Jerry Coons Jr. (69) and Bobby...
Jerry Coons Jr. (69) and Bobby East (5) at Toledo.
That philosophy will permeate every aspect of USAC's behind the scenes thinking this season and presumably beyond. It's a philosophy that is borne from a completely different form of motorsports.
"I have two examples for you," says Miller. "Take monster trucks, they used to race side by side. Then they evolved their show into half racing and half freestyle. This year they are doing just freestyle, no more racing.
"My other example is from the same company-Nuclear Cowboys is an indoor freestyle motorcycle show. It's a choreographed show that takes weeks of rehearsals to get just right. In either case these guys are putting 80,000 people in their stadiums."
"So, to me a sanctioning body needs to become more of an entertainment company. At the end of the day we're competing for that entertainment dollar. We can easily look over at other venues and see that there is a lot of show around the event. And that's what we have to work on at USAC. We have to look beyond the fact that we have the officials and the tech and waving the flags and following rules. The fans are there to see a show, we have to worry about what happens outside of the racing."
Doesn't That Approach Alienate The Hard-core Fan?
Car counts at certain tracks...
Car counts at certain tracks like Eldora Speedway shown here have been perenially strong.
"From a sanctioning body you have to look at it from two perspectives. This sport is all about innovation; our competitors work hard to innovate and make their cars faster. On the other hand, you have to look at what's healthy for the sport especially in terms of car count. You can't allow a select few parties to come in and outspend everybody. That's what NASCAR and IndyCar have done. And I said we have to have common sense over the long-term to make sure we have healthy fields because at the end of the day fans want to come see a full field of cars. They don't want to see a short field of cars. So as a sanctioning body you have to be aware of the economics of your sport.
"Take for example, Midget racing today, you've got a sport out there that you have $30,000 to $40,000 motors, you have $6,000 to $8,000 rebuilds and these are four-cylinder motors. They have harmonics that are, quite frankly, difficult to keep healthy from a longevity point of view. There are a lot of issues in Midget racing today but when you're running for purses that pay $2,000 to win and $200 to start and you're putting a $40,000 engine out there as your main asset on the track we see car counts at big tracks plummeting."
Why And What Are You Doing About It?
Brad Kuhn (17B), Kevin Swindell...
Brad Kuhn (17B), Kevin Swindell (67), and Cole Whitt (outside) race for position at Toledo (OH) Speedway in the USAC Midget division.
"The big tracks eat motors and we hear guys saying 'I am not going to go out there and risk my biggest asset in my program for $2,000 to win.' We see that. So in an effort to combat it we had a meeting last July with every major engine manufacturer: Toyota, GM, Ilmor, Pink. We gathered them to talk about Midget racing, dwindling car counts, the frustration of teams, and so on.
You look at their purse and the promoter can't peel out more because the fan base isn't there. So you can see both sides of it. How do we look at the sport and adjust the economics to have balance and longevity? That's what we (USAC) are doing in Midget racing today, we're looking at a short-term solution and a long-term solution. One of the short-term solutions we are looking at is rpm limiters. Midgets have historically been different engine packages-VW, Cosworth, Pontiac, a lot of guys even cut a V-8 in half and make a four-cylinder out of it. So what you've got is a rule package that is very diverse, based on one thing, cubic inches. And over the years there's been the Midget engine of the year, the flavor goes up and down as people look for that advantage.
"As a sanction we're looking at it saying that this sport has gotten out of hand. How do we control that today? If you look at the Midget rules around the country which primarily follow the USAC rule book, you've got pushrod engines, you've got over head cam engines and they try to equalize them by cubic inches, but cubic inches alone don't really control the competition. If you look at every major sanctioning body out there they have either an rpm limiter or a gear rule in order to keep the competition level with some common sense guidelines."