Bobby East (L) and Father Bob East (R) at Winchester.
The Rev Limiter
"We're right now working with Ilmor Engineering in Detroit to develop a rev limiter for Midgets that would be universal and could be put on any engine package," continued Miller. "Then the rpms would be dictated by the engine package. It wouldn't be a common rpm across the board because we have over head cams which by nature have less torque than a pushrod engine so they may need more rpms. We're going through some equalization formulas to find what those limits should be. For that long-term view of the sport, rpms cost money. If you run an engine at 9,500 rpm, the rebuild frequency is much higher than if you run that same engine at 8,500. Those are the kinds of things we're looking at to help lower the costs for our competitors. When you have a $6,000 to $8,000 engine rebuild and these guys are rebuilding every five or six races and yet they're racing for $2,000 to win, common sense says something is wrong. We've got to look at how we better control the economics of the sport."
Is The Solution A Common Template For A Race Car?
"I understand the commonization of the cars i.e. the NASCAR COT (Car of Tomorrow), but we like diversity and quite frankly one of the reasons we're looking at rev limiters is to keep diversity in the sport, so you can continue with innovation of different engine platforms and you don't have a spec engines. Rpm limits are a way to control some of that."
Levi Jones is one of the premiere USAC racers of today and the future.
Have You Looked At EFI?
"That is something that definitely is in our interest level for the future. Today Midget racing has a lot of purpose-built motors that are upwards of $30,000. We think the only way to drive the price of the engine way down, which should be in the $12,000 range, is to look in what's in your current production OEs, the 2.4-liter platform. Almost every OEM out there-Honda, Hundyai, GM, Ford, Chrysler, and so on-has a stock 2.4-liter in its portfolio. I think long-term we may be looking at that platform with EFI as your solution where Midget racing needs to go to be healthy."
Is This Sport Headed Toward EFI?
"I think one thing that you look at is what the youth are into. A major difference in what the youth are into today versus the '70s is back then you'd get internally into the engine, changing the cam, valvetrain, and so on. Today's kids are into computers and tuning, so if you look at where you want to activate and where you want to get your new competition base from it's in computers.
"We lost a generation of competitors to online gaming, and we're going to have to get them back on their terms not our terms. I have a 17-year-old son who plays Warcraft and Halo in his room all weekend long. We've got to get them playing with cars again."
Dave Darland watches as crew prepares the car for Winchester action.
What About The Existing Fan Base?
"If we stick to just the diehard guys it doesn't take a rocket scientist to look into the grandstands and seeing the aging of your fan base. When I ran marketing at Mopar, one of the greatest words of wisdom came to me from a new boss. She was a female who knew nothing about racing. When we first started talking about the Mopar brand, she looked at me and said 'who will be your brand loyalist 20 years from now?' And that woke me up. We were a musclecar brand and it prompted me and my brand people to study the brand from the perspective of kids. So we spent a week in California literally talking to kids in parking lots who belonged to car clubs and it was eye opening. Many of them didn't know or care what the Mopar brand was. I learned a great deal that week and what I learned was that they didn't want to be like their father and they wanted to create their own identity.
Part 1 Conclusion
When we sat down to talk with Kevin the story was originally supposed to be contained within a single article. However, after a 90 minute chat we quickly realized that covering everything discussed was going to take more than one issue of the magazine. So we split it into two. In Part 1 of our two-part USAC review, Miller gave us insight into where USAC is headed both from a philosophical point of view as well as some practical applications. Next month we're going to delve into the state of the Sprint Car, Silver Crown, Focus, and .25 Series. In addition we'll talk Green Racing, gaining new sponsors and the strengths and weaknesses of the series. Plus we'll talk with some of the guys running in these series to get their take on the State of USAC. Stay Tuned.