Our friends in the hot-rod and collector-car worlds are facing some challenges. This is not a new threat, but a recurring one. It attacks from all sides. It's called regulation.
The biggest threat in the early part of this year was the move in California to repeal the rolling-emissions test exemption for vehicles 30 years or older. For those not in California, it means all cars newer than 30 model years had to be tested for proper exhaust emissions, but the older classic cars were exempt from this test. These older cars are again being viewed as big polluters when, in reality, they are restored cars that run periodically on the highway. The fact that regulators have not been able to hit unrealistic air quality goals has led the charge to go after another aspect of the automotive world. Misinformation, sensationalism, and other diabolical tactics are being used in open forum to change a law that doesn't need to be changed.
While the sport of auto racing has been exempted from plenty of considerations, who can say we're not next? Call it paranoia, but there's a ground swell of legislative do-gooders who don't understand the whole issue. They prefer to use knee-jerk reaction against easy targets. I'm not only talking California here.
On one side of the coin, regulation is a bad thing. On the other side, when done with the right intent, regulation can be a good thing. Racing did not die in Connecticut and New Jersey when the respective states put the governing of racing under a state agency. Their intent was clear-make the sport better and safer. A bill underway in Minnesota (at this writing) would restrict racing to licensed facilities. At first glance, it would indicate that all oval tracks would be subjected to a state-supported license. The intent of the bill is to clamp down on illegal street racing. It would likely provide a grandfather status or better definition for existing racetracks that do business at this time.
These racetracks in all states don't really need additional regulation. As a business, racetracks are subject to many of the laws and rules that govern the free enterprise system. There are few moves in the small-business community that do not affect a racetrack when it comes to regulation.
The sport has been proactive in some areas and has taken the initiative ahead of legislative efforts. Some tracks that felt the crawl of noise regulation due to the expanding housing base took it upon themselves to mandate mufflers. As a result, violations were eliminated before a law was put into place. That law became nothing more than a check in a checks-and-balances system.
California's attempt to issue a blanket indictment of automobiles, regardless of age or condition, is frightening. It's a quick fix to a perceived problem while opening the door to a number of others. No regulation is popular with everyone, but it becomes less popular when it affects those who shouldn't have been drawn into the crosshairs from the beginning.
The sport of auto racing is becoming popular in many ways. The sport's popularity makes it appealing, and politicians looking for easy targets can find them with the sport. For the most part, racing has managed to keep its house in order and keep out the influences. It has been an element of growth and one that doesn't need to be tinkered with. We can get along fine without additional regulation. Let's just hope politicians have enough to do to keep it that way.
If you're interested in keeping abreast of regulations about automobile-related matters, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) has an active government affairs department that follows proposals and issues alerts of threatening legislation. More information can be found at www.sema.org.