The winner of the Thanksgiving Classic will receive the trophy and the historical accolades but there is more to the payout than what happens at the checkered flag.
To encourage more action throughout the race, event promoter Michael Diaz has conceived a format and payout structure that pays to get out front and stay there over 150 laps. Here’s how it will work on Sunday at Southern National Motorsports Park:
The 'race' pays $4,000-to-win but it’s not that straightforward. The leader at the Lap 50 competition caution earns $1,500. The leader at the second competition caution on Lap 100 also earns $1,5000. Winning two of the three segments comes with a $1,000 bonus. Sweeping all three segments comes with a $2,000 bonus.
Those who expect to be contenders by the end of the race generally would have preferred one lump sum payout. With that said Justin Johnson understands why Diaz is experimenting:
"I'm not going to say I am the hugest fan of it, but I do think it's the best thing for the fans," Johnson said. "Who is going to remember next year who won segment 1 or segment 2? But if you do try to go out and win the first and second segment, I'm not sure you're going to have saved enough to win the race."
While Southern National is not as abrasive as Myrtle Beach or Florence, the track does have some abrasion and tire management will be key to winning the final segment so finding a way to win all three segments will be quite the undertaking.
Deac McCaskill is a four-time Southern National track champion and won the Thanksgiving Classic in 2006. With a R&S chassis and more experience than anyone in the field, McCaskill actually likes the format and what it could offer fans on Sunday.
"You’re not going to see everyone saving tires and just riding until the final 50 laps. I don’t think fans always like that. So, you’re going to see a mix of strategies and teams that try to get some up-front money and see what happens at the end. When we take the green flag for the final 50 laps, you’re going to see track position mixed up compared to how much everyone has saved. It should be a lot of fun to watch."
And that’s what Diaz was working to accomplish.
Like his peers, Brenden Queen isn’t going to sacrifice a chance to win to make some extra cash through the segment bonuses.
"I just look at it as I want to win the main feature," Queen said. "The segment stuff is cool, and we'd like to have a chance to win one without using the tires or abusing the car. We'll take the money, but we're here to win the race. The trophy means more than the check. In my eyes, I want the bragging rights because the money is a bonus.
"I think you're going to see a lot of different strategies on the two pit stop deal. All I can hope for is keeping the 03 car out front and out of trouble and find a place to run near the front."
All told, there are $36,150 in awards posted in conjunction with sponsor Solid Rock Carriers. The race pays $650 to start up to 13th where the finishing prize incrementally increases to $2,000 for third and $2,500 for second.
Josh Berry has already claimed a $1,000 prize for winning the pole on Saturday and there are $100 payouts for the 'hard luck' award and 'hardest hit' award.
Having won almost everything else there was to claim in Late Model Stock racing before moving over to the NASCAR Xfinity Series full-time next season, Berry just wants to add this last trophy to his short track collection.
"I'm here to race for the trophy so I'm just going to do what I can to position myself for the last 50 laps," Berry said. "Obviously, the pole paid a good bonus, but I'm going to do whatever it takes to make sure we have enough tire left. I'm here to win."