Short tracks are still an affordable venue for family budgets. Some tracks and series events have seen up and down attendance all year long. So many factors can affect so many different areas of the country such as weather, graduations or large local events, as examples. Tracks and series have become increasingly aware of those local and national factors, and become much smarter at scheduling. A couple of examples; because of intelligent scheduling the ASA Midwest Tour had 11,500 fans for its event at the Milwaukee Mile back in June and Meridian Speedway, an ASA Member Track in Meridian, Idaho, had more than 5,000 fans at its recent Saturday night event," he adds. "We see more stabilization within our ASA Member Tracks and series. Hopefully the economic factors that affect everyone in this country are starting to turn around which will breathe new life into the entertainment industry as a whole. Yes, the car counts may be lower at some ASA Member Tracks and series events, but fans are still seeing quality racing. They are being entertained, which is critical. We all just have to continue to work a little harder to be successful, and for many, the hard work is paying off."
CARS Pro Cup
Jack McNelly--Series Director
The CARS (Championship Auto Racing Series) Pro Cup series began its 16th year of racing with the 2012 season. Over the previous 15 years, the Pro Cup Series has completed 331 races and fans have witnessed more than 600 different drivers compete at 50 different track throughout the U.S. and Canada. It is a true stock car touring series, dedicated to providing a place for up and coming drivers to cut their teeth and for veteran drivers to continue to perfect their craft. Although veterans still make up a large portion of the fields each week, many younger drivers use CARS as a stepping-stone to the larger touring series. In recent years, the Pro Cup Series has seen many of the current stars in NASCAR work their way up by racing in the Pro Cup Series. Drivers such as Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, Brian Vickers, Clay Rogers, Scott Wimmer, Benny Gordon, Jeff Agnew, and Joey Logano and others have raced and won in CARS Pro Cup before going on to race in NASCAR. Some still continue compete in Pro Cup from time to time. Over the years, the grassroots appeal has attracted a virtual "Who's Who" list of short-track greats.
"We're certainly not immune to anything," explained Jack McNelly, Series Director. "Our attendance has dwindled, but being fair about it, our series has gone through some pretty tough time here in the past 2 or 21/2 years. Like many other sanctioning bodies our car count is down and I think that's directly attributable to the economy. "We're still very thankful we're in operations and we're thankful for the competitors we had and continue to have that have stood by us literally through thick and thin. I'm in hopes that we'll get this thing turned around. I don't know what the election is going to do as far as the economy. People are sitting back waiting to see some direction from the government." CARS Pro Cup has made some wholesale changes in regards to its rules and race format. McNelly told us more.
"We have made lots of changes without compromising the quality of the competition we have. Last year the series was on radial tires, and it was just too expensive of an item for our teams to swallow. So we had to go to a bias ply-tire, which saved the teams about $500 a set. All of our teams use two sets (most teams use three sets), so on a given night we're talking about a saving of $1,000-$1,500. "After the second event of the year we went to a 10-minute halftime break instead of pit stops. We still run 250 laps, but it's divided up into two different segments. Now the teams don't have to bring in specialists to change tires, carry tires, or jack the car, which translates into a $1,000-$1,200 savings for the teams." CARS Pro Cup also recently announced a new title sponsor, Revolution Oil. With a series sponsor, the Rev Oil Pro Cup series its on its way to revitalization. "We're still in operation, and we're going to stay in operation."
RJ Scott--Managing Partner
In January 1997, Action Entertainment purchased Anderson Speedway, and set about putting together an eight-race series, with cooperation from Salem Speedway, Winchester Speedway, and Indianapolis Raceway Park. The response was overwhelming from the sponsors, fans, and competitors. As a result, the series became a full touring group in 1998 featuring more races (16 total), more racetracks (6 total), and more drivers (more than 75 total). The Champion Racing Association (CRA) was developed to oversee the new series. The CRA Super Series and JEGS CRA All-Stars utilize stock-appearing cars, which resemble the Impala, Fusion, Camry, and Charger. CRA is an ABC body rule series that feature a typical Asphalt Late Model engines, 358 ci with a compression ratio of 9:1. Competitors may also use a special Sealed Engine that is only available from two certified builders, which is designed to keep engine costs under control. R.J. Scott is one of the managing partners of CRA, and he took some time to speak with us.
"The economy has really affected our lower series much greater in terms of car count, but we seem to be doing OK at the upper levels," Scott explains. "We feel pretty fortunate when we look around the country, because we see car counts falling off for some other series, but ours have remained pretty steady. These days if you can have 18-24 really good race cars on a racetrack, you can put on a really good show. When you see 12, 13, or less, there are some serious struggles. It seems like out top divisions have been less impacted by the economy, so we're pretty pleased about that."
Engine costs have been a huge issues among traveling Late Model series, and CRA has enacted rules to control these costs. Scott explained that this has impacted car counts in a positive way.
"That's why our car counts have remained pretty steady." He adds, "Some years back we looked at what was going to be the biggest problem for our competitors, and we looked at the cost of engines. Twelve years ago, if you wanted a competitive engine, you could easily spend $35,000-$40,000 on a great 9:1. We saw the number of people who could afford to do that was diminishing. We started with a fresh sheet of paper, and came up with the sealed engine for about $16,000. You can go run the top Super Late Model races in the country with a $16,000-$17,000 engine vs. $35,000-$40,000 ones. So we have significantly dropped the cost of the engine package, plus with the increase in crate Late model racing, there's another more affordable way to have some really sharp, fast race cars that the fans really enjoy and the teams enjoy putting on the racetrack."