Forty-five teams competed...
Forty-five teams competed for 20 spots in the Driveline 100 race June 28 in Norway, Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The Pay-Per-Lap event was a first for circle track racing as far as we know and a complete success. Dark clouds hang over the eventual winner's car in the foreground. That was evidently a good omen. Although it looked like rain was coming to the track all morning, the special guest and legendary Midwest race driver Dick Trickle, promised the teams in the drivers' meeting that he was working on the weather. By race time, the sky cleared and we saw a dry, clean race.
On June 28, history was made. Over the past eight months, a group of veteran racers and businessmen put together the concept of a Pay-Per-Lap race. This division of money enabled the teams to earn tire and gas money even if they ran at the back of the pack while still providing incentives to lead and win the race. This could become a model for many other racing programs across America and abroad.
Why were we there? Good question. Yes, we do not do "coverage" of race events. We are a technology based magazine dedicated to improving the racer's knowledge of his racecar and overall racing effort. We are also dedicated to helping improve the sport of short-track racing in general. Any time we see something come along that could have a positive impact on the racing community at-large, we will present it in the magazine. This is one of those times.
The original idea for this unique concept was developed by Gene Coleman of Coleman Racing and it was fine-tuned and implemented with help from Fran Presley, owner of Five-Star Bodies, Mike Bellisle, of North Honda Motorsports, and Craig Van Enkevort, president of Union Station Motorsports. These four met, discussed, and worked out a plan for a special race where each participant was paid the same money for each lap completed, plus a bonus if they led the race. The result was a huge success.
Norway Speedway is a 1/3-mile flat asphalt track in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and is managed by the Dickinson County Racing Association (DCRA), a not-for-profit organization run by the race teams themselves. As such, all "profits" go back into a fund for the teams. There are costs associated with running the programs, just like with any promotion, so it is not unlike those tracks with owners.
In practice, we captured the...
In practice, we captured the eventual winner, the No. 00 car, entering Turn 1. When we zoomed in on this photo, we saw considerable roll to the chassis and concluded that he was running a more conventional setup, meaning SBBS or small bar and big springs. Yet he recorded the quickest lap of the race on the electronic timing and scoring sheet.
This track is very popular with both the area race fans as well as the racers. A typical race night brings over 30 Late Model cars and 2,000 to 3,000 spectators. They run a very healthy program by any measure and one that would be the envy of many other tracks I have visited. The story seems to be: Why are they so successful with their regular shows and how does this format increase their success? Could this format be a saving grace for other racing programs across the country? Let's see how it progressed and what the details were.
This Pay-Per-Lap (PPL) race was designed to enable the top 18 qualifiers to run the Driveline 100. The remainder of the qualifiers ran a B-Main race titled the Power House 50. The cars that finished in the top two positions transferred to the 100 lap race to make the 20 car field. In the race, each participant was paid a fixed amount for each lap completed. In the 50-lapper, a $20-per-laps-led payout went to lap leaders.
The cars were DCRA and ASA legal Late Model cars and crate or built motors were allowed as per local rules, giving the crate motors a weight break.
The pits were packed with...
The pits were packed with all of the available stalls taken. The overflow carried into the parking areas as 45 Late Model cars traveled from all over Wisconsin and Michigan to compete.
In the 100-lapper, each car was paid $7.50 per lap regardless of position. Bonuses were paid to the lap leaders, amounting to $100 for leading the first, tenth, twentieth, thirtieth and so on up to the ninetieth lap with the winner getting an additional $100. All other laps led paid $20 per lap. If a team ran all 100 laps without leading once, it would go home with $750 even if it finished last. If a team led all 100 laps, the bonuses would be an attractive $1,100 (for leading the $100 bonus lap) plus $1,780 (for leading the $20 bonus laps) plus the $750 lap money, for a grand total of $3,630.
The point here is not the amount of money, but the fact that all racers got paid decent money to go racing. The fact of the matter is that racing is getting more expensive due to the rise in gas prices. The cost to transport your car to the races has increased 25 percent in the last year or so and will continue to rise.
