Season Preview: Plenty on the Line as Drivers Steer MIS into 2014 Starting with ARCA Mobile 200

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2014 SeasonOpens

By Chuck Corder

Racing, by its very nature, lends itself to the minutest of details.

From keeping watchful eyes on tire management and fuel conservation to the constant see-saw struggle of honing in loose and tight machines, the margin for error is microscopic.

At its core, though, timing takes on utmost importance.

Planning a full season of racing at Mobile International Speedway is no different.

From whetting fans’ insatiable appetites with heart-stopping action each selected Saturday night during the year to dodging unforeseen and unplanned inclement weather, there’s always an emphasis on timing.

The first act of a jam-packed 2014 season at MIS kicks off this weekend with the third annual ARCA Mobile 200.

“The ARCA Mobile 200 sets the tone for the year,” Tommy Praytor, the event’s promoter, said. “Everybody is there to have good time. And it’s a chance for fans, once a year, to see Sprint-style racing in Mobile. And the fans turn out in droves.”

They’ll start to flock to the half-mile oval beginning Friday night when weekend festivities get underway with the Menards Pole Qualifying for more than 30 ARCA cars and feature races for the Bob’s Speed Shop Sportsmen (50 laps) and the Island Motor II Bombers (25).

Tickets are at a premium, but still available by calling Praytor Collectibles at 251-343-2929.

“It would’ve never occurred to me that this could develop into what it has become in a very short time,” said Praytor, who was instrumental in getting ARCA to stop along the Gulf Coast. “I’ve seen some people on the Internet say that this is ARCA’s premier short track race, and we’re only in our third year! That’s cool stuff.”

But not the only cool stuff in store for MIS this year with 13 additional Saturdays currently slated to host door-to-door action through Sept. 20.

The regular season opens next Saturday with the 95KSJ 95 lapper, a special distance for the Pro Late Models.

That night two-time champion Josh Bragg will begin defense of the PLM title he hoisted at the end of last year.

The month of April begins in wild style on April 12 with the once-a-year invasion of the 800-horsepower winged pavement sprints from the Must See Racing Xtreme Car Series.

The folks in the sprints sure put on a spine-tingling show, but it’s just one night. The Miller Lite Super Late Models get four nights to keep fans glued to the edge of their seats when the Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco begins its second year on April 26.

After a rousing inaugural season that saw Daniel Hemric edge short-track stalwart Bubba Pollard by a single point at the circuit’s finale, the SSS hopes an encore is in store.

Local officials have once again taken notice of the family-friendly atmosphere that permeates through MIS each Saturday night of racing.

That’s why the Mobile Sports Authority along with the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau will ramp up its presence in 2014.

“At the end of day, my job is to bring visitors to town through sporting competition,” said MSA Executive Director Danny Corte, who has had a presence in the Mobile sports community for more than 30 years. “We recognize what a gem we have down there at MIS.

“We all seem to be finally pulling the same way. And that’s important if we’re gonna be successful with ARCA and the Southern Super Series. That’s a testament to the work of (MIS officials) Tim Bryant, Bill Roth, Tom Claxton and Tommy Praytor, too.”

And while the ARCA Mobile 200, the winged sprints and the SSS opener gets the season off to a roaring start in the first 35 days, it’s just a microcosm of what’s in store for the remainder of 2014.

Local defending champions Donald Crocker (Modifieds), Oakie Mason (Super Stocks), Jay Jay Day (Pro Trucks), Steve Buttrick (Sportsmen) and B.J. Leytham (Bombers) all hope to find lighting in a bottle and outlast their rivals for another taste of short-track immortality.

It all culminates with a Labor Day weekend spectacular courtesy of the annual Lee Fields Memorial where every class competes across several days of racing.

That’s months away. The upcoming season, though, is poised to drop the green flag this weekend.

Its timing is impeccable.

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