COR Antigo Wrap

stephenrjking

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The season is here! Took my son to Antigo for the first time.

The fan experience: B-minus

Mixed bag, actually. There was a feud between the Lions and a local entrepreneur who was selling competing parking spaces (that were indistinguishable from "official" parking to those, like me, from out of town) and sending his customers to the Lions parking area shuttle; they responded by forbidding their shuttle bus driver from transporting anyone walking from that parking area, which meant that we were turned away for doing something that we didn't know was wrong. It wasn't a huge walk but that was annoying off the bat. Then, at the gate, I was thankful to have brought cash (I often don't) as they didn't accept credit cards and literally turned a guy away since the only ATM was on property. And I found the concession prices to be disappointingly high. On a really hot day it's a pretty rough thing to charge $3 for a bottle of water, etc.

So my initial impression was actually kind of frosty; a pity. The rest of the day was fine. The pro truck pits were behind the grandstand and reasonably accessible, but unfortunately everybody else, including some pro SxS teams (I couldn't find Chaney's pit and I wanted to congratulate him for winning KOH) were on the other side of the track. The multipurpose building didn't have a ton in it, but it was a cool shaded place to sit and that turned out to be nice on a very hot day. The drivers were, of course, great--talked to CJ a fair amount, and I wound up chatting with Doug Mittag engagingly enough that he offered me a water and had one of his own with me.

The grandstand was nice, no question about it. I should have known it would be a lot louder than other tracks, but oh well. You can view almost the entire track from most of the permanent and temporary grandstand seats; my only complaint was that in the single race that I sat in the temp grandstand, the video board was hard to see and the PA was inaudible. But obviously the visibility of seating was top-notch overall.

The track: C-minus

It's a dirt oval with an infield section. I appreciated the effort made on the Cooper Tire turn to increase the radius and make it "racier," and it sort of worked on the second day, but overall the track was what it was. Passing was tough, and track position mattered a great deal; the best passing area, the first turn into the infield, produced a lot of incidents of varying severity. Some was just the pressure of being a turn where outbraking is possible, but I think some of the issue was the trickiness of the layout. The rhythm section on the second half of the infield basically eliminated passing opportunities in the turn back onto the main track, since vehicles had to maintain similar speeds to clear the bumps in proper sequence. The infield turn was very difficult for passing except for the spectacular Greaves-Leduc maneuver Sunday afternoon in the Pro-4 race.

So, the track was kind of "meh" to me. But I could see all of it and that's a big positive.

Sanctioning body stuff: A-minus

So, some changes: I am cautiously in favor of the move to timed races so long as it doesn't rob us of good racing. One of the annoying thing about the last couple of years was the depressing frequency with which an announcer would be surprised that the white flag was waved; one could never accurately trust the lap counts, and after a couple of delays the race lengths were changed anyway. This, at least, gives a pretty fair shake to all series while still keeping times somewhat under control, and though the races are longer there this is a regular practice in Motocross/Supercross and doesn't rankle. I give it a thumbs up.

Qualifying is getting tossed this year, with fields being chosen by points after the first race, with a guaranteed shuffle. I'm mixed on this a bit. I think it's great to guarantee competition without banging up cars early in the day, but I worry that drivers that are low in points after a bad weekend will find that their bad results spiral and they never get a chance, in these large fields, to get a good result and change their position. Of course, I was in part worried that Kyle Chaney would suffer such a snowball effect from his Saturday DNF and it took him 3 whole laps to take the lead and check out, so maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. Anyway, this has the potential to be great, and it has the potential to be frustrating to mid and low-pack drivers.

Race management: Some in the know might have a better picture of this than me, but I remember a few years ago when UTV races were crash-fests and they'd have three or four caution periods that compounded each other with the tight restarts encouraging more caution periods. Last year, at least, and certainly this year, there seems to be a higher emphasis on rescuing vehicles without throwing yellows. It makes me nervous at times that a guy is going to get hurt when there doesn't appear to be a local yellow near where they're working, but it sure has kept the vehicles racing and that's been a positive. Just, makes sure the local yellows are out, please?

The production continues to improve. The social media highlight posts are very good this year, and they even had an actual both shot of Brent and Cheyne. I appreciate COR making effort to make the show look professional, and I hope that viewership and social media impressions follow.

The racing: B

There were some highlights, but passing was difficult and some of the races were more processional. It is what it is.

