Auto racing has reached a crossroads, but it's certainly not the first time the sport has been faced with decisions that could affect the future. Some of the issues don't go away-things like cost and safety. They must be repeatedly addressed-tailored to fit the situation with new ideas and innovations providing the incentive for change.

Change is seldom accepted without a fight. There are those who believe the status quo is working and will be working for the foreseeable future. It's those who look beyond the immediate view who can cast insight into the growth and development of the sport. You don't want to think about how to take a car into a corner when you've started to turn the wheel. It's something you need to understand before you get there.

While the major league series draw the lion's share of the attention, the short track series of the nation have had their time in the spotlight. Often, a short track series can come up with an idea, but, due to lack of resources and publicity, it never gets the credit. That's not the case of the American Speed Association, more commonly known as the ASA. This sanction has taken the idea of future development to the next level with innovative ideas that have run against the grain of the lockstep often seen. Just because an idea is working doesn't mean it couldn't work better.

The sanction really drew the attention of the racing world when it abandoned the stalwart carbureted engine in favor of the fuel-injected LS-1 engine from General Motors in the late '90s. ASA ordered 300 engines, which were built at the GM plant in Romulus, Michigan, then sent them to Lingenfelter Performance Engineering in Indiana. Each engine was modified with a more aggressive camshaft and stronger valve springs. A dry-sump oiling system was used as well for the racing application. The engines were tested and sealed, then sold to competitors. Dyno numbers showed the engines to hit 430 hp at 6,200 rpm, with 430 ft/lb of torque at 4,800 rpm. These engines were available for a fraction of the cost of the V-6 engines run in the series before the sealed engine arrived.

Critics were skeptical of the engine's ability to perform up to the task of the rigors of high-speed oval track action. The critics were silenced years ago. Few failures were seen. Engines from the first race were still running well into the 21st century. GM has used its racing experience to make some changes in the production engines for increased durability, thanks to the ASA program.

The conventional wisdom for those on the upward path within the sport requires you to know all you can about the tires. While they were taken for granted in the early days of competition, tires have become a key element of racing, no matter the surface. For those aspiring to move up, it was believed that an intimate knowledge of one particular brand would hold a key to rapid success. When the ASA decided to investigate the use of a competing tire company, the naysayers again appeared to question the wisdom.

The ASA and BFGoodrich Tires (a division of Michelin Tire Company) worked together in the 2000 season to put the cars on radial tires. It marked BFGoodrich's foray into the sport of oval track racing, complementing the company's presence in other forms of racing.

The consistency of the tires has been a plus for the series. The tires for the 2003 season were the same as the previous years, with compound changes for two of the tracks on the series schedule. Most of the tracks on the schedule call for the medium compound tire for each side of the car. The high-banked tracks require a hard tire on the left side, and a high-banked model for the right side of the car.