Just a few short years ago as the racing season was nearing an end Batesville Motor Speedway owner Mooney Starr watched from a distance as an I.M.C.A. modified was being unloaded from a trailer. He quietly continued to watch and without warning spoke aloud. “I think I’m ready to promote another big race, and those are the cars that I’m going to do it with.”
Now one must keep in mind that Starr is well known to taking risk and promoting some of the largest and most successful dirt track races in the United States. In 2019 Starr was inducted into the Dirt Late Model Racing Hall of Fame, due to his efforts as a promoter and creator of such events as the $40,000.00 to win Topless 100, the Bad Boy 98 for late models, and the ALLTEL 100, that paid $100,000.00 to win for dirt track modifieds.
The subject of the ALLTEL 100 is quickly brought into the conversation. Starr pauses and listens for a moment, and then speaks. “That was a big race. This new race will be a big race as well, but I’m going to do this new one different.”
About an hour later Starr stands on a large rock in the pit area of the Batesville Motor Speedway conducting a drivers meeting. As the meeting is breaking up and the drivers start walking back to their respected pit areas, Starr shouts from the rock, “Yall come back, I forgot to tell you the most important thing.”
As the crowd reassembles Starr explains to the drivers that although he did not have all the details, during the next race season, the Batesville Motor Speedway would be hosting an I.M.C.A. modified race. That the race would be a near weeklong event with lots of racing that would be centered on an extremely large pay out. And that the payout would be rewarding to all that entered. In Starr’s own words, “If you don’t own a modified, I would suggest that you get one.” Thus without a name at that time, the Race For Hope was born.
Now to many reading this, the whole scenario may have come across as an off the cuff decision with a knee jerk announcement. But for someone who has had the privilege of working with Starr around racing for several years knows that the initial thought for the Race For Hope was an idea that he had held in silent consideration for a long period of time. During this time, Starr would recalculate over and over what ingredients would be needed to make this promotion stand out above all others. As a promoter he understands the concept that for a race to be recognized as a great race, it must transform into an event. Starr accomplishes this by maintaining the understanding that not only is he in the stock car racing business, but more importantly, he is in the entertainment business as well.
As the Race For Hope 71 presented by West Rock Coffee heads into its fourth event, it has easily become one of the most talked about I.M.C.A modified races in the country. The race has featured some of the top racers in the nation, including Kelly Shryock, Jordon Grabouski, Terry Phillips, and Jeff Taylor. It has also caught the attention of former NASCAR stars Ken Schrader and David Stremme. These drivers and over a hundred more at each of the previous events, have taken to the track in Locust Grove, Arkansas. All with hopes of capturing a Race For Hope title. However with three races in the record books those wins have been split between two time winner Ricky Thornton Jr, and Kyle Strickler.
The near weeklong event gets underway with practice on Tuesday night October 6th. Drivers will then compete Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, through a series qualifying races, where the top ten finishers from each nights feature races will qualify for Saturday nights $12,000.00 to win main event.
“I expect this year’s race to be just as competitive and exciting as the first three races,” Starr said. “We will have some of the top drivers in county showing up and trying to qualify for this event. And what makes the format really tough is the caliber of drivers that show up for this race. Each driver that will be here is capable of winning a feature race at any racetrack in the country.”
Race fans may find 71 laps an unusual number of laps for a race of this prestige. And Starr has a quick answer. “I settled on 71 laps for this race as that was the year (1971) that racing first began here at racetrack.”
“This is also a very fan friendly race. From first place to last, there be racing all over of the race track from the moment it starts. It’s the type of race that keeps fans sitting on the edge of their seat.”
From a drivers stand point it’s a great format to make it to a big show. Three nights of qualifying gives all the drivers entered in race an excellent opportunity to gain a starting position in Saturday night’s show. Plus the Race For Hope 71 has a good pay back during the four nights of racing.
“Racers want to race. They are constantly asking for another chance to be out on the track. And I have scheduled them to be on the track racing as much as they can during the four day race week,” said Starr.
“I also understand the cost that they endure with travel and everything, so I do my best to pay them all the best that I can for coming to an event like this.”
There is no doubt that the 2020 Race For Hope 71 will once again showcase some of the best drivers and racing action the sport has to offer. For an excellent night of racing entertainment, make you plans to attend the Batesville Motor Speedway at least one night during the Race For Hope 71 event.