There are four things Steve Francis takes into consideration when making the call to cancel a World of Outlaws Late Model Series race: travel plans, whether it makes financial sense for the race teams, the enjoyment of race fans and, the obvious, weather.
When the series director looked at the forecast for this weekend at the two upcoming tracks on the schedule — Smoky Mountain Speedway in Tennessee and Georgia’s Boyd’s Speedway — and saw rain, all four elements pointed to cancellation.
“We knew it was a gamble scheduling at Smoky Mountain in early March,” Francis admitted. “We’ll still want to do an event there and are looking for dates and places that make sense.”
Six World of Outlaws Late Model Series races have been bitten by weather so far this year, leaving Francis with the responsibility to search for make-up dates later in the season. However, with a bit of juggling, Francis is optimistic it can be done.
Since he joined the series this year, the newly-appointed director of competition has done his part to help usher in a new era of competition for the dirt late model series. As a past competitor, Francis has used his wise eye to make effective changes to the tour.
The whole world might’ve changed since he last won a World of Outlaws late model race — which was in 2010 — but Francis hasn’t forgotten what it was like to chase a championship.
Steve Francis wheels the No. 15 dirt late model in 2017, his last year of racing. (Michael Moats photo)
He collected the World of Outlaws title in 2007 and owns 28 series victories.
Throughout his racing career, Francis kept tabs on certain criticisms and ideas he’s had regarding the competition structure of dirt late model racing that have recently come in handy for his new role.
When he came on board with the Outlaw crew late last year after working in a similar capacity with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, there were two primary concerns on his hit list.
The first was to make the travel schedule make logistical sense to the series regulars.
“We’re going to start trying to tie three and four-day weekends together for our racers, teams and fans. It makes the travel easier,” Francis said. “You don’t want to go from Tennessee to South Dakota to Georgia in a three-week span. Diesel fuel’s not cheap anymore.”
Adding more “swings” through states on the racing calendar was one change that Francis played a key part in making happen this year. The second was to spread the purse money and wealth through the field in order to create financial stability for the top 15 teams.
“If you look at all of our purses, we added a lot of money, but we didn’t add money to anything in first place. We added money basically from second to about 15th,” Francis said. “You have to have more than three or four healthy teams.”
When Francis would decided where he was going to race during his career, he evaluated what the race paid to win, what fifth-place earned, what 10th-place took home and what a certain event paid to start.
“A win was a great night, fifth to 10th was OK and start money was, ‘Well, at least we can afford to eat this week,’” Francis said.
His goal as series director was to set up the series to carry 15 to 18 full-time teams up and down the road and send 15 happy drivers home at season’s end. With 22 drivers on the roster this season, it appears Francis has done his job.
The World of Outlaws Late Model Series field is scheduled to hit the dirt at Illinois’ Farmer City Raceway on March 31 and April 1, with the races paying $8,000 and $25,000-to-win.
Keyword: Francis Focuses On Creating Healthy WoO LM Teams