Brandon Wimmer piloting the...
Brandon Wimmer piloting the Rick Ferkel-owned No. 0 car and Chris Andrews (15c) race for position coming off Turn 4 in a F.A.S.T. Series race at Attica Raceway Park.
It takes courage, heart, and a well thought out plan by some very motivated people to launch a new racing series in this day and age. For the Ohio-based Fremont Attica Sprint Title (F.A.S.T.) it would seem that the ingredients not only are there, but clicking on all cylinders. Moving into its second year of competition in 2010, the series has brought Ohio 410 Winged Sprint Car race fans a new height of competition while delivering racers new rewards without ever really leaving their own backyard.
Based in Northern Ohio, Attica Raceway Park which races on Friday nights and Fremont Speedway (Saturday night) are only 30 miles away from each other. Both tracks carry a tradition of exceptional competition, recognized throughout the Sprint Car community. Both tracks run 410 Winged Sprint Cars weekly and many of the same drivers run at both tracks, making the car count jump well into the 40s. Just making the feature at either one of these venues is a chore week in and week out. Both tracks boast capacity crowds and hordes of race fans each night. Fans are known to come early and lay their blankets down on their favorite viewing spots, then come back in the evening to pay their hard-earned wages to watch some of the best Sprint Car racing around. With such a market for Sprint Car racing already established, why not join forces and make it even better?
What is F.A.S.T.? The F.A.S.T. Championship Series is an independently established point fund that is not affiliated with any racing series and is not directly affiliated with either track, although both tracks support the concept and acknowledge the promotion as an effort to work together to strengthen 410 Sprint Car racing in Northern Ohio.
F.A.S.T. is a collaboration of front man Bryan Autullo and his two co-founders, Scott Porter and Chris Kettman. "They have both been instrumental in the planning and implementation of this idea," noted Autullo. "Scott and Chris do a great deal to help make things happen. Helping with the day to day operations, the race day operations, and the overall organization of the entire operation, it's definitely a team effort.
"We feel that Central Pennsylvania is a good model for what it takes to have a successful local Sprint Car racing program. The fans embrace it and support it, while the talent is at a top notch. We have all the elements here in Northern Ohio, but until last season there wasn't anyone willing to tie it all together and promote the idea that we have something really special of our own right here in our own backyard. You hear about Central Pennsylvania. You hear about Knoxville. Nobody was talking about Northern Ohio."
The trio set out to change that way of thinking. "I think we started the ball rolling. I hope it continues to grow," says Autullo. "The fans in this area support it, and the sponsors continue to increase their involvement. We have a concept that works and now other regions have looked at the formula for success and have started to implement this idea in their own backyards. I think it is vital to maintaining a healthy level of support at the ticket window to be able to give the fans something extra to cheer for week in and week out."
Basically, the initial concept has been around for years before Autullo picked it up and ran with it. "I talked about it with promoters over the years, but at the time it didn't seem like a concept that would work due to conflicting personalities at the local tracks. Each of the two tracks had its own way of doing things. It wasn't until John Bores took over at Attica and Rich Farmer took over at Fremont that all the planets lined up," explains Autullo.
The 410 Sprint Car power-to-weight...
The 410 Sprint Car power-to-weight ratio is shown here as F.A.S.T. Series Champion Craig Mintz (09) lifts the front end as he makes a pass on Brandon Wimmer (0) at Attica on the front stretch.
Mark Keegan (X) and Cap Henry...
Mark Keegan (X) and Cap Henry (04) split another contender in a three-wide race off Turn 4 in a F.A.S.T. event at Attica. The fans come in droves to see this kind of racing every week and it has become the norm at both the Attica and Fremont racetracks in northern Ohio every weekend.
Byron Reed (5) and Mike Linder...
Byron Reed (5) and Mike Linder (312) hard on the gas as weekly contenders at both Fremont and Attica. They both think highly of the F.A.S.T. Series.
A typical rearend geometry...
A typical rearend geometry look of the winged Sprint Car.
"When we presented the idea to the promoters and to some key sponsors, they knew this was an idea that would work. It was something that should have been done a long time ago," says Autullo. "Rich Farmer has been a key to our success in the support he has provided to make sure we have the tools we need to make things happen. After all, we are helping to sell tickets at his racetrack. John Bore has been equally supportive, but he is not as 'hands on' as Rich has been. Also, Paul Kistler (title sponsor) has been a huge help in driving other sponsors to our door step. Paul is very respected in this sport and it has been helpful to use him as a reference as to how we have helped promote his business with our advertising."
The F.A.S.T. Championship is based on a combined points system for a set number of regular weekly 410 Sprint events at Attica and Fremont. This championship is paid in addition to each track's individual season's points title and payout. In essence, it's additional money designed to give something back to the teams that race both tracks every week. The goal is to increase interest and fan support for both tracks and enhance the hype and drama of each weekly show. Drivers will get a little more money back in their racing budgets at the end of the season, hopefully helping them to return the following season.
