The American Motor Racing Association (AMRA), based in Mount Vernon, Ohio, is an international sanctioning body of open wheel Modified dirt racing in the United States and Canada. Current President Bill Hayes along with Barry Jacobs, Al Harshbarger, and Don Everhart founded AMRA in 1994 with only three tracks and 80 members. Today AMRA boasts more than 200 members and sanctions hundreds of weekly racing events at 10 different tracks in Ohio, West Virginia, and Canada, as well as a traveling Road Warrior Tour.
The Enforcers"AMRA originally began so that there would be a sanctioning body that would enforce the rules of the cars," Hayes enthusiastically recollects. "We wanted the sanctioning body to enforce the rules without having to put the responsibility on the racetrack promoters."
To this end, the organization provides an official for every AMRA sanctioned event. AMRA has a staff of 10 skilled technical officials that meet regularly to discuss rules, technology, and enforcement policies. "Every week we have one of our inspectors at the event to make sure every car meets the rules," asserts Hayes. "It really helps us make a more level playing field for all the participants. It also helps the promoter because he has one less class he has to worry about having someone enforcing the rules and inspecting the cars. We felt the sanctioning body should control the rule enforcement, and this way we can do that."
For the 2000 season, the AMRA management teams include Chief of Tech Darby Brock. Brock is in charge of AMRA officiating at weekly events and will travel to all the 2000 AMRA Road Warrior Tour events.
Strictly ModifiedsAMRA sanctions only open wheel Modifieds similar to UMP- or I.M.C.A.-type cars except with an eight-inch rear spoiler and a minimum of four inches of ground clearance all the way around the car. "We feel these stipulations make some real nice-looking race cars that are very attractive to the fans as well as the drivers," Hayes says.
The drivers can run practically any engine size they want, except they can not use an aluminum block. Other restrictions include a ban on quick changes and coilovers, and the cars have a weight rule of 2,400 pounds, including driver. Most competitors purchase their engines from nationally recognized builders and use alcohol to boost power to around 550 hp. The majority of engines are Chevrolet, but some drivers utilize Ford and even Chrysler powerplants.
There is an engine-claim rule of $500 and exchange to help control costs. An engine can be claimed by anyone that finishes on the lead lap from fourth place on back. "A few years ago we used to get the occasional driver claiming an engine," recalls Hayes, "but we don't have much claiming anymore."
The majority of drivers buy their chassis from builders such as Harris, GRT, Pro Chassis, Lightning Chassis, Throwing Dirt Chassis, and Dart, and equip them with eight-inch tires from Hoosier or American Racer (formerly McCreary).
A competitive car costs in the range of $15,000-$17,000, but, as in all aspects of racing, some spend less and some spend more.
The WarriorsIn addition to weekly races, AMRA also promotes a traveling series called the AMRA Road Warrior Tour. The traveling tour hit the road starting in 1998 and has helped expand AMRA and spread the word about its special brand of racing.
"About three years ago, some drivers asked us about creating a traveling series, so we organized the traveling tour," Hayes says. "The Road Warrior Tour has helped us get out into some different areas and has brought some awareness to drivers outside of our immediate area, and even into Canada. This year we have had drivers call from New York and Michigan to express interest in racing in our Road Warrior Tour."
Hayes remarked that the tour gave his members the opportunity to try racing "on the road" and experience all the problems that can arise for the traveling racing program.
"We have guys that range from never having driven a race car before to guys that have run for as long as 30 years in other classes," Hayes says. "I would say, however, that the majority of our racers are weekend racers, so this tour is definitely a good springboard, or proving ground, to gain experience that they can use for the rest of their racing careers."
The potential money to be won isn't too bad, either. The tour point fund for this year's 15-race season will pay out $12,500. Tour events pay a minimum of $1,000 to win (a few races are slotted to pay $2,000-$3,000), $100 to start, and the total Road Warrior payout is expected to exceed $100,000 for the 2000 season. Purses for the weekly events are determined individually by each track.
AMRA keeps two separate point systems: one for the weekly events and one for the Road Warrior Tour. The International Champion (weekly events) is crowned by averaging the best 20 finishes for the year. "A guy could run at just one racetrack and still be our International Champion, simply by having 20 good finishes throughout the year," Hayes says.
A similar system is used for the Road Warrior Tour. The top point prize for a feature win is 60, a win in a heat race is worth three points, drivers get 20 points just for showing up, and passing inspection nets two points. In addition, if a driver competes in a Tour race, the points he earns may go toward the International point tally as well.
Regular tour events average about 30 cars, while several special events during the year average about 50. The Road Warrior Tour began the weekend of May 12 at West Virginia Motor Speedway and concludes at the same track October 21-22 with the AMRA Nationals.
Sticking With What WorksSome of the goals Hayes has for AMRA are more media coverage and development into new markets, but don't expect to see many fundamental changes in AMRA soon. Organizers believe in their racing formula, and there are no plans to change-only to improve and expand.
"We have been talking with some tracks in Pennsylvania and Kentucky that are interested in sanctioning races as soon as this year." Hayes says. "That will help us move into different markets and increase our prize money. Over the last seven years, we have paid out more than $163,000 in point fund money, and that is pretty good for the size of the area we are in. We feel we have helped contribute a lot to Modified racing in our area, and we want to continue to do so by providing good rule enforcement and a solid foundation for Modified drivers to race with so that they know wherever they go, their car will be race legal. That was the reason we founded AMRA in the first place."