The USAC boys put on quite a show for a packed crowd at East Bay's 3/8-mile oval during th
Under Kevin Miller's watch, USAC has made good progress in building its brand. He cut ties to the Gold Crown Series while starting the .25 Midget series for quarter midget racers around the country. While a good portion of last month's story concentrated on the Midgets, where Miller sees some of his bigger challenges, USAC still maintains its stable of Sprint, Silver Crown, and Focus series in addition to some others.
To the USAC faithful, this will come as little surprise. "I think the Sprint Cars are USAC's greatest asset," says Miller. But that doesn't mean there isn't opportunity. "410 wingless Sprint Cars, the car counts are great, demand is there, but that's dirt. USAC is one of the very few series that has a dirt and a pavement focus. The dirt side is healthy but the pavement side is weak."
The health of the dirt side was no more evident than in the recently completed Bubba Army Sprint Nationals at East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa, Florida. While the three day show battled one rain out and some chilly weather, a strong crowd and 30-plus cars showed up to throw down on the 3/8-mile clay track.
Levi Jones' hauler parked in the pits at East Bay Raceway Park for the Bubba Army Sprint N
"I don't think they've had (USAC) Sprints here since the early '80s at the fairgrounds," said reknowned radio host and event sponsor Bubba the Love Sponge. "Kevin asked me what my thoughts (about a USAC race in Florida during February) were, being somewhat involved in the Sprint community here, if this area would support wingless Sprints."
Growing up in Indiana, Bubba already had a love of USAC's wingless Sprints, so bringing them to the Tampa-area track was a no-brainer. "If you're a race car enthusiast, that's driving right there my friend," he says. "You don't have the luxury of the wing or the luxury of the spoiler; its 410 cubic inches on a 1,200 pound car. It's all about throttle control and getting the thing sideways. I knew for selfish reasons that I would like it and I thought I could get people to come out to support it as well. That was kinda my reasoning behind it.
"I grew up with USAC, a good friend of mine is in charge of USAC. I knew this area would support it, at least mildly, so that they'd be happy enough to come back for a second year. Weather issues aside, I think they'd consider what they did the first year a success."
One of the things that makes USAC Sprint Cars so much fun to watch is the diversity of the
Everybody we talked with at the track, from fans to drivers to car owners, thought it was a great show. "I think they have a ton of momentum to build on for the second year," continued Bubba. "Not only marketing wise but participation and people coming to the stands wise. Maybe that's enough to get people down here enthusiastic about wingless Sprints. It would be nice to see some people from Florida participate in the USAC arena."
With Bubba's help Miller and company booked East Bay, acting as both sanction and promoter. Something Miller says you'll see more of. "Like the case of the Bubba Army Sprint Nationals, we've booked our own tracks to get better venues," says Miller. "Going that route is something we're doing on the pavement side as well. In addition, we've contained the pavement side so we're not traveling very far to encourage car count. And we've done some things in the rules to control costs in the area of tires." As all racers know, tires and travel are two of the biggest line items on the ol' budget. By scaling back the distance traveled for pavement Sprinters, Miller and his management team can focus their efforts on building participation in that division.
"The state of Indiana has 200 dirt Sprint Cars and 30 or 40 pavement Sprint Cars," explains Miller.
While some may look at that disparity as a sign that pavement Sprint Car racing is a dying division, Miller sees it as an opportunity. And to that extent USAC has created individual championships for dirt and pavement. Don't worry, they're still crowning the National Sprint Car Champion. But these new titles will provide an opportunity for teams running either just a dirt Sprint Car or just a pavement Sprint Car to attain a level in USAC that they could not have previously done.