CJ has a rival in pro stock in Heger. Heger spent most of Saturday fighting his way to the front, but even though CJ won going away it was clear that Heger was fast, and he proved it today. In Pro Mod I was all ready to say that things are wide open, but maybe Chaney is actually just toying with the field, because he crushed everyone on Sunday. Still, there are multiple guys that can win, and that's what you want.

I am astonished at how big the Pro Lite field is. I thought maybe a bunch of guys like Rayford would go to the spec class, but it was just Ryan Beat running alone, with every other Lite just out there having fun. Alas, Heger is the class of the field here. Kyle Greaves and Cole Mamer are also fast, as they were last year, and I hope to see them take some races, but Heger was driving a different race than everyone else this weekend.

Really does a disservice to the truck fields in Pro-2 and Pro-4 to observe that both disciplines were swept this weekend. The Pro-2 field is amazing and spectacular, and there are good battles to see all over the track. It was remarkable watching proven race winners having it out for multiple laps Saturday in a battle... for sixth. In this environment, a top 5 is a real accomplishment. It's not just volume, there are lots of guys with terrific, competitive trucks racing out there, really well.

And through it all, Keegan somehow won twice. Sunday was the easy winner for best pro race of the weekend, but even before Keegan's shocking pass on Brooks (who looked like he has the fastest truck, as he did last year) the action was outstanding and even Mickey Thomas kept threatening the lead before his disappointing setback. Rarely has a race for second been so gripping as the Kleimann-Brooks battle after Keegan took first. I don't know how much footage they get to show in the CBS Sports show, but if they only get to show one full race, this is the one to show.

And Pro-4. Well, uh, it was CJ winning, just like every other post-TORC race, or something.

Not really, of course. Races of attrition. The drama Sunday in the middle of the race was at least quite gripping, CJ and Kyle picking back up from last year with that amazing side-by-side pivot around the Cooper turn, the moment of the weekend. A shame Kyle broke down both days. The field is slightly stronger with Mittag back in town, though we could still use another "regular" truck or two. Certain weekends, of course, will have several more.

So there were some good races and some meh races. Really, though, the thing that stands out about the races is: oh man, look at all those trucks!

Overall impression:

Racing was good. View was good. Some fan things to nitpick.

But there was a full crowd (especially for the pro-4 race Saturday, good night) and live racing and huge fields and a full season schedule. Off Road is on and it's awesome.

Grade: A++
 

handmethemic

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I had a parking/gate entry snafu on Friday as well (had to drive past a security guard, against his wishes, while he yelled to stop--don't worry, I apologized later) and had to pay for parking on Saturday. Not a huge gripe, but I'll definitely agree that they could've been much better organized on that front.

The track did create some phenomenal racing (though the huge fields obviously play a big part there as well), but it was somehow too tame for pros while being too rough on some of the youth classes. I actually like the "oval + infield" layout, as it provides a classic-feeling "throwback" experience for us fans who have been around a long time and it provides a nice contrast to all the other tracks on the tour. I think there's always room on the schedule for one bullring-type track, and Antigo has potential (and space) to reach the peak of what a bullring track can be.

Every class (Short Course Kart on up to Pro 4) has so many competitive drivers this year (and yes, I know that Brent and I talked about it non stop) that I don't think we'll see anyone run away with a points championship, and there won't be many "always on the podium" drivers, especially in the full size SxS classes and all the truck classes.

Looking ahead, I think this year is one we'll look back on fondly for a long time.
 

Slash01z

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Well that was quite the weekend. Many different opinions and views I'm sure from all who attended or participated. Stephen cover almost everything above so just some additional insight from me.

Parking. I heard a lot of complaints about parking even from some Antigo locals that work with me. I saw the parking situation and in my opinion this was a mistake not by the event but the individual who would decide to park there in those fields. Like i did for years back in the day parking across from the fairgrounds in the residential area is clearly the most convenient. Its free and is a closer walk then anywhere else and there was plenty of room left and nobody else seemed to go this route so I blame the attendees not the event on this one.

The fairgrounds As a whole are very nice and I can only imagine the teams were happy with it. For most the pros and the lucky sportsmen the entire front area is paved or nice grass so this has to be welcoming. As for the other sportsmen the back area was no different then a bark river or Crandon. While the grandstands aren't the biggest the shade that was provided certainly was welcomed!

