Jerry Coons Jr. makes a move to pass Hunter Schuerenberg.
A big step in the ability to put some marketing muscle behind these drivers is the addition of AmsOil as the title sponsor of the Sprint Car Series. The Superior, Wisconsin, synthetic lubricants manufacturer came on board in December.
"USAC came in as the sanctioning body for a series that we work with called TORC (The Off Road Championship), which AmsOil is the presenting sponsor of," explains Jeremy Meyer, AmsOil Race Program Manager. "There were perceptions of favoritism in off road in the past-sponsors pushing agendas, and so on. USAC came in with a blind notion of not being tied to anybody, and what I saw this last year was that perceived favoritism went out the door."
Miller's performance with TORC impressed Meyer enough to sign on the dotted line. "Watching them operate under stressful conditions (in TORC) and getting to know Jason (McCord) and Kevin over the year, I was very impressed with their professionalism and their ability to step back and see the big picture of everything and make fair, unbiased calls. That's why we came on board for three years. They have a good vision and we like things that have a lot of events and bring in a lot of people, but also have a lot of growth potential."
That vision, as Meyer sees it, is pretty straightforward. "They want to get back to being the top grassroots motorsports sanction in the U.S. At one time USAC was it, it wants to get back to that."
Eventual winner Damian "The Demon" Gardner about to pass Levi Jones.
Ford Focus & the .25
Getting back to being "it" is all about the future. And the future of any sanction lies within gaining new and young racers, which has been a key concern for Miller since taking over USAC. To that end, in March 2009, USAC started a new division, a Quarter Midget series called the .25 Midgets. "That has really blossomed. In one year we've had 13 clubs sign on with USAC, primarily in the Midwest but a few in the South and a few in the West.
"Our first race was phenomenally successful. We had an event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that the people just raved about. We have a lot of momentum going into 2010 and now we just announced a 10-race championship for .25 Midgets which includes stops at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando.
The Disney connection is something that Miller should be really proud of, after all where else do 5- to 12-year-old kids who race want to go? Indy and Disney.
Bubba, a two-team owner in Quarter Midget racing, loves what Miller has done with the entry-level division. "There are two sanctioning bodies of Quarter Midgets," explains Bubba. "QMA is the NASCAR of Quarter Midgets, it never had any competition. Now, not only does it have competition, it has a really formidable competitor. USAC's come in and secured a race at Disney, secured a race at Indy, and done quite nicely."
Seven-year-old Tyler Clem is one of USAC's future stars currently running in its .25 Midge
According to Bubba one thing with USAC that catches parents' eyes is that QMA only sanctions Quarter Midgets whereas USAC has four additional divisions where kids can move up to as they get older.
"When your kid hits 12 or 13 and doesn't want to do Quarter Midgets anymore, and he's been in it for 6 or 7 years, there's no other form of racing to move to in their sanctioning body (QMA). Whereas USAC has Ford Focus, Midgets, wingless Sprints, Silver Crown. USAC is a business of a racing company and I think that a lot of parents like that. Now I'm not saying anything bad about QMA, we race them both. But I think if Kevin can continue to market and grow at the rate he's doing now, it's a win-win for the racers because now we have two sanctioning bodies both of which do good things."
By creating the .25 Midgets, Miller has corralled a group of young racers who, when they're ready, can move up to the Ford Focus. "We've already sold four or five Focus Midgets in the last three or four months to Quarter Midget kids who have seen this USAC thing and have said, 'wow, we want to be a part of it,'" says Miller.
"We got into Quarter Midget racing to build our next generation of competitors and that's happening. That's been a good connection. The Ford Focus we see as thriving and will build over the next couple of years from that addition of the .25 midgets."