegan use their name or other aspects of their brand to acquire funding and opportunities behind-the-wheel while using dirt track racing as a boost to other forms of the sport, using personal shots and out-of-bounds language to get their point across.
The bottom line is this; just because it is 2019 and everyone has an opinion, DOES NOT and never will mean it is our job, as the public, to tell these guys and gals which direction to take THEIR career paths. In the end, if someone has a dream or goal to race in NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula One, Formula E or whatever the case may be, they should absolutely do everything they can and have to do, to make those dreams a reality, even if it means stepping out of a dirt track racing ride and into the ladder system to the top step of an asphalt series. Dirt Track Racing is not a "minor league," option for drivers, but it can and always will be used as a possible career stepping-stone to NASCAR or IndyCar, in America.
Whether a driver chooses to take that route, or make a career out of competing in a national touring dirt series, is their choice, and their choice only, because in the end, as racing fans, we get treated to plenty of both. Luckily enough for us, not only do we get to see dirt stars like Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson, and Christopher Bell compete and win in NASCAR's highest level, but those individuals never seem to forget where they came from and always take the time to come back to the dirt ranks to compete behind-the-wheel or take on an ownership rule, giving many job and career opportunities to other, younger individuals wanting to live out their dreams.
We do not take upon ourselves to tell people in other industries how to plan their careers, so the same should apply to dirt track racing drivers, as well as their goals and dreams.
(Unknown Photo, Contact For Credit)