The droop rule has met it's demise! Or, maybe, any two bit hack could close his eyes and produce a good race at Kokomo! Who knows what the rules package will look like in a couple of months? All we can say for sure is that Kokomo Nationals Night #1 was a banger. Tonight should be more of the same.
As an aside, XR is doing so many things right. From their social media presence, to the little production touches on raceXR.plus that promote the drivers, and even running early week shows. I love dirt racing, any time and any place, but its hard to argue that a big money race, with all of the biggest names in attendance, doesn't just feels more exciting when it's the only show in town. Running Monday/Tuesday allows fans to focus solely on XR and that team just keeps hitting dingers when the lights burn brightest.
To make the race even more enjoyable, here are my quick #FantasyDirt thoughts on the Dirt Draft salaries, drivers to watch, and what not.
XR, thankfully, runs a straight up show (i.e. fastest qualifiers start up front). The car count is down a bit from yesterday, with 33 cars registered as of publication, but we will still get split qualifying. If I had to guess, we will only have 4 heats tonight with 4 transfering though to the A-Main. If we stick with 6 heats, then the top three transfer through. If 4 heats, the top 3 in each B-Main will transfer through, only the top 2 if we stick with 6 heats. XR also has a "provisional" for the fastest qualifying time that does not get through from the heats or B-Main.
With that in mind, I am always on the lookout for a driver or two who qualifies exceedingly well compared to their salary. First of all, its just easier to transfer if you start up front. But also, with XR's fastest non-qualifier "provisional" you have a higher chance for these low-salary/fast-qualifying drivers to get A-Main points.
Drivers to Watch
Shane Clanton ($21,800): The Georgia Bulldog is the third highest salary going into tonight. Even so, he's been downright dominate with XR as of late with wins at Belleville and Gondik Law, along with a third at Gondik Law. I don't see any reason why a driver would run better with one series than another, but Clanton has been very good on Monday and Tuesday nights.
Brandon Overton ($21,500): Much of what was said above for Clanton applies to Big Sexy. While Overton hasn't won this year with XR, he's qualified well (Quick Time last night), started towards the front, and finished on the podium (2nd and 3rd at Gondik) recently. Throw on top of that a Late Model Dream title and we've got a pretty hot driver of late. Overton's salary slots him 6th highest overall. While that's a lot to pay, if you can get a top-3 out of it, it's hard to argue against that value.
Jimmy Owens ($21,400): The Newport Nightmare took down a third place finish last night, but is sporting the 7th highest salary. The O Show sounded quite pleased with his ride last night, so I'd expect another solid showing tonight. The ROI will be quite good if we get another podium finish.
Bobby Pierce ($20,700): Assuming the Smooth Operator can get rid of the mechanical gremlins, and his registration today indicates he might have, that haunted him Sunday at Knoxville and again last night, Kokomo just looks and feels like a "Ricky" Bobby track. Before the gremlins, Pierce was leading the Knoxville Nationals. The Hell Tour champion might not have too many laps around this track, but his experience and dominance in the area lead me to believe he can put on a show.
Frank Heckenast Jr. ($20,300): Frankie stormed forward last night from 20th to 11th. If not for BShep's +12, FHJ would have been your hard charger. If we see a bit better qualifying out of Heckenast tonight, Kokomo seems like the type of bullring that suits him well.
Brian Shirley ($19,000): The Squirrel started 12th in last night's feature. Unfortunately, he suffered a DNF. As you might have noticed, I'm of the opinion that drivers who make their hay in the heartland are well-suited to perform well tonight. The 3s certainly fits that bill. With a salary well below the $20,000 average, this feels like a good bet to pick up a top 10 for the 22nd highest salary.
Jake Timm ($18,800): Complete homer pick here. Yeah, I broke out the "Cushion Slamma" merch last night for good luck. Hell yeah, I'm wearing that same shirt as I write this. Last night's 19th finisher is a steal at the 24th highest salary. Jake has a couple big time Modified wins under his belt this year, USMTS and two of three nights at Deer Creek in support of Lucas Oil's Gopher 50. My guy also started 3rd in the USA Nationals. If the track starts out a bit wider tonight, I'm locking the real 49 into my lineup without hesitation.
Kent Robinson ($18,400): K*Rob is from Indiana and his favorite movie is Super Troopers, what else do you need to know?
Every recommendation I make is intended to supplement qualifying positions. In my experience, qualifying position is the single most important factor when selecting drivers. I can be the biggest Superman fan in the world, but if he qualifies dead last, I don't want him on my roster (especially not at his top 3 salary). Generally, I want the fastest guys. They have the best chance of making it through to the Feature. And you got to be in the Feature to win the Feature. Personally, I don't considered it a good investment to select a driver who significantly under qualifies his salary. That driver could, and some even do, drive to the front, but the likelihood is lower. So while I may end up with some, or all, of the drivers mentioned here in my lineup, I may also not take a single one. My goal here is to give a heads up, prerace, on who could end up being a nice value.
Brandon Sheppard is my pick to win tonight. He's sporting the second highest salary. If I'm right, he would be a good value. It's just hard to make a competitive lineup with $21,900 committed to one driver. I'd prefer my roster consist of 2nd - 6th place, than have the winner and a non-qualifier.