Firecracker 100 could require aggression and finesse
Second-year World of Outlaws Late Model driver Morgan Bagley took advantage of a rainout in May to get a few more laps at Lernerville Speedway in preparation of this week's Firecracker 100.
Bagley and his crew were hoping to get a jump on figuring out the track for the three-day event that has, in its brief history, turned into one of the top events in the country.
“It's funny because sometimes we love it, and sometimes we hate it,” Bagley said of three-day shows such as the Firecracker. “This place is a great race track. They do a great job with the facility, and they work hard on things and always give us the best they can.
“Sometimes you come to a track and unload that first night, and you are terrible and you're thinking: ‘When do we get out of this place?' But here, you just keep a good notebook because things can change from day to day.
“If you keep on digging, you can usually get it dialed in,” Bagley, of Longview, Texas, added. “The fans are really great here, and that makes for a great atmosphere. It's just a good place to come and race for a couple days and race for some good money. We like being here.”
Bagley has had decent runs in the past two Firecracker events.
In 2013, he made the 100-lap main event and finished ninth after starting 23rd. He also raced in the two preliminary features finishing 15th and 16th and won one of the B-Mains. In 2012, he failed to make the main event but did win the Uncle Sam 30.
“There are a lot of different approaches that guys can take for this,” said Bagley, who has been in the top-five in Outlaws points most of the season.
“There will be some guys who have a great opportunity to win this race. And their big picture is the $30,000 race. So they can come in and throw whatever they want at the car the first two days to see what works to get ready for Saturday. But there will be 12 of us or so who also are racing for World of Outlaws points every night. So we can't get too far out.”
Drivers always talk about how a racetrack changes during the night. A lot depends on the weather during the event, but another factor is just how much abuse the track takes during the three days.
A look at the Uncle Sam 30 and the Firecracker 100 from last season reveals that there 2,548 laps completed. And that doesn't include the 18 heats, nine B-Mains or the qualifying laps.
“It's definitely a different place to get around because you will see a lot of different tracks in one night,” Bagley said. “Early it can be really fast, and you can see it build up a cushion, so you have to drive really aggressively. Later on, you can see it slow down and be one of the slickest tracks in the country and then you have to show some finesse.”
Bagley has an idea of what he needs to do. Now it's a matter of executing that plan.
“We need to come out of here Thursday or Friday and put down a good qualifying lap, and that will put us in front for a heat race and then run well,” Bagley said. “That will give us a good chance for Saturday's heat race. The way the format is laid out how you perform Thursday and Friday, it impacts how you are on Saturday. We need to put in the effort to get in the shows the first two nights, play with the car a bit to get what helps, and what hurts, because a 30-lap race will be a lot different than 100 laps. What helps the first two nights won't be exactly the same as what will work on Saturday.”
Thomas Zuck is a freelance writer.