Whether you're new to the track or a lifelong fan, let's take a look at how the race evening unfolds at SPI Tracks.
The night starts off with hot laps. This is simply a test and tune session for the drivers. It gives each car a chance to get out on the track for a handful of laps to make sure everything is working right. Hot laps start shortly after the drivers' meeting followed by the National Anthem. Hot laps aren't scored in any way, aren't mandatory, and any driver can drive any car in hot laps.
The first races in each class are the heat races. These races vary in length from six to ten laps and usually have eight to twelve cars. The cars are lined up in an inverted order from the way they finished the prior week. Cars that didn't qualify for the feature event the week before will start up front, cars that ran in the feature but finished in the back will take the next starting spots, and the cars finished in the top of the feature event will start at the back. This way the fast cars are handicapped - they have to start behind the cars they beat the prior week. Any cars that weren't at the races the prior week have to start behind the cars that were present last week.
The top finishers in the heat races automatically qualify for the A Feature. The A feature is the only race of the night that pays out cash and points. If there are two heat races, the top seven from each heat qualify for the A. Three heat races - the top five qualify. And four heat races - the top four qualify. Although drivers who don't qualify for the A feature don't earn any points for the evening, they do get a pay check, referred to as "tow money".
Typically, if there are twenty-six or less cars in a class, all the cars will start the A feature event. Cars who didn't qualify through their heat races will be lined up behind those who did qualify in the same order they finished their heat races. If there are more than twenty-six cars the non-qualifiers will be lined up in a B Feature(s) in the same order they finished their heat races. The B feature is a last-chance event for a driver to get into the A - and just enought cars are taken from the B feature(s) to fill a twenty-four car field. B features are usually the last races run befor the A features.
Now, the A feature line-up can get tricky, so stick with me on this. The twelve qualified cars with the best finishing positions the week before are inverted to fill the first six rows of the A feature. This means the qualified car who finished the highest the week before will start on the outside in row six, or the twelfth starting position. The remaining qualified cars get the next starting positions. Additionally, if there were three heats, the cars that finished sixth in each heat will line-up next in positions 16 through 18, and if there were four heats the cars that finished fifth will line-up in positions 17 through 20. The remainder of the twenty-four car field will be filled from the B feature(s).
Sometimes unusual circumstances can mess this all up. Late disqualifications, car or driver changes, and other odd events may force lineup changes. Listen to the track announcer for details.
After all the feature events have been completed, feel free to come out onto the track and into the infield to meet the drivers and crews! Buy a t-shirt, get an autograph or two, and thank the drivers for putting on the great show that you see every week at the Farley Speedway, West Liberty Raceway, and the Dubuque Fairgrouds Speedway.