The lineup of the NSRA's 360...
The lineup of the NSRA's 360 winged Sprint Cars are ready for action on their Championship weekend at Meridian Speedway outside of Boise, Idaho.
Given the current state of the economy, a touring Sprint Car series in the northwestern portion of our country should be at the greatest risk of impact. After all, tracks are separated by hundreds of miles of mountainous terrain. But the Northwest Sprintcar Racing Series, also known as the NSRA, is experiencing just the opposite. Granted, the car counts are off a little but overall the series is healthy and it's bringing a show that puts fans in the stands.
Sanctioned by the American Speed Association, the NSRA is a touring group that, in 2008, visited six different tracks in three states (Washington, Oregon, and Idaho) with 13 events. The NSRA can trace its origins back to 1987, when USAC unexpectedly dropped its regional sanctioning of Sprint Car racing in the Pacific Northwest. In response, Curt Kern and Ed Williams started a new association (Northwest Supermodified Racing Association or NSRA) to sanction Sprint Car and Supermodified racing. In 1992, Kern took the Supers and formed the Western States Supermodified Tour (WSST), leaving the Sprint Cars to continue with the Northwest Supermodified/Sprintcar Racing Association (NSSRA).
Since 2001, the sanction has been headed up by Mike Sullivan and focuses exclusively on racing Sprint Cars, hence the loss of the second "s" in the name. Interestingly, many of the people associated with the NSRA, such as the push truck drivers, volunteer their time for the love of Sprint Car racing. Naturally, there's quite a bit of coordination to put on a successful show and that coordination falls on Sullivan's shoulders.
Owner/driver Brandon Johnson...
Owner/driver Brandon Johnson hikes the left front around Meridian's tight quarter-mile track.
Hundreds of miles separate tracks in the Pacific Northwest, making the economical administration of a traveling series a borderline nightmare. Sullivan says that economic factors can be blamed for the small dip in the NSRA's average car count, but there are still 20 teams showing up to each event. "Like any traveling series, local cars do help boost our car count, but then we'll visit some tracks like Mission Valley Speedway in Montana where there really aren't any local Sprint Cars there. So we have to be self sufficient."
Despite visiting areas devoid of Sprint Cars, Sullivan says that by the end of the season, the NSRA might have 70-plus cars that run races in the series at one time or another. Still, a big part of that challenge is the travel time it takes teams to get to a show.
"Getting to some of these tracks is a 15 hour pull for guys from Oregon," says Sullivan. "And we've got racers from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and Montana. We have raced in Canada in the past, and I'd love to go back there, but the trick is getting enough money to make these guys feel good for traveling."
So how does Sullivan and the NSRA go about doing that? It's actually a creative approach to race promotion.
The packed pit area is typical...
The packed pit area is typical of the NSRA's traveling circus at any racetrack.
"We have a built-in expense compensation, if you qualify your car (for the race) you're guaranteed a payment," says Sullivan. That payment is based on mileage, and although it doesn't cover all of a racer's expenses, it does help offset some of the travel cost. For example, if a racer tows 300 miles to go to an event and qualifies, he or she may receive $270 to $300 back in the form of expense compensation.
It's a creative approach to ensure the health of your series.
The Car And The Show Winged pavement Sprint Cars are some of the fastest race cars in the country. The NSRA Sprint Car is powered by a 360 ci aluminum block, alcohol-fueled engine. The wheelbase must be at least 84 inches and no more than 90 inches while the overall length of the car is limited to a maximum of 14 feet. These cars have a maximum width of 78 inches and a maximum offset for both front and rear wheels of 4 inches.
Now comes the fun part when you figure the 750 hp motor is sitting in a car with a minimum weight rule of 1,650 pounds with the driver. The combination of lightweight and a ton of horsepower delivers some lightning fast lap times.