The Track Honestly i expected it to be worse. Originally it seemed extremely skinny but that eventually widened out. If they go back they need to remove the horse corral that doesn't get used enough/at all anymore to justify it so the infield can be spread out more. The distance between the rhythm section and turn 3/tabletop was just not safe and the thinking to use the little k rail they had in spots that it was not needed vs that area shows lack of knowledge. Yes the rythem section is a tough one as classes range so much in speed you could never build one that suits every class but i thought overall it worked. The facility really doesn't get used any more so the entire weekend i was thinking old Corr days and Pomona fairgrounds and digging down the infield 180 to replicate "the big dig" from that track that would be awesome plus they could use the removed dirt for other parts of the track.

Water truck guy Yes he gets his own section as he was the biggest clown of the weekend. First off he doesn't know how to operate the truck itself and struggled through out the entire weekend. Next he obviously doesn't understand how clay works as to watch him repeatedly flood the already pooling water on the clay surface where its not going to be absorbed was amazing. He basically ruined the racing for many classes on Saturday.

Track crew First i have to give them credit as i wouldn't want to go in half those scenarios but really guys you all have been doing this for years! If a truck is flipped over your obviously 9/10 times going to hook the strap up and pull it back over. Knowing this why would you drive nose up to the vehicle and then painfully try and make a 90 point turn to then back up to it with your tow strap. There should be 3 people in every recovery vehicle... One jumps out and immediately checks the driver at the same time the other can be hooking up the tow strap. Also recovery vehicles should be quick and easily maneuverable not these long box crew cabs that have the turning radius of a school bus... The utility utv seemed to work very well for the utv and smaller buggys classes and seems to be a way to go as its fast and maneuvers easily and being a stronger workhorse style has plenty of power. Im all for staying green as much as possible so making it easier for the track crew is a must.

Racing Ops It seems as if almost every racing discipline is slowly moving over to timed races but they have it figured out and champ does not yet.. I get the point of it for events like supercross where tracks change from 40 seconds a lap to 50sec it gives all the fans an equal amount of racing no matter the venue. This wont work here. First 12 min at a track like Crandon or bark river will only offer 7 laps to begin with.. Now take away a solid 2 minutes for the comp caution your down to 5 laps and that's on a good day... At big tracks like that one full track yellows now makes your race 2 laps which is just a disgrace not only to the fans but the racers... I'm fine with the timed events but please learn from the disaster this weekend and stop the clock during comp yellow, full course yellows or reds...

Racing Overall I thought all the racing was good. For the most part all classes had good to great car counts and being the first race of the year i can only see it staying if not rising a little through out the year at other events.. All the sportsman classes bring great racing and while everyone has there own opinion on UTV racing if you provide a class with 25 cars im never going to complain and its keeping the series healthy.. Pro 2/ lite... You basically have every single truck that exists in the country and its gonna be a great year. pro 2 has 5-10 guys that have the ability to win and prolite probably has 5. The bigger tracks will be fine but shorts tracks like this weekend and dirt city its almost to many trucks especially with the range of ability/speed. It almost turned into a demo derby at some points throught the weekend in these 2 classes and thats just not what the sport is... That Saturday pro lite race i have never seen so much lapped traffic be a factor in offroad racing... While nothing can ever be compared to the final few years of corr with the talent and truck counts then I would have to admit that this is going to be one heck of a year with plenty of battles and I'm sure plenty of anger! lol Pro 4 should be OK when everyone decides to race and there are 10 out there otherwise it just doesn't have the excitement the others have.

Overall I think its going to be a great year. I do however think its almost an opportunity year to build the sport back up to a level it hasn't seen since Corr. With live stream CBS tv and all the drivers support from every coast here its now on the series to do there part and show the capabilities offroad still has to offer!
 
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I had the same issue with parking. When I got there (Saturday), the shuttles were still actually stopping at the crossover between the two fields to pick people up. Had no idea I wasn't in official parking until the way back, when the shuttle driver was grumbling about dropping us off there. If the Lions have a problem with the guy selling parking and sending people to their shuttles, then take it up with him. Don't treat the fans like we are purposely screwing them over. Clearly the majority of us had no idea we weren't where we thought, largely because the signage of where the official track parking was and how to get there was terrible.

I agree concessions were high for a place like Antigo, especially the water. Though the burgers and sandwiches were quite good and probably a cut above regular track food quality-wise.

