...next to a Kistler engine.
Miller calls it one of the key things they're going to do in 2010. So much so that they're doing it for the Midget Series as well. "Our Midget Series is similar, but not as weak on the pavement side," says Miller. "There are teams that run dirt, but there are also teams that really like the pavement. You see kids come up to the pavement Midgets because that's where they want to focus, they have aspirations to go to bigger pavement racing series. Both the dirt and pavement Midgets are strong. But you still have guys out there who can't afford to run two different cars. Hence the individual championships.
While Sprint and Midget are the marquee divisions of USAC, Silver Crown is a work in progress. "I think when we last visited, we just made the announcement that we were taking our new generation cars off the track," says Miller. "Bringing back the traditional Silver Crown cars has done a good job of bringing the car count back. But I think we continue to see a struggling with the definition of Silver Crown. It's a series that's full of tradition and I think it lost a lot of fan appeal when it went to the new generation cars, then back to the traditional cars. The question is how do we excite the crowd? We've got work to do in the Silver Crown series to reidentify what the series is and what the mission of our marketing is behind that."
Work being done to Jerry Coons Jr's car.
A Real Challenge
Between the three national series (Silver Crown, Sprints, and Midgets) USAC puts on 88 events. "Any other series-ARCA, Indy Car-they're really dealing with one major series. They may have a ladder system but they have their premiere series and premiere drivers and that's really their marketing thrust," says Miller. "At USAC we treat our Silver Crown, Sprints, and Midgets equally because they're not really a ladder to each other. Today, you have different competitors in those different series, people like Silver Crown, people like Midgets. Granted there are guys like Jerry Coons Jr. and Levi Jones who race in all three divisions but they're somewhat the exception rather than the rule."
Recognizing those racers who don't run all three, or even two, of those series is a real challenge. The recognition needs to be there in order to entice racers, more racers, to come run with USAC. It's a complex question Miller needed to answer.
"We looked at that and said how do we make a championship out of USAC where a guy with a dirt Sprint Car can have a chance to win this big championship? How do we take a guy with a pavement focus and get him the opportunity for a big championship, and how do we market those guys? We actually looked at the NASCAR weekly racing series which has a points structure that compares different cars and different tracks from all around the country."
In the background of the 2009 season Miller and his team did something nobody knew about. They took that NASCAR-style points structure and ran a parallel points system against their traditional points. What they found was eye opening.
Levi Jones puts a slide move on Brett Burdette during Night No. 1 of the Bubba Army Sprint
During their November West Coast swing (from Nov. 1 to Dec. 1), the Top 10 in points changed dramatically. That led them down a path to create a new National Driver's Championship. The championship will work similar to the aforementioned weekly racing points and assign points against a driver's 25 best finishes out of those 88 national events. Now that doesn't mean you have to run all 88 events. Regardless of the number of events you run, only your best 25 will be counted toward this championship. Couple that with a $100,000 point fund and $40,000 going to the winner and that should generate some serious excitement.
"What it does is allows a guy, who may not, within his individual series, have a pavement and a dirt car to win a national championship," explains Miller. "You can win the driver's championship with just one car. To show you how strong that is, last year Bryan Clauson had an unbelievable season running a dirt Sprint Car; [he] didn't really run pavement and didn't really run the Silver Crown series. He would have won this National Driver's Championship had it been in place in 2009."
Miller speaks with tremendous excitement when talking about the Driver's Championship, a title USAC is treating as an equal championship. "It's not something that is going to be overriding all USAC divisions because we want to maintain the integrity of all USAC national championships. But this fourth pillar the driving championship will represent something equal. For example, a dirt Midget guy could win this championship, which is worth $40,000, where before the National Midget Championship only paid $10,000."
These are all things Miller and his team are doing to create a new movement at USAC, a club with a lot of tradition and history, but in need of some new excitement. Miller says that the new Driver's Championship will allow them to market more of their drivers to a wider fan base while putting drama into the end of their season.