Goodyear tires are popular...
Goodyear tires are popular these days in Ohio Sprint Car racing. Here a crewman for Byron Reed does a little extra grooving in prep for race action.
The beauty of the F.A.S.T. championship is that there is no membership fee and teams are not required to do anything other than show up to race at each track each week. "This helps to build fan interest while also helping sell tickets at the weekly events," says Autullo. "This point fund should help to maintain/increase the car counts at each track, with additional money being paid on top of the healthy purse and established season point fund at each track."
Of course having a great formula won't get you very far if you don't promote it. Even during the off-season the folks from F.A.S.T. get out and sell their product. A chili cook-off challenge and concerts are put together during the off-season to help bring attention to the racing group. The idea behind the Racer's Chili Challenge and FASTfest Concert Series is to keep fans involved during the off-season and get them familiar with the drivers on a personal level.
"It helps them to gain a sense of camaraderie with the drivers that they cheer for. It also introduces the general public to what we are doing and hopefully sparks their curiosity about what is going on at these local tracks each weekend. I'm sure we've prompted more than a few new fans to go buy a ticket and see a race with our events," notes Autullo.
The 2010 campaign will be the second year of F.A.S.T. competit-ion, and from the end of the 2009 season, teams and fans were already anxious for the 2010 season to get going. A 22-race schedule is planned for this year with 11 events split evenly between Attica and Fremont. The schedule's concept features "F.A.S.T. Weekends" where events are run back-to-back at the two tracks in a Friday/Saturday package. The only exceptions are the two stand-alone season championship nights sponsored by Kistler Racing Products at the end of the season.
"We have secured enough sponsors and advertisers to once again pay out $10,000 to the series championship winner and of course the Kistler Cup trophy," says series co-founder Porter. "I think teams have noticed the numbers that Fremont, Attica, and F.A.S.T. have put together on paper and realize that our independent point fund, combined with the two track point funds, creates the third richest point fund payout in the country for a weekly Sprint Car racing program, behind only iconic venues like Williams Grove and Knoxville."
The lever on the left allows...
The lever on the left allows the driver to adjust the top wing back and forward to help create more bite in the car.
In 2009, the F.A.S.T. Series paid out $30,000 in cash to the Top 10 teams and added another $30,000 in contingency awarded to the Top 20 teams. Plans for 2010 are very much in line with what the series was able to do in its inaugural season. Another thing that is attracting teams to Northern Ohio is the weekly purse at these two venues. Attica pays $2,200-to-win and Fremont pays $2,500-to-win, with each track paying well all the way back through the field; and that keeps teams coming back weekly and many outsiders trying to swoop in for a quick day. "We see some of the best local talent in the country every weekend at Attica and Fremont," says series co-founder Kettman.
F.A.S.T. Rules and Procedures With one season in the books, changes to the formula were minimal. "I don't think we've made any drastic changes. Our goal is to improve on something that was already pretty darn good," said Porter. For the most part, things remained the same as they were in 2009, other than the increase of "show up points" from 25 to 50 points, the elimination of "non-transfer" points in the heat races, and the elimination of owner points.
The car rules themselves are typical of 410 Sprint series around the country. The methanol-guzzling, fuel-injected 410ci motors put out 850 hp pushing the 1,375-pound car to speeds well beyond 140 mph depending on the track. Both tracks have a spec tire rule requiring Goodyear rubber across the rear with a maximum width for the right rear wheel of 18 inches. The maximum width for the left rear wheel is 15 inches.
Craig Mintz takes the checkered...
Craig Mintz takes the checkered flag at Attica in front of a huge weekly crowd that gathers at the northern Ohio clay oval.
While the rules are the same for both tracks, race procedures are not. They are governed and set entirely by each track. But even in the race procedures, the differences are minimal. Attica utilizes a pill draw while Fremont qualifies. Beyond that, the rest of each track's program mirrors one another; heat races, followed by B Main and A Main. They don't run a fast dash like some traveling series and the inversion is determined by a dice roll of 2, 4, 6, or 8.
The Competitors' thoughts on the F.A.S.T. Series Gibsonburg, Ohio's Craig Mintz captured the inaugural season F.A.S.T. Championship on the heels of four wins and 10 Top 5s in 16 starts. "I felt honored to be the first-ever Champion of the F.A.S.T. series," notes Mintz. "To be crowned champion of this series with the amount of talent that is in the F.A.S.T. area made it even more special to my team and me."
