EASTABOGA, AL-Rarely do teams following the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car campaign enter a weekend with a mostly blank notebook.
The schedule is filled by tracks that have hosted The Greatest Show on Dirt dozens of times and even a few that have cleared 100 races.
However, this weekend, the competitors and crews face a unique challenge in the form of Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL) and Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS). The tracks have combined to host only 12 races – 11 at Talladega and a single visit to The Mag. Even the 11 nights at the Alabama oval occurred before most of the current roster’s time. Only three of 2023’s full-timers have turned Talladega laps in World of Outlaws competition. Of those three, only one of them has raced there with the Series more than once.
While this fact might create a puzzle for some, it can also present opportunity for the younger, less experienced drivers. Robbie Price and Noah Gass have spent much of the past two seasons visiting racetracks for the first time. Like many who sign in on Friday, the young duo will be debuting at Talladega. Gass has made Magnolia laps as it’s the site of Series debut in 2021, and it’ll be another new track for Price.
Going to racetracks for only the first or second time against the nation’s top Sprint Car drivers is always a daunting task. And even though that challenge still presents itself this weekend for Price and Gass, they’ll at least hit the track knowing their competition doesn’t have hundreds of more laps than them.
“Yeah, I definitely think it helps a little bit,” Price said of the more even playing field. “Hopefully, going into this weekend we can adapt a little bit quicker… We’ll see, though. I’ve watched some videos on the places, but we’ll just have to wait and see once we get there.”
“It does bring some satisfaction to know that you have a notebook and confidence in the setup and knowing what not to do,” Gass noted. “For guys like us – me, Cody (Cordell), and Robby (McQuinn), it’s tough sometimes because we’ve only been to most of these tracks once and some of them not at all.”
The obstacle that Gass mentioned is one nearly every team in the pit area will face this weekend. From the time the green flag flies in hot laps, crew chiefs will have pens handy ready to fill the empty notebook pages while the drivers jot down their own mental observations. With that said, how do those behind the wheel approach an unfamiliar track like many will during the two-night southern tilt?
“You watch hot laps, and then you run if off in there and hope it sticks,” Gass said with a chuckle. “You just kind of feel it out and see how you can make yourself faster. You see if you can find some banking in places or grip or whatever. You try not to overthink it and you just go.”
For Price, he has the benefit of 15-time World of Outlaws Feature winner, Jason Sides, in his corner as the car owner and crew chief. The Bartlett, TN native moved into the different role last season, allowing Price to climb aboard. With more than 1,000 Series starts under his belt, Sides has seen many tracks on many occasions, including eight starts at Talladega.
“It’s really good,” Price said of Sides’ help. “Obviously, every track is a little bit different. There’s always one little deal you kind of have to figure out at every place, whether it’s a part to be on the track or a point on the wall to aim at. So, it’s kind of a little shortcut for me with him being able to point some of that stuff out for me right away. I don’t have to learn necessarily the hard way.
“It helps, for sure, him having been to a lot of places we go to now. I’d say it’s a big advantage.”
While both Gass and Price may both agree to some extent on this weekend’s unique set of circumstances making them a little more comfortable in terms of a smaller experience gap, they agree even stronger on something else.
Price is amid his rookie World of Outlaws campaign, and Gass is navigating his second. Their racing careers and early experience on tour have given them the knowledge that the most comfort comes from their own personal laps and not however many they might have compared to the competition.
“Going to new places is always fun, but it’s nice going back to places where you have a notebook already and you know what to expect,” Price said.
“It’s really helpful,” Gass said of having experience. “Especially thinking of Volusia (Speedway Park). We went there five, six or seven nights in a row. It ends up being really beneficial for a feeling. It’s really helpful to just be on the same track over and over and over, figure your throttle out. Even being on the same track, it changes every night, so you’re always learning. It’s nice going back to a track that you have a lot of notes on. It makes Cody confident. I’m confident as a driver. You know it’ll stick when you run it off into the corner.”
For tickets to the Friday, March 24, event at the Talladega Short Track, and the Saturday, March 25, event at Magnolia Motor Speedway, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the tracks, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.