Commentary

Letter from the Editor: Why Gulf Coast Doubleheaders feel like a homecoming

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Who says you can never go home?

This weekend marks the first Southern Super Series Gulf Coast doubleheader of the season — meaning that rounds three and four of the 2017 season will take place on Friday and Saturday at Pensacola 5 Flags Speedway and Mobile International Speedway respectively.

These are hugely special tracks to me because they represent my roots. Before covering NASCAR and IndyCar full-time, I was a young journalist attending classes at the University of South Alabama and covering Super Late Model events at the two historic Gulf Coast venues.

Further, I also worked in media relations at Mobile, crafting press releases while the track was leased out to former Camping World Truck Series contender Rick Crawford. I owe much of my success in recent years to the skills honed while covering the local and regional heroes that turns left at these two historic half-miles.

While there, I was also fortunate enough to cover the likes of Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Daniel Hemric and John Hunter Nemechek while they were teenagers cutting their teeth as junior stock car drivers. Combined with veteran mainstays like Bubba Pollard, Augie Grill, Donnie Wilson and Casey Smith, these races featured a dynamic mix of candid weekend warriors and NASCAR’s future.

I’ve witnessed Elliott’s 2010 MIS track championship, Jones’ back-to-back Snowball Derby wins, Hemric’s ascension from relative obscurity and Nemechek’s full maturation as a driver.

For this reason, Southern Super Late Model racing is perhaps the most underrated motorsports product in the country.

Pensacola features a fast-paced aged racing surface that encourages strategy over pure speed. Those who contend at Five Flags have learned to manage their tires over 100 laps rather than just outpace the competition.

Consider it a smaller Atlanta Motor Speedway. The product it creates is why the annual Snowball Derby attracts and rewards the most talented names in racing.

Meanwhile, Mobile is a high-speed, high-banked half-mile that has featured the biggest names in stock car racing over the past 50 years thanks to its Late Model, ARCA and K&N Pro Series events over its tenure.

So if you’re not watching this kind of racing, you need to start.

The names may be unfamiliar if you’re simply a NASCAR fan or a live outside of the southeast, but they’ll grow on you. The racing is tough, the personalities are politically incorrect and the youngsters have NASCAR ambitions.

You put it all together, and it’s just a fun alternative to the races you see on live national television week-in and week-out. Specifically regarding the Southern Super Series this weekend, both races will have live Pay-Per-View broadcasts by Speed 51 for the same price as a general admission ticket.

Tune in, learn the culture, and prepare for the future — all at once.

About Matt Weaver

Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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