There has been much debate after last year's inaugural running of the Battle At The Beach regarding whether future editions should be held at Daytona on the temporary track or moved to a different location like New Smyrna Speedway. Where do you think it should be held?
Rob: I understand the debate, but I like that the event is held at Daytona. Yes, it's not the true race track, but it still gives these drivers the chance to say they raced and won at Daytona International Speedway, "The World Center of Racing," when most of these guys and girls wouldn't have a chance to otherwise.
The idea behind the event is very cool. It may still need tweaking. Last year's event was a mess. There's no denying that. But the event does have promise. It's a cool deal and I hope that it sticks around at Daytona, but maybe a few changes are made to the layout of the track.
Aaron: As appealing as it is for someone to potentially be able to say they won at Daytona, I just don't think it holds enough merit for the Modified community. The fact is there are many short track facilities already in existence that could live up to the prestige. One of those tracks is within a half hour of Daytona and already has an annual event, New Smyrna Speedway.
I would like to see the Richie Evans Memorial 100 take the place of the Battle at the Beach as I would think it would hold its own as a prestigious event that would attract most of the top competitors if promoted properly. With New Smyrna Speedway being NASCAR-sanctioned as of 2013 it is only appropriate for it to be the next step to bring this event to an even more prestigious level.
Rob: I don't believe that New Smyrna Speedway would garner anywhere near the same interest level that Daytona does. If you're a NASCAR fan, the word "Daytona" brings chills. It has that incredibly high level of prestige that an event at New Smyrna can never achieve. And with that prestige comes a lot of interest. I don't believe that holding the Battle at the Beach at New Smyrna Speedway would bring it anywhere near the interest that this event had last year.
However, I'd be very open to turning the Richie Evans Memorial 100 into a NWMT/NWSMT points-paying race. I think that would be wonderful for both Tours. It would just make sense. The teams are already in Florida and many are already planning on running that race. Why not give them the extra incentive. And now that New Smyrna is NASCAR sanctioned it just seems like a no-brainer decision to me.
Aaron: You probably have a point about it not garnering near the same interest among the average NASCAR fan, but for the Modified racer and the hardcore Modified fan a race of any large proportion has attracted impressive amounts of both in the past.
However, I'm not really for making the event a points paying race. Unless a formidable purse could make it worth it, I can’t see every single full time competitor in the New England area or even North Carolina coming down to compete in the race. What you wouldn’t want to see is an event or series of events like these preventing a team from running the remainder of the season due to lack of remaining funds. The Battle at the Beach is impressing with full fields expected, so there shouldn’t be any reason for NASCAR to take on the Richie Evans Memorial 100 as a special event and gain the interest of thirty or more competitors as well. It was a different time, but New Smyrna Speedway used to attract the same if not more quantity of competitors.
Who do you think will be the drivers to watch out for in Daytona and who is your pick to win?
Aaron: I believe that all of last year's winners from both the Northern and Southern Tours that show up will be the drivers to beat, but I think the driver taking the victory will be someone that didn't win in 2013. Ron Silk has proven he can win on small and tight track layouts such as Riverhead Raceway before, and the TS Haulers team has always been a threat in the month of February. He is my pick to win in a close finish over last year's runner up Eric Goodale.
Rob: It's difficult to fully answer this question without seeing the entry list, but with this track being so small the drivers who excel on the bullrings should be the ones to beat. Ryan Preece is spectacular on the bullrings with four career NWMT wins at Riverhead Raceway and one win at Monadnock Speedway. Justin Bonsignore has Tour wins at Riverhead and Monadnock and won the 2011 track championship at Riverhead. I expect Burt and Jason Myers to be up front due to their skills at Bowman Gray Stadium.
Having said all of that, I'm going to pick somebody to win who isn't even a regular on either Tour. My pick to win this thing is Timmy Solomito, a regular at Riverhead Raceway. Solomito will be driving for 1994 NWMT champion and Riverhead legend Wayne Anderson. He had five victories in weekly competition at Riverhead in 2013. He also won the pole and led 176 laps in the September Tour race at Riverhead before fading to third. You may not know Timmy Solomito's name before the race begins, but I truly believe that when the checkered flag falls you will remember his name.