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Bobby Kimbrough: Inversions Are A Three Sided Topic

We’ve all been there, a fast car that sets a fast lap or wins a heat race gets moved to the back, or at least several rows behind the pole. This happens routinely in dirt track racing. You don’t usually see inversions in asphalt circle track or road racing. You don’t even see it in the off road stuff. It’s pretty much a dirt track phenomenon.

Whether it’s fair to take the fastest qualifier or heat race winner and move them to the back or not is a matter of opinion. You can look at it from three different sides, each with a perspective of what’s good for them. I promise you, the driver doesn’t see things exactly the same way as the promoter or the fans. Sometimes the fans don’t see things the same way as the promoter does. Having said that, let’s examine each one of these groups and how they feel about race inversions.

The Driver and Crew

Are we punishing drivers by sending them to the back? (image credit: Stan Hansen Photography )

You don’t have to think very hard to guess what the driver and his crew thinks about inversions. Step in his shoes for a minute. You work hard all week getting your car ready for the next race. Part of that preparation is getting out the track notes and comparing them to the same weather conditions and track conditions that you are going to be facing at the next race.

If you’ve done a good job and recorded all the information that you should have post race, then you have a pretty good idea of what changes you want to make for the next race. This experience and amount of detail is what gets you the fast time and wins you heat races. Is it fair that this level of work be rewarded with a starting spot in the rear?

You won’t see NASCAR taking the fastest driver during qualifying and make them start in the rear unless they change an engine before race day. Can you imagine what Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and the other superstars would say?

Most dirt track drivers don’t think inversions are fair. They might tell you that starting in the back is a challenge, and it really makes them feel good to win from the back, but the truth is something different. Let’s say you get to the track and it’s not a racey track. There will be little passing, if any. Just how many of those starting in the back on a track like that have the real chance to win? Drivers can be as politically correct as they want, but unless the track is tacky fast, they won’t be moving to the front from the back. Inversions should only be considered on tracks where there is a couple driving lines and passing is common. Otherwise the fans will get treated to a lot of spins via bumpers.

The Promoter

The promoter's job is to put on a good show, but when the fastest qualifier has to start at the rear, is that fair? (Photo by Mike Adaskaveg)

Lets face it, we tend to give promoters a hard time, but they have one of the most difficult jobs in dirt racing. And whether or not to choose to run inversions only adds to their dilemma. By choosing to have inversions or not the promoter is going to make someone unhappy. But ultimately that is his job.

The promoter’s job is to put on a good, entertaining show. How much fun is it for the fans when the front runners take off from the pack and lap the field in 8 laps? People are in those stands to see passing and side by side racing for position. The promoters believe that if you move the fastest cars to the rear, you will guarantee more passing and maybe even a few more wrecks. With the faster cars starting in the rear, the chances of a fan favorite getting caught up in someone else’s wreck are greater. This adds some emotion and drama to the mix. In the minds of most promoters, inversions are in the best interests of the show.

The Fans

image credit:Skagit Speedway

Dirt track racing fans are pretty educated in racing and they have a strong sense of right and wrong. In short, there is very little gray in their world. It’s either black or it’s white. In the case of inversions, many fans see it as a bad thing.

To many die hard fans, if you earned fast qualifier, you deserve to be in the front, and that is that. Taking the fastest qualifier, especially one of the fan favorites, and moving him to the back is pure satanic. Now let that driver get stuffed in the wall while trying to pass a slower car and the see what the fans have to say.

Do the fans get rewarded with side by side racing? Perhaps, but the hardcore fans would seemingly prefer to let racers race and may the fastest car start in the front and may the fastest car with the best skilled driver win.

Final Word

Scott Bloomquist has been pretty vocal about inversions, or his displeasure with inversions. According to Bloomquist, the fans are not getting to see the true winner of a race. “Yes, the show exists. You don’t have to (invert) to make a show. People come to the track to see the fastest guy win, not to watch someone get penalized and overcome their penalty,” said Bloomquist. In that vein of thinking, Bloomquist is saying that the practice is definitely not the best practice for the drivers, promoters or even the fans.

Let me add one more thought to the question of inversions: Let’s suppose that you have a visiting driver to your track that is unfamiliar with the track’s normal conditions and he struggles during qualifying and heat racing but the team works on the car and by the time the feature rolls around, the driver has a fast setup. In the feature, the cars that were quicker during qualifying and heats are moved to the back and the driver that struggled but found a wicked fast setup is moved to the front. During the feature this driver pulls away from everyone and leads from flag to flag, never being seriously challenged for the lead.

Did the inversion process work for the best practice of the show or did it ruin the show? Let us know how you feel about inversions by leaving a comment below.

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