Winged sprint car racing on paved tracks has played an important role in American motorsports for the past 30 years. So while pavement racing for winged sprint cars  isn’t new, it simply hasn’t received a lot of media attention.

Until recently, it has played somewhat of a stepchild role to its dirt sprint car racing counterpart. Winged pavement racing isn’t as plentiful as winged dirt events across the country, and this may be the biggest reasons it remains relatively unknown.

Dirt-track racing had lost some of its pizzazz prior to the NASCAR boom of the 1980s and dirt tracks began switching to paved surfaces across the country in record numbers. USAC was one of the first sprint car sanctioning bodies to take advantage of the renewed interest in pavement sprint car racing. The Indianapolis-based organization added a handful of non-winged pavement events to its national sprint car schedule in 1988 after a seven-year sabbatical from pavement sprint car racing.

Three of the events during that 1988 season were televised live on ESPN and exposed a new generation to a cleaner and just as competitive version of sprint car racing.

The interest and excitement of the 1988 experiment spurred nationwide interest in pavement sprint car racing, and events began appearing in nearly every part of the country. The California Racing Ass’n added them to its 1989 schedule and USAC doubled the number of pavement events it sanctioned.

For the first time, pavement events for winged sprint cars began emerging around the country as well. Prior to 1989, pavement races for winged sprint cars, without the participation of supermodifieds could only be found in Florida under the Tampa Bay Area Racing Ass’n banner.

Winged sprint cars on asphalt are a popular form of racing in Florida. (David Sink Photo)
Winged sprint cars on asphalt are a popular form of racing in Florida. (David Sink Photo)

The 1989 season saw the All Star Circuit of Champions and the Michigan-based Sprints on Dirt add winged pavement events to their schedules with the World of Outlaws following suit in 1990.

Fans instantly took to the new version of sprint car racing. The appearance of the wings was an instant hit with fans. The downforce generated by the wings created great racing as the cars produced breathtaking speeds and shattered track records wherever they went. In addition, car counts were good and winged racing was already the top choice around the country among dirt-track fans.

A lot has changed since winged sprint cars began racing on paved tracks during the late 1980s.

The cars are no longer converted dirt cars with minimal changes made for pavement racing. They are state-of-the-art pavement-only designs. To date, only the Virginia Sprint Series continues to run both dirt and pavement events toward an overall championship. Multiple series have emerged across the country that focus solely on winged pavement sprint car events.

In 2010, Must See Racing was born and brought new interest to winged pavement racing thanks to increased purses and national television exposure. The new 410 series pulled the top teams together and began venturing away from its Michigan home, visiting new venues in the Southeast and on the East Coast.

MSR quickly set the bar for all other winged pavement series across the country.

Prior to the 2008 economic downturn, car counts and purses were solid across the country. It took a few years to catch up, but eventually every winged pavement sprint car series felt the effects of the economy in some form or another.

Car counts began to dwindle and promoters no longer could afford the purses the sanctioning bodies required. Dates began to disappear across the country and events became few and far between.

Today, four additional sanctioning bodies — King of the Wing, Northwest Sprint Car Racing Ass’n, Southern Sprint Car Shootout Series and the Auto Value Super Sprints  — also play key roles in the winged pavement sprint car racing universe.

Other traveling winged pavement sprint car series include the Washington Econo Sprint Car Organization, Speed Tour, Granite Super Sprints, Western Super Sprints, Gunslingers and the Must See Racing Lights, which is a crate-engine series.

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