500 Fever - Reason #5


(over the weeks leading up to the ‘500’ weekend there have been and will continue to be two or three ‘top ten’ reasons to be excited about this event posted---check back often over the final weeks and you too will catch  the ‘500 Fever’ ----) 


Well, we are half-way to the BIG SHOW at the BIG A!!! Just a couple of weeks until the ACT International 500 at Airborne Speedway on Sunday, July 21!!!!     

The Milk Bowl format was the brainchild of Thunder Road founder Ken Squier back in the 1960’s. Ken was working for ABC Television, and as hard as he tried at that time, all the respect Motorsports got was a quick 30-second clip of the winner of the Daytona 500 or Indy 500. Ken came up with the idea of a ‘segment race’. Break the race up and have 3 starts, 3 finishes (he felt those were generally perceived as the most exciting parts of a race to the casual observer). Also get the fans involved with a scoring system. Thus was born the Milk Bowl format for Thunder Road. Amazingly, to this day he still tries to get network television and promoters from Daytona to Charlotte to buy into this theory to make the racing more exciting, get fans involved more, and make every lap and every pass meaningful.

Here are some of my thoughts and observations from watching Milk Bowl segment racing for over 50 years, and why this was a ‘no-brainer’ for the International 500 format. We want to give the teams and fans the most exciting short track racing in the country, and there is no more excitement than a Milk Bowl three segment race. It is full of heartbreak, and for some, the ultimate challenge and will become a highlight of their racing career.

First the format:

-Qualify 40 teams for the race using heats and consolation rounds with the ACT ‘hell bent –race ‘em like you stole em’ system. [Eric Williams’ advice to his son Tucker when he headed out of the pits for his very first Tiger race at Thunder Road---gotta love it!!]

- (3) Segments, in the International 500 it will be (3) Green Flag 100 laps of action in each.

-The top 33 are inverted for the start of the second and third segments. Almost a guarantee things are going to get wild…no ACT championship points on the line…$25,000 to win…history in the making---close the barn door mama…The Stallion just found Miss Nellie!!!

Some will say ‘why not invert all 40?’, actually a good question. Took us just about 46 years to figure out that if a top driver gets dumped, has a flat, breaks something in a segment and finishes last, he will just sit on the pole of the next segment and collect a cool $4,950.00 for leading all the laps…why not--- that is just being smart…UNTIL…we had some who just decided to ‘sandbag’, knowing they could never win the Milk, why not just pull out on lap 1 of the next segment. When the word got out we nearly had the worst wreck of the day with a few guys trying to beat each other to the pits to be first out!!!! Gotta love the ingenuity, but inverting thirty-three seems to have quelled being least for now!

 -You the fans can score the International---that’s right you are now in the game, just like any other sport, (basketball, baseball, football, hockey) every fan can keep score, or at least has an idea of who is winning and losing. Simple…first 100 lap segment winner gets 1 point, 2nd 2 points, etc., throughout the field. The deal here is you want the lowest score possible.

 -Same thing applies to the second 100 lap segment…the fun never ends…now we combine the scores from segment 1 and segment 2 and see who really has a chance to win the $25,000.00!!! (If someone finishes 33rd and 39th and enters the third segment with a combined score of 72!!!!!—and WINS the International --- I state here and now that I will quietly walk out of Airborne following the event…get in my car and you will never hear from me again. The entire ACT/Thunder Road operation will be turned over to Lil-Lil Brendan Moodie who proudly just graduated from kindergarten.)

 Well that is the format under which the ACT International 500 portion for the ACT Late Models will run, now to finish up let’s look at why this is such a neat race to be involved with as a driver and team and to attend as a short track race fan----

 1.   No driver or team will ever be challenged in a stock car race like they will be in a Milk Bowl type event:

a.   One bad segment and your hopes of winning the $25,000 are all but over.

b.   A simple thing like a late flat tire in any segment can take any chance away

c.   You don’t take a risk early to pass a car – you hesitate—the hole fills ---that was the 1 point you needed to win and it is now lost (at the time you just don’t know that)

d.   You take a risk going three-wide and get chopped and lose toe in…your chances are now pretty much done to win

e.   On the other hand, there is always a moment in a segment race…long hard core fans know this...when a driver will let it all hang out…will roll the dice on one last lap to go three-wide to complete the pass…and THAT is the difference between winning a Milk Bowl race or losing it. What is cool is that it can happen in any one of the segments. Generally, the most conservative racers do not win these kinds of races.

f.    EVERY LAP is important to race full bore, flat out…it truly is ‘take no prisoners racing’, but you gotta be smart about how much risk you take, and most important, IF you survive to be in contention in the final segment, you better know where your competition is every single lap or you are going to get snookered and lose by 1 point!!!

g.   EVERY POSITION counts. A team will have to race every car for every lap. You stroke or decide to lose focus and you will let the guy 10 cars ahead of you who just picked up another pass have the $25,000.00 ----shame on you!



You get the idea…it is heartbreak and jubilation all in the same race—for some nearly every lap.

Finally, here is what I like the very most about a Milk Bowl format for the International 500. We have some great young race teams in ACT. There is no question that many of us ‘older’ types are in the twilight of our years in promoting and in driving these race cars.

I think a quality driver who has never won a major long distance race has a great chance to win a race like the Int’l 500. Race hard, race with a conservative attitude at times and with total abandon at other times and you just might catch the golden ring off the merry-go-round. Keep in mind that it has to go around for 300 laps!! A team who can put together an 8th, 5th, and 9th in any combination of the three segments for a total count of 19 just might find themselves in victory lane at Airborne on Sunday July 21 after winning the inaugural ACT International 500 and the $25,000.00!!

All you fans are welcome to join him/her in Victory Lane!!!