“It’s easy to run bad out here and it’s hard to run good,” analyzed Wells. “We’ve been good in the traction, but when the track slicks off we gotta get it together. It ain’t happened yet, but that’s what we’re learning out here.
“What’s important is making all the races and being able to finish the feature so you get every lap in that you can. Every time we’re on the track we learn something. You gotta take good notes, compare tracks to other tracks and make the best of it.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to have some good runs this year and even win a race,” he added. “That definitely boosts your morale, but when you get a good run and then go to the track the next night and can’t back it up, that’s a little disheartening. You wonder, ‘What did we do wrong? The car’s the same, but we were totally off.’ That’s where being a rookie and having to learn to adjust the car and adjust as a driver from track-to-track to get consistent runs is difficult on us.”
Bagley’s learning curve has been even steeper than Wells’s. He quickly found success – he won the 2011 SUPR Late Model Series championship and scored 10 full-fender feature wins over the past two years, including a $10,000 ‘Wild West Shootout’ victory in January 2012 at Arizona’s Tucson International Raceway – but took to the WoO LMS trail with no delusions of grandeur.
“I was warned this wasn’t gonna be no easy deal,” Bagley said of the WoO LMS. “And I’ve raced plenty and know this is a very humbling sport, so I knew it wasn’t gonna be easy by no means. I knew that if I could just come out here, put my mind to it and race the whole year, and no matter what happens not drop off and not give up – just weather the storm – that it would make me a better racer.
“That’s what I’m trying to do. In the future, I want to be able to contend for crown jewels and championships. To do that it’s gonna take getting through this rookie year, these first years.”
Pushing onward through the inevitable tough outings on unfamiliar turf has been a challenge for Bagley, but it’s given him a clear picture of what it takes to be a professional dirt Late Model driver.
“You gotta give the guys who have done it for awhile some respect,” said Bagley, praising the WoO LMS veterans. “When things are going good it’s easy going up and down the road to race. You’re having fun, enjoying yourself. But whenever you have some bad nights and you have to keep on digging, that’s definitely what’s gonna separate the cream of the crop.
“One good thing is that I got some good people helping me with (chief mechanic) Randall (Edwards) and Nick (Hoover). They’ve been traveling awhile, so anytime you get down they’ll tell you, ‘This —- don’t happen overnight.’ And they’re right – all these guys have been doing this for 20 years plus, so when you go out and compete with ‘em it’s good – and when you fall on your face you can’t use it as an excuse. You can be like, ‘Let’s let that one slide and try again the next day.’”
Bagley certainly can see the light at the end of the tunnel. He understands the focus of his rookie season.
“It costs a lot of money to run up-and-down the road,” said Bagley, “and I think as long as we can make the shows and get up there and be competitive, finish the features and not tear up stuff, it makes it a lot easier on the car owners. When they say, ‘Hey, are you learning anything?’ you can say, ‘Yeah, we’re learning. We’re putting it in the trailer in one piece every night.’ When you get out there and you’re not competitive, and night after night you just struggle and you’re living off food stamps back there and tearing stuff up, that’s when it gets hard on the car owners. They’re not gonna want to keep funding a program like that.
“We’re definitely aware of what we need to do this year. Learning how to adapt to any situation, any condition, comes with a lot of bad nights, but the bad nights are what make the good nights good nights. Whenever you have a bad night you have to remember what it feels like and just go in there for the next race with a positive attitude.
“Those good nights at least let you know you can do it. It definitely ain’t happening too many times in a row, but those good runs keep you running. They keep a little fuel on the fire.”