Racing was good for the most part (I was only there Saturday). Pro 2 turned out to be a good race. Pro 4 could have been but attrition kept taking everyone in contention out except CJ. Was really excited to see the last lap shootout that was shaping up between Johnny and CJ after Johnny had rolled and had hardly any bodywork on his truck, so was bummed when he pulled off just when he pulled close enough to start putting serious pressure on. 7 trucks isn't a bad field for that class, in the first race of the season, at a new event that doesn't have a very high profile at this point, but a couple more would/will definitely help. Breakage and wrecks because of how hard those guys push it are going to take out 3-4 trucks regularly. Good news is we know there are at least a couple more out there so that should get better as the season goes on.

I agree that the track crews are pretty ballsy when helping with wrecks. In the pro truck classes they seemed a little more likely to throw full course yellows at least. It's nice to keep things moving as long as nothing happens. Hope the insurance man never decides to drop in at a race. And leaving stranded vehicles scattered along the track- I understand, a short course tradition- gets a little hairy sometimes too. Cenni almost full-speed clobbered that other car sitting there when he ran off the track in the whoops section in the sxs race.

Lastly, other than the top 3 pro classes (and maybe super stock), this is definitely becoming a sxs sport. I don't love it, but I get it. And it's probably the logical path forward. Now with the kids and bigger kids sxs classes, I've got to figure that will put a dent in the kart/mod karts. And set those kids and teams on the path of keeping with sxs vs trucks or buggies, unless and until they jump into one of the big 3 classes.
 

Curtis Guise

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Here are some photos that @havahockey shot yesterday. We will have more up on the homepage soon.

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handmethemic

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Lastly, other than the top 3 pro classes (and maybe super stock), this is definitely becoming a sxs sport. I don't love it, but I get it. And it's probably the logical path forward. Now with the kids and bigger kids sxs classes, I've got to figure that will put a dent in the kart/mod karts. And set those kids and teams on the path of keeping with sxs vs trucks or buggies, unless and until they jump into one of the big 3 classes.

I think sportsman/buggy racing will stick around (including Stock Truck, which had a deep field) for a long time regardless, and still provides a nice entry point for the "car guy" segment. If you're a person who truly enjoys wrenching on cars as a hobby (or career), you can put together a Stock Truck or go shopping for a Light Buggy and have an affordable entry into the sport.

I also get the sense (and driver movement between classes demonstrates this) that a lot of the high level Pro SxS drivers (especially those pursuing it as something beyond just a hobby) still see Pro 2 and Pro 4 as another "step up" in the short-course ladder, and that excites me, because that creates another pipeline for full-size pro truck talent.
 

stephenrjking

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Racing Ops It seems as if almost every racing discipline is slowly moving over to timed races but they have it figured out and champ does not yet.. I get the point of it for events like supercross where tracks change from 40 seconds a lap to 50sec it gives all the fans an equal amount of racing no matter the venue. This wont work here. First 12 min at a track like Crandon or bark river will only offer 7 laps to begin with.. Now take away a solid 2 minutes for the comp caution your down to 5 laps and that's on a good day... At big tracks like that one full track yellows now makes your race 2 laps which is just a disgrace not only to the fans but the racers... I'm fine with the timed events but please learn from the disaster this weekend and stop the clock during comp yellow, full course yellows or reds...
I think the timed races are just a concession to reality. In previous years the sportmen were getting cut off for time anyway, so at least now there's a reliable metric that judges when that occurs. The way they've scheduled the event, the races have to get in under a certain time. Of course, there was an hour break before the pro races, presumably a cushion left to keep things on schedule (and I appreciate this, because if you want to grow the sport beyond friends and family members you really do need to be able to start Pro races when you say you are going to), but I understand the idea. If the races should be longer, and I'm certainly open to that contention, the schedule needs to be reworked and classes re-assessed.

But the problem is that there are a lot of drivers and cars in a lot of classes, which is... a good problem to have.

I don't know enough about track prep to comment on the water issue.

I also get the sense (and driver movement between classes demonstrates this) that a lot of the high level Pro SxS drivers (especially those pursuing it as something beyond just a hobby) still see Pro 2 and Pro 4 as another "step up" in the short-course ladder, and that excites me, because that creates another pipeline for full-size pro truck talent.
The SxS issue raised here and by Under Pressure is just the reality: SxSs are a growing market, and they are accessible for people to start racing. As others, it's easy to note that their raceability is less impressive than the pro trucks (and they're ugly, especially in short-course trim) but trucks are supposed to be the superior vehicles, so I don't mind that. It provides good fields and, on occasion, entertaining racing, and gets a lot of people on the track.

