CONCORD, N.C. — The sharp end of next year’s World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series season got a big boost this week with the announcement that New Mexico’s Vado Speedway Park will host the tour’s Jan. 2-5 opening act.
The Outlaws will be the first major sanctioning body to invade the state-of-the-art, three-eighths-mile clay oval, a fitting beginning for the facility and for the series as it launches into the new decade.
“We are excited to be the inaugural big event sanctioning body at Vado Speedway Park. It’s an incredible facility and really is exciting from our perspective,” said World Racing Group President and Chief Operating Officer Tom Deery. “It’s also heartwarming that they selected us to christen the track; it’s definitely something that is appreciated by all of us and we hope to put on a great show for the track and for the fans in January.”
The Battle at the Border is an event that World Racing Group officials hope will be much more than just a different locale.
Deery noted that racing at Vado will offer a new flair for drivers as they kick off 2020, as well as offer a stronger bridge between the end of the previous season and the beginning of the new one by shortening the offseason by a full month.
“This new event will certainly give a different feel to the start of the new season,” Deery noted. “Any of our industry observers recognize that this has really become a 12-month-a-year sport, whether you’re talking about sprint car racing or late model racing, largely in part because of all the special events that are happening now.
“In the past, we’ve started the season before the DIRTcar Nationals, with the Winter Freeze at Screven (Motorsports Park) — so it’s not a move that’s unprecedented, by any means,” he added. “It’s been something we’ve experimented with and done in the past. It’s just different now because it’s a few weeks ahead of the usual dates for the Screven races.
“With the ability now to connect with race fans and the desire of our fans to not be disconnected for a couple of months, this gives us a great opportunity to keep that fan relationship strong and present a couple of really great shows.”
The Battle at the Border becomes the fourth major January auto-racing event on the docket for next year, joining the 14th annual Wild West Shootout for dirt late models at Arizona Speedway, the 34th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals for midgets at Oklahoma’s Tulsa Expo Raceway and the recently-announced Sunshine Nationals at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park.
While it was once a month for teams to rest, rebuild and recharge, January has now become one of the busiest racing months on the calendar.
“If you look around, you see the success that has swirled around the Arizona races (the Wild West Shootout) in January, the success of the Chili Bowl (Nationals) and now, the enthusiasm we have with the Sunshine Nationals at Volusia … to have an event in January is not so much of an oddity anymore,” Deery explained. “It’s really something that gives us a chance to highlight our sport to a lot of people who may not always be able to access it at a weekly track somewhere else, but this may give them an opportunity to view it or go to a more friendly climate for a race.”
Deery hopes the Vado event allows the World of Outlaws late model field to tap into a previously-untouched fan base for the series, with next year’s inaugural event becoming the platform to grow the tour’s popularity on the West Coast and beyond.
“Part of the beauty of the January date for this event is that it really is an event that will stand on its own,” Deery said. “We don’t have to worry about booking it or logistical travel or other things like that. That allows us to visit more far-reaching places like New Mexico and come to markets that perhaps we haven’t been able to broach in the past. The New Mexico area is unique, as well, because there are a lot of race fans who have been in that part of the world who have been there for either the two tracks there — El Paso and Las Cruces — or are there for this new facility at Vado Speedway Park.
“We’ve got a built-in customer base there, and then you have all the folks who spend their winters in the Southern climates who just want to see some great racing,” he continued. “It’s just a good mixture and a great opportunity.”