Each year, the President addresses the nation in an effort to keep citizens up to date on the latest key issues and social concerns. As the government and taxpayers have to worry about political issues, sanctioning bodies and races have their own issues to be concerned with. In years past, fan attendance has been up and down, car counts have fluctuated, payouts have dropped, and we've all heard rumors of, or had our local track cease operations due to financial burdens. Fuel has been more expensive than ever, and if you race in a traveling series, simply getting to the track can cost more than winning will pay out. Is this still the case? Or are we past the doom and gloom and on our way back to racing the way it was before the financial bottom fell out a few years ago? We were happy to hear that Dirt Late Model racing as a whole is just about as strong as ever. Granted, some markets are still on a decline, but the majority of the major race sanctions we spoke with have maintained, or in some cases are showing growth. In the next few pages we are going to bring you up to date on the state of Dirt Late Model racing in America. We spent some time with heads of selected major sanctioning bodies to get their take on the ups and down of the sport, as well as past, present, and future of dirt racing.
Carolina Clash Super Late Model Series
Larry Lee-Series President
If you live in the Carolina's and race, or like Dirt Late Models, then you're probably familiar with the Carolina Clash Super Late Model Series. With 18 events at 8 different tracks across North and South Carolina and Virginia, the Carolina Clash Super Late Model series offers tons of dirt-slinging action. With payouts as high as $10,000, this series attracts some of the best drivers in the Southeast. Larry Lee is the Series President, and we took some time to chat with him about the current state of the Carolina Clash Super Late Model Series. "This year we've had a good turn out," explains Lee. "Car counts have been down about 10 percent, which isn't bad at all. We've had some great racing and the crowds have been good." While reporting only a 10-percent drop in racers over years past can certainly be considered a good thing in uncertain economic times, Lee feels the "entertainment dollar" is stronger than ever. "People are still spending money on entertainment to get a break from the daily grind." He continues, "people go to work all week just try to survive. On the weekends, they want to spend some time with their families and be entertained. "I wouldn't say we are growing, but we are maintaining and holding our own. It gives me a real good feeling because I think the economy is going to come back in the near future, and when it does and things get rejuvenated, it's going to make Dirt Late Model racing much better. We are in a bit of a holding pattern right now, but I feel that we are going to see an upward swing. The future is looking bright!"
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
Ritchie Lewis-Series Director
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series is one of the premier national touring series for Dirt Super Late Models. The series sanctions 46 events at 30 tracks in 19 different states. Boasting open engine and tire rules these Super Lates are on the cutting edge of technology. The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series averaged 49 entries per event in 2011 with more than 500 different drivers competing in at least once in 2011. Given the numbers, and the mainstream media that covers its races, the LOLMD series is a serious player in the dirt world. We caught up with Series Director, Ritchie Lewis who gave us some insite into how the 2012 season is going. "Overall, we are very healthy," explains Lewis. "We are extremely thankful for that health. We have 46 events on the books for 2012, and we probably could have booked another 40. With our staff and wanting to put on quality races, we're putting on about all we can handle." The series success hasn't come without loss though. "Our car count has struggled a bit," Lewis adds. "The guys out there with open engines and the budgets to race with open tires have suffered with the economy, and that has taken its toll on car counts. There are hot pockets within the country, but car count has taken a bit of a hit. At the same time, the grandstand count is still just as strong, if not stronger than ever."
Lewis explains that part of this has to do with the series' strong network of race promoters. "Our promoter count is up, and our relationship with our promoters is stronger than ever." He continues, "The quality of racing has been extremely good, and I think the track promoters have been putting more and more effort and time into track prep. There are people out there prepping racetracks in a much better manner than 10 years ago. "At the end of the day, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirst Series is all about having the baddest of the bad. There's still that element of excitement that gets people in their cars or motorhomes to go long distances to watch these guys race. We still want to have the upper teir, USDA prime choice drivers, manufacturers, etc., 'cause there is still something to be said about throwing the green flag on 24 of the baddest Late Models in the country that makes the hair on your arms stand up, and the economy can't affect that!"
Brett Root-Vice President of Operations
"In our Late Model Division, car counts have been pretty consistent," explains Brett Root, Vice president of Operations for IMCA. "It's not our largest division, but where we have sanctions, it's been so consistent over the past 15 years. Our membership in this division has been great. It hasn't fluctuated in years, and we haven't seen any fluctuation now." The International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) was organized in 1915, and is the oldest active automobile racing sanctioning body in the United States. J. Alex Sloan, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was instrumental in establishing IMCA and ran more races than all other promoters in the United States combined-all under IMCA sanction. After Sloan's death in 1937, his son John continued the IMCA tradition. Under his leadership, IMCA continued to grow and held its first Late Model race on November 9, 1947 in Lubbock, Texas. In the late 1970's, Keith Knaack introduced the IMCA Modified division. Few knew then that Keith's vision and innovation would result in the largest class of race cars in the country. In 1990, Kathy Root was named president of IMCA and purchased IMCA from Karolyn and Kathryn Knaack in 1996. Using the vision and innovation of Keith Knaack, IMCA is based on enforcing fair and consistent rules that promote affordability as the foundation of racing in America. Through the promotion of the "grassroots" weekly racer, IMCA has continued to see remarkable growth throughout the last decade. Though known as the sanction for the dirt Modifieds, IMCA also offers a home for economical Dirt Late Model racing. "We have cost control measures on the cars, and we've had a spec motor since 1996," Root adds. "This was done to keep the cost of the engines down. We also run on a little narrower tire and a narrower wheel, which relates to a little less expense when it comes to tire budget." IMCA keeps track of the trends it sees among racers. Root explained a little about what they have been observing. "We've seen some patterns where racers are racing a little differently." He continues, "The racers are there and they have the equipment, but we are seeing racers at certain events and at certain racetracks being selective about how much they are racing. "Our philosophy and foundation has been built around trying to control or discourage costs. We try to keep things as reasonably affordable as they can be for racing, and we are going to stay true to that."