Nesmith Dirt Late Model Series
Mike Vaughn-Series Director
If you race a spec or crate Dirt Late Model in the South, you've probably run with the NeSmith Dirt Late Model Series. This spec series puts on 24 events at 12 tracks in 6 states. And if that's not enough, NeSmith also has a weekly series. We sat down with Series Founder and Director Mike Vaughn to hear more about how the NeSmith Dirt Late Model series has persevered in the past few years. "Really and truly, our overall deal has maintained over the past two or three years where a lot of others have dropped off," explains Mike Vaughn. The NeSmith Dirt Late Model Series Director continues, "Being able to maintain has been a positive. A lot of other series are off by as much as 50 percent. We've been able to keep a 40-car car count for our touring shows, and the weekly tracks are actually growing. The affordability of our spec series has kept a lot of people in the game." Marketing has been a huge part of NeSmith's success. Promoting the drivers and the tracks has given the series the ability to beat the economy. "In tough economic times, you have to give people more bang for their dollar. The promoters and drivers have all stepped up their outlets of promoting our drivers and racetracks in the media to try and get them full exposure. Even our weekly guys are put on a national spotlight. That, combined with the affordability has helped us maintain and even grow in these tough economic times." When it comes to spec series, policing the rules can be challenging. Making sure you have the right technical people in place is key to the whole thing working. "When you have a spec series, you have to be willing to police it," Vaughn explains. "We have a great tech department and that's helped our growth. I think the promoters who give [a spec series] a chance see the benefits of it. I can give you a list of tracks where it has saved Late Model racing there."
World Of Outlaws
Tom Deery-Chief Operating Officer and President
The World of Outlaws Late Model Series (WoO LMS) is another one of the nation's premier traveling Dirt Late Model stock car series-a cousin of the longer-running World of Outlaws series for winged Sprint Cars that was founded by the late Ted Johnson in 1978. The WoO LMS first ran in 1988-1989 under the direction of Johnson, but the series sat dormant until being rekindled in 2004 by the World Racing Group and has grown in each season since then to take its place as one of the most competitive and lucrative tours for Dirt Late Model racers. We caught up with World Racing Group's Chief Operating Officer and President, Tom Deery to discuss the present condition of the World of Outlaw Late Model Series. "We primarily put on special events, and thankfully they still have a high spectator appeal and a purse component that attracts a strong field of participants." Deery adds, "In light of the issues that may or may not be out there, we have been blessed with the way things have been going. On the participant side, overall we have seen growth. We have seen guys step up and intend to, or run the whole series." Beyond the racers, the World Racing Group also pays close attention to the fans. "The attendance at these events has been as good as they've ever been, and in some cases, the best we've ever seen. In my opinion, that bids well for the special and large event series," he adds. "We are so blessed that there are still thousands of Dirt Late Models from coast to coast, and there is still some consistence or commonality in the rules. That has helped us all through the tough times, whether it's a local track, a regional series, or one of the national series."
Wissota AMSOIL Dirt Track Series
Terry Voeltz-Executive Director
The Wissota Promoters Association was founded in 1981 by eight track promoters in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The intent was to offer uniform rules for the promoters and drivers involved in the Late Model division. The "Wissota region" is recognized nationally as a healthy, stable racing region by industry leaders and as a non-profit organization (all of Wissota's income after operating expenses is paid out to the drivers at the conclusion of each racing season through track and national point funds). Terry Voeltz, Executive Director of Wissota and the AMSOIL Dirt Track Series gave us a look into the sanction's current health. "We cover a six-state area and Canada, we have 55 tracks, and honestly, it depends on where you're at," explains Voeltz. "We have areas that are doing very well and areas that are struggling." Though the series is seeing both sides of coin, it isn't always easy to figure out why one area does better than another. "Sometimes it's surprising to see the areas that do well and ones that don't." Voeltz continues, "You expect one to do well, and they end up struggling. And the ones you think should be weak are doing quite well. It may come down to saturation of tracks in some areas, and it comes down to promoting. Some tracks are really good at promoting and others aren't keeping pace." There's no question that the cost of racing has played a huge part in the success or struggles of tracks and race teams. Between the cost of the cars and travel expenses, running a race team or a track has not been easy. "There's no question in my mind that people are not traveling like they use to," Voeltz explains. "That has to be a direct result of fuel prices and the economy. As a sanction, it's important to keep costs under control. We need to control the cost of these race cars, even if you have to take drastic steps to back them down. The amount of money people are paying for some of these engines and chassis are out of control. There is no way the average person can be competitive." Last year, nearly 3,000 drivers were licensed for competition at Wissota's member tracks. The numbers are strong, and Wissota is healthy. "Overall, the racing has been good and the crowds have been good," says Voeltz.
The Bottom Line
After speaking with these six sanction heads it is clear that Dirt Late Model racing in the U.S. is healthy despite the shaky economy and stratospheric fuel prices. Sure, there are pockets of weakness such as slightly lower car counts or struggling promoters, but the overall foundation of the division is solid and that's important. For short track racing to remain stable and dare I say grow, the upper echelons have to be healthy. And from this snapshot everything is just fine, and, assuming the economy turns around, Dirt Late Model racing is just going to get better.