On the F.A.S.T. impact of 2009, Mintz was not at a loss for words. "The advantages of having the F.A.S.T. series is being able to race at your home tracks that you would normally participate at anyway and receive travel-like rewards. It also brings people into the stands that sometimes normally would not be there. F.A.S.T. puts an added drama and suspense into our weekly racing providing better entertainment for the fans. Most drivers and teams forget that we are a sort of entertainment, and without fans in the stands there isn't a race to be run. So anything we can do as teams, or owners, or series developers is great."
Mintz says that with today's tight economy and job loss at the highest it has ever been, it's hard to spend money on something other than putting a roof over your head and food on the table. "F.A.S.T allows us to run locally and put more money into our pockets than it would be for any other normal local shows," he says.
The 2009 F.A.S.T. Series Champion,...
The 2009 F.A.S.T. Series Champion, Craig Mintz, enjoys a victory at Attica. Mintz will be remembered as the first-ever F.A.S.T. Series Champion. He looks to repeat in 2010.
When we talk about 410 Sprint Car racing in Ohio, the Linder name is sure to come up. Second generation driver, and 2005 and 2006 Fremont Track Champion, Mike Linder has been around a long time and Sprint Car racing runs thick through his veins. Mike realizes the impact of the newly formed F.A.S.T. series. "The series has benefited the local race teams as well as the local race fan by providing better paying shows, thus keeping the better teams that are from the area, in the area," notes Linder. "They both (Attica and Fremont) are great places to bring your family, race your car economically, and both provide great racing for the fans. The point fund at the end of the year is awesome, and the opportunity to be better because you're racing against better drivers."
Coming from a traditional family run operation, with eight 410 Sprint Car track titles, three at Fremont and five at Attica, Byron Reed knows a thing or two about competition and the efforts it takes to be successful. "We are a family operation and we also have a business that takes up a lot of our time. My wife and I also have two boys who are involved in a lot of activities. Earlier in my career I did travel a little bit but now we are pretty content to stick with Attica and Fremont and the F.A.S.T. series," says Reed. "The competition level in the F.A.S.T. series is extremely tough. Everyone fields high-quality, competitive equipment and comes to the track prepared. In addition to the regulars, our area is also a popular stop for a lot of the traveling drivers to run when their series is off."
Reed was second in points not only in the F.A.S.T. series in 2009, but also at Attica and Fremont in the weekly points battle. "To finish First in 2010 will take consistency, no DNFs, many Top 5s, and a few wins. Attica and Fremont are great tracks to race at because the tracks are always well prepared, the show is run efficiently, and the competition level is always good. I think the F.A.S.T. series is great for our area. It brings more exposure to us and the extra cash at the end of the year is a handsome reward for the year's work," says Reed.
What about F.A.S.T.'s future? "I had several conversations with Guy Webb of the All Stars Circuit of Champions when we started this organization," says Autullo. "He was not happy about what we were doing because he was looking at it the wrong way. He looked at F.A.S.T. as a group that was trying to take over his territory. That couldn't be further from the truth. I have said all along that what we are doing is enhancing his product. The All Stars are based in Northern Ohio. If this area fades and becomes weak, what has he got to work with? If the tracks are dropping shows and losing cars, how does that benefit anyone?
"We are not here to replace the All Stars. We are here to make Northern Ohio Sprint Car racing stronger than it has ever been to where it rivals Central Pennsylvania. That is our goal. If we can come close to that level of intensity, then we have accomplished what we set out to do. The All Stars will benefit from what we are doing and I think Mr. Webb has come to that realization after our first season was in the books.
"On the flip side, we are not really affected by what the All Stars do. We averaged about 30 cars when the All Stars were out of the area in 2009, so there really wasn't much of an impact on what we do when those All Star teams leave the porch," concludes Autullo.
Autullo also explained that future events possibly could come on board to add to the F.A.S.T. schedule. "I have talked to other promoters about some ideas to expand our base a little, but we would do 'special event' races for cash bonus money and not for points. I have some ideas cooking and I have been chatting with Larry Kemp at Eldora and Billy Jarrell at Skyline. Billy just started the Ohio Valley Sprint Car Association, so there is an opportunity for us there to do some special event shows and a 'North vs. South Challenge' for the state of Ohio. I am open to doing things that will benefit the teams and the fans, but at the same time we will schedule these events so they do not interfere with any All Star or World of Outlaw events in our area," says Autullo.
The 2010 F.A.S.T. series will also see the implementation of a race schedule for the support division of 305 Sprint Cars at both tracks as well. There are very few economically friendly racing series out there, especially in the dirt Sprint Car ranks, but it would appear that the F.A.S.T. group has put together a product that neither fan nor competitor can find fault with. Northern Ohio surely does produce some of the best weekly dirt Sprint Car programs in the country and should not be overlooked. To take a weekly program that has been so successful and supported for so many years by all involved, and make it richer by not adding to the expense is something truly special. Fire up the push trucks boys, and let's kick up some sod.