The spirit of cooperation is starting to take hold in racing, and the end result is going to benefit everyone involved. An example of this trend comes with the establishment of the Approved Body Configuration (ABC) guidelines that will be implemented in some asphalt racing sanctions in 2004.

The idea evolved from the perceived competition between body manufacturers to push the envelope. The competing companies were creating downforce bodies, and some promoters felt this was going a bit too far. R.J. Scott of the Sunoco Super Series and Ben Atkinson of the Alabama-based O'Reilly Southern All-Stars were among the first to speak up on the issue.

"We were racing limousines," says Atkinson. "They were extending the front of the cars, they had wide shells, and the spoilers were extended. They looked like spaceships."

The problem is often traced to tech inspection and interpretation of rules. Five Star Race Car Bodies sent letters to promoters, addressing their concerns about the way cars were inspected. There was no response, so the company, in its effort to be competitive with other manufacturers, built a downforce car for the 2002 PRI show, which drew attention.

Scott joined Atkinson and representatives of Aluminum Racing Products (ARP) and Five Star to hammer out a compromise. The end result was the ABC plan.

"It was getting expensive for racers," Atkinson says. "As promoters, we were caught in the middle of this."

ARTGO founder John McKarns was brought in as a mediator who offered input. It was McKarns who noted that racers would have a better resale market. Under standardized body rules, a car raced in one part of the country would be legal in another area, increasing the market.

Once the word was out, other sanctions began to get involved with the ABC guidelines. Bert Ashleman of the Florida Pro series and Don Nerone of FASCAR, which sanctions Super Late Models and Late Models, put their groups in the coalition.

"These promoters working together really shows the effectiveness of the idea," Atkinson states. "They've realized that they need to draw more than just Florida cars to keep going. A racer isn't going to travel if he has to change his car so much. It got to the point where a lot of out-of-state cars weren't coming to Florida for big races."

Of course, none of it would have happened if the body manufacturers hadn't taken the message to heart. "ARP and Five Star have spent a lot of money and a lot of time to make this work," Atkinson says. "We're getting good looking cars and they're not expensive. When you buy an ABC body, you get the rule book and templates on how to install the body. Whether it's an ARP or a Five Star, the templates fit them all."

The '04 season will be a transitional year for implementing the new rule. In the case of the Southern All-Stars, legal bodies in 2003 will still be legal in 2004, meaning owners of a good body will not incur expense to race this year. However, those who choose to use the ABC-approved body will receive a 50-pound weight break. In 2005, the ABC rules will be mandatory.

"We've had a positive response," adds Atkinson. "There are some who didn't have to change, but they've already made the move to the new body. We're not penalizing the ones who don't, but we're encouraging the ones who do. There's going to be someone winning with the new body, and when he does, everybody's going to want to have one."

Atkinson has implemented the ABC rule in the Pro Late Model class, which is the two-barrel division that also runs crate engines.

"I'm glad to see this happening," Atkinson concludes. "It was almost getting to the point where we had to cut the fields on the quarter-mile tracks because the cars were taking up too much space."