If you agree that the racer is the one who pays the promoters' bills, and most tracks make more off the back gate than the grandstands, then we need to entice more racers to race in order to survive. Spreading the pay out this way may attract more racers to participate, thereby increasing the back gate and providing a better show for the fans. By the way, many of the people who attend races are friends or relatives of the participants and attracting more race teams will also increase the front gate.
The No. 1 car that finished...
The No. 1 car that finished Ninth in the main event has a noticeable roll to it. This could be another SBBS setup. The track was super slick in the early afternoon, but tightened up once the sun went low in the sky. Any teams that changed their setups for these slick conditions had trouble in qualifying with a tight car.
The Power House 50 was a very good preliminary race that saw the No. 13, Paul Radavich, and the No. 28 car of Ryan Hood cross the finish line for Second only 0.02 second apart. Paul got Second and Tom Gee in the No. 36 car won. He and the No. 13 transferred to the main event.
In the main, we saw great racing all of the way through the field. The finish had the No. 00 car of Gregg Haese take the checker flag. Gregg is from Kaukauna, Wisconsin, and normally races at the Wisconsin International Raceway in the Fox River Racing Club division.
How could this plan affect the racing industry as well as your local racetrack? Admittedly, this track is run by a "club" and not a track owner. An owner has to make a profit in order to justify running the show. The land on which the racetrack lies could just as well be a farm, commercial endeavor, a housing subdivision, or condo site. The promotion of racing is nonetheless a business and has to survive, even if it is a club and we all need to understand that and see that side of it. So, how do we make racing more profitable?
In contrast to the SBBS setups...
In contrast to the SBBS setups previously mentioned, this car has a large sway bar and soft springs as evidenced by the low and level profile of the front of the car in the turns. Unfortunately, this car did not make the race.
If a track could offer a pay plan where the teams shared the available payout money more evenly, then more racers may get involved. The "club" plan is not a bad idea when you look at the possible benefits. The truth of the matter is that all racers race to compete. No one comes away with more money than they spend. So, in reality, we are all club racers.
Spreading out the pay money will only make it easier on everyone. The winners don't always win. They need guarantees, too, to enable them to justify racing in the first place. A Tenth Place finish could pay the cost of a night's racing under the PPL plan, where under present pay plans at many tracks the payout for Tenth wouldn't pay for the hot dogs and drinks, let alone the gas and tires.
Promoters take note, we have been promoting and running the shows at racetracks across America the same way for years and getting poor results in many cases. The numbers of teams who compete at most racetracks is diminishing. Anything that comes along to provide a fresh breath of air for short-track racing should be welcomed and studied. It would be easy for any track to schedule one race as a test to see if PPL racing would be beneficial to your racetrack. Afterwards, you could canvas the competitors and the fans to see if the concept has acceptance. You just might be surprised.
The No. 56 car finished Eighth,...
The No. 56 car finished Eighth, just behind Dalton Zehr from Florida, one of our past project drivers. His (No. 56) setup is more BBSS, and he had it figured out fairly well.
The club at Norway got local businesses involved to sponsor the lap bonus money. That serves to get the community involved and provides extra funds for the payout. Once these businesses are involved, you might sell advertising or race sponsorship in addition to the bonus payments. The potential benefits have no limits.
This was a bold experiment for the organizers and we need to thank Gene Coleman for his ingenuity in coming up with this idea as well as Fran, Mike, and Craig who formed the team that produced the event. I first heard about this some six months prior to the event and was immediately interested. I agreed to come up to Norway to cover the event and all of the guys there treated me very well. There were others too numerous to mention that helped out with this race, but once the ball started rolling, it took off and we may see more of these types of events in the near future.
We are just getting into this concept and promise to question the industry to get their reaction to the PPL plan. In the coming months, we will talk to track promoters, sanctioning bodies, racers, and anyone who has an opinion. We will report back our findings. This is either a winner or not. We are betting on it getting a favorable response.
Send your comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to circletrack.com and blog me with your comments. We'll be getting back to you soon.