The ARCA Midwest Tour season starts on Sunday afternoon at Madison International Speedway for the Joe Shear Classic. The race will once again be a two-hundred lap affair with $10,000 going to the winner, and it has attracted the best drivers from around the country.
Speed51 will broadcast the Joe Shear Classic, along with every other ARCA Midwest Tour event in 2019, as the "Official Streaming Partner of the ARCA Midwest Tour." The race will be available at no extra cost to Premium Members of the Speed51 Network.
ARCA Midwest Tour and Madison International Speedway owner Gregg McKarns called into Speed51's "The Morning Bullring" on Monday to talk about the season opener.
The Joe Shear Classic has taken an even bigger role in recent years. Not only is it the season opener for the ARCA Midwest Tour and Madison International Speedway, the race saved the track from being closed down for good a few years ago.
“It’s an important event from Madison International Speedway standpoint because at one point, Madison was going to cease to exist and an email got sent from Reno, Nevada to Terry Kunes who owned the track saying let us lease the track for one month and let us give the track a proper farewell,” he said. “That email was to make sure the Joe Shear Classic would happen one last time and we ended up purchasing the track, which we had talked about previously but negotiations had fallen apart. It’s an important event we put a lot of stress on because it does kick off the ARCA Midwest Tour season and our season at Madison.”
The Joe Shear Classic has gone through some changes over the years. The race had been a 100-lapper throughout most of its history before the race was extended to 200 laps in 2017. With the increased amount of laps and the payday for the winner, it has attracted some of the top stars from the Midwest and beyond, and it is expected once again on Sunday.
“Over the years it’s been a hundred-lapper, and then a few years ago we made it into a 200-lap race with controlled pit stops,” McKarns said. “Last year we made it into a $10,000 to win race and we brought it back. Every year, we try to make it bigger and better. This year, we’re offering a free set of tires to the first twenty teams, it looks like it will be thirty-seven, thirty-eight teams. There’s a couple stragglers that will come one, so I won’t be surprised if we see forty, but I think the upper thirties is a more realistic car number.
“We got the top Midwest Tour stars are coming back," added McKarns. "Then you throw in Ty Majeski who just finished fourth in the ARCA race at Talladega. Bubba Pollard has indicated he is coming up and he about won the thing last year before he had the mechanical mishap. I’m excited to see the new class develop and the veterans keep up on their winning ways.”
While the rest of the country has begun their racing season, the upper Midwest has yet to see very much racing. Just this past weekend, four inches of snow fell in the state of Wisconsin in a rare April snowstorm. McKarns joked about the weather on The Morning Bullring.
“We got four inches of snow at the track Saturday and then it cleared Sunday afternoon, but it made us cancel our street drag we were supposed to have Sunday at Madison,” he said. “The grounds are clear and all efforts are going forward and we’ll be ready Sunday for the Joe Shear Classic. I’m over forty now, so I’ve gotten wise and realized snow usually melts in the spring, so there’s no point in getting the equipment out and clearing it. Mother Nature will handle it on her own.”
McKarns believes part of the reason why the ARCA Midwest Tour has been successful is the series is a reminder of how racing used to be. It is a throwback to what was once the ARTGO Challenge Series, and he tries to model the ARCA Midwest Tour after the racing seen from the former series.
“We just try to keep things simple and stay true to our short track heritage," said McKarns. "We’re race fans first, so we try to put on shows that people want to come see and spend their money on a ticket and be entertained and make sure the caliber of drivers we have is top-notch and we feel we have that. The respect amongst our drivers is second to none and it’s been like that since the 70’s or before, since guys would run six, seven days a week and you had to have your car together. That’s carried forward here to this generation of drivers.
“We take a lot of pride in the shows we put on,” he continued, “whether it’s the Joe Shear Classic 200 that pays $10,000 to win, or it’s the Triple 50’s we’re doing Memorial Day at Kaukauna, or the even what we’re going to be announcing as part of our show at Jefferson. We try to put on shows that are going to keep the fans coming back and the drivers on the edge of their seats as they’re wheeling their machines.”
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