So it's a necessary part of the program and it's good for the sport.

One thing that SxSs could theoretically do that the pro trucks cannot is race in a stadium setting. They're small enough and perform at a level that is better suited for the old MTEG style courses, which I continue to have some affection for. It's not clear to me that there's any demand for this, but I'd love to see someone enterprising give it a shot.
 

CYS Motorsports

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Good:

- Pro Truck Count and Races (although a little more chaotic than most of them would've liked)
- Facility has always been top notch
- Race control in Sportsman classes was crystal clear, not sure why Pros seemed to have issues. Maybe radios?
- Antigo Cheese curds

Bad:

- Timed races- The numbers seemed to be loose times and not actual. I liked having a set number of laps, with a time limit in the event we go over. A majority of Sportsman races had the caution at "halfway" and then there was a green white checkered in many instances.
- Saturday version of the Water Truck Driver
- 1.5 hour intermission is not ideal for any type of event. Probably could've bumped the "adult" sportsman classes up to 10 minutes+1 lap, and still had plenty of time for Pro track prep, and say a 30 minute intermission

Ugly:

- The 10 Pro Lite on Saturday
- Probably the 2nd hottest Midwest Season opener I've been to.
 

450grl

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As an on-line spectator I have nothing but good things to say about the live coverage. I was very unproductive in the afternoons on a weekend where I had a lot I should have been doing, but oh well! Great job by the production crew despite a little bit of panic when the live feed went down on Saturday RIGHT as the Pro Stock UTV class hit the track. They did get it fixed for the rest of the day! Track looked tight and difficult and it was very fun to watch everyone wrestle and adapt to the track conditions throughout the races.
 

Joxracing

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My humble observations:

The bad: The heat. Holy balls was it hot. Obviously that’s something that no one can control but boy did that heat suck the motivation out of you.

The timed races: Not a huge fan of this as a driver. Sunday in Super Stock we had completed one lap after the competition caution when a red flag hit. I had just devolved a transmission issue and smoke was heavy and it was going away quick. In my head i figured we had 3 or 4 laps to go so I opted to pull it off. I get out and they throw a green / white / checker. Something I could have limped around and at least had a bad finish instead of a DNF. Does any know if they have a live race timing clock in the spotters tower for situations like that?

The Band: I heard a lot of people complaining that the band ended too early. I was too drained to engage in any after race shenanigans so it didn’t matter to me.

Confusion: I don’t think Antigo was expecting these numbers so pulling in was a little messy. Also, I’m not sure if I like the whole first come first served pit spot theory. We ended up in the cornfield.

Wash Bays: Damn was that clay sticky. This is a complaint I have about every track on the tour. YOU HAVE MILLION DOLLAR FACILITIES PLEASE SPEND 10k & POUR US A DECENT WASH BAY. (I’m looking at you crandon)

Pro-Spec:
I might be alone on this but that truck (although beautiful) was lame AF. This whole situation stinks like the sporty lite attempt of 5 years ago. 3 people will spend money on engines and either a sponsor pulls out or no one else buys them and it’ll go no where. I like the V8’s that allow people to pick their own builder.

The good:

The Track: Yes even coming from someone with a poorly tuned 9” of travel in the front thought it was fun. The roller section was brutal but not much you can do when you have cars with 18” of travel on the same track as cars with 6”. I love the change up between the old fashioned bull rings and the super speedways. As a spectator it was fun to watch, and the noise the V8’s make under that grandstand gave me goosebumps.

The professionalism: Everyone at Champ was super nice and very helpful at the trailer (very different from other series we’ve had) and the announcers are kickass.

The numbers: WOW! The driver numbers were insane. Just keep in mind this is the first weekend at an unknown track and we had that. This year is going to be great. Spectators looked to be packed in as well.

Ugly rumors I heard: COR is seriously thinking of cutting Stock Truck, 1600 and 1600
light buggies. If this is actually true this would be a horrible decision and should be fought every step of the way.

I’m sure i’m forgetting stuff but overall it was solid event even though i forgot how to drive and I ended the weekend sitting 12th in points 🙄
 
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