SRL Southwest Series
Larry Collins--Managing Director
The SRL Southwest Series was formed after the Tri-Track Series was dissolved. Tri-Track was the last reminants of the old NASCAR Southwest Tour and its demise left a surplus of cars that fit a certain set of rules in the Southwest corner of the country. At the completion of the 2000 racing season, three tracks--Altamont Raceway Park, Madera Speedway, and Stockton 99 Speedway--decided to close the Tri-Track Series, as Stockton did not want to hold these events in 2001. In January 2001 the promoters of Altamont and Madera asked for a meeting to try and continue to schedule a Series of the NASCAR Elite type cars for 2001. It was suggested that the two tracks would hold events with the same rules package as the NASCAR Southwest Tour. At the same time they requested that Steve Fensler, along with with their help, try to form the new Series. Davey Hamilton and Rick Gerhardt were promoting a Supermodified Series under the Supermodified Racing League (SRL), and offered to bring the Late Models into the company--the Late Models would compete under the name SRL Wild West Shootout Late Model Series.
In April 2005 the decision was made to sell the Supermodified division to Elizabeth Williams and Rick Cameron and they formed the WSSRL. The Late Model portion of the Supermodified Racing League was kept in tact and went under the SRL. With the Late Models being identified under SRL the corporation was then changed to the StockCar Racing League. Larry Collins is the SRL Managing Director. We sat down with him and he explained how the series supports the tracks that host SRL events.
"When we took the series over about five years ago, the tracks were really struggling," Collins tells us. "So we had to price accordingly. We had to actually help the tracks, which we still do in some cases, bring sponsorship to the events to help the track cover the expense of the series being there and pay the purse. As things have gotten a little better and we've proved ourselves to the track by bringing good fields of cars and creating a draw of fans at the front gate, a lot of tracks are able to go out and get their own sponsorship."
The economy took a downturn shortly after the series was started, making survival a struggle. Collins explains how the series is holding up.
"We feel things getting better. Mainly because the series has been able to bring a good enough show to where it's drawing the spectators and the attention of the sponsors and media. So overall, we think we're doing as well as we can right now with the state of the economy and we are really looking forward to when the economy rebounds. We are really going to be in a good position and the series is going to thrive."
Rules can make or break a series, and the SRL is in a unique position.
"Every decision we make, be it rules, schedule, how far we are going to travel, first and foremost, we think about how it's going to affect our race teams," explains Collins. "We are running the same rules NASCAR ran when it owned the series in the '80s and '90s. We saw that there was an inventory of cars in our region that matched those rules and we stayed with it. We figured if there's a car out there and inventory that's not being used, someone can pick it up at a really good price and the guys who already have cars don't have to invest in new equipment. "We feel really good about the strength of the series right now. We have great sponsorship, and we've made very careful decisions based on how it affects our race teams. We feel in doing so it allowed us to keep our numbers up and we're real happy with the strength we've had over the last three or four seasons. And we just see things getting better!"
George Silberman--Vice President, Regional and Touring Series
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR's national championship program for short-track racing. More than 10,000 drivers compete at NASCAR-sanctioned short tracks throughout the U.S. and Canada. The local racing program was founded in 1982, and since its inception, the series has been a successful starting point for the careers of many top drivers. Throughout the season the top 500 feature division drivers are ranked nationally according to their NASCAR points. At the end of the season, each top 500 driver will receive a certificate of recognition from NASCAR displaying their 2011 ranking. The Vice President of Regional and Touring Series, George Silberman, took some time to fill us in on how NASCAR's short track program is doing. "Obviously, the economy has had an effect on the entire sport." Silberman continues, "to put it into perspective, right now our short track program is arguably some of the top short tracks in the U.S. and Canada, and right now of all the tracks in our Whelen All-American Series, roughly 2/3 of the tracks still have Asphalt Late Models as its feature division or second division if they are in an area of the country where Modifieds are bigger. When you look at the entire NASCAR program, Asphalt Late Model stock cars are still very well represented."
NASCAR spends a lot of time observing the trends in racing to better position itself in the ever-changing world of racing. He told us a little bit about what he's observed. "Some of the trends we've seen are promoters getting creative about how to address the economic impact. So what you're seeing at a number of tracks, and this may not be coast to coast, but in some regions of the country, you're seeing promoters adjusting their calendars and maybe not running Late Models every weekend as they may have done 6 or 7 years ago. This helps the racers stretch their sponsor dollars, but it also allows for some recovery time if someone hits the wall or whatever." He goes on to say, "What we've seen too is a trend, particularly among our NASCAR tracks, of a little more uniformity in the rules. If you think back about 10 years ago, there seemed to be a trend where promoters wanted to have their own unique set of rules to differentiate themselves from the track down the street, and to keep racers competing just at that racetrack. Now, particularly with our NASCAR tracks and the way our state and national points structure are put together, you're seeing more of a trend of promoters getting together and trying to come up with rules that aren't necessarily the same, but they are compatible to allow competitors to run another track if their track is not running on a given night, when another one is. "At the end of the day, racers are racers and within reason they are going to find a way to go racing. So even though times are tough, Late Model stock cars are still a force within short track racing. They are a spectacular type of race car for the fans to watch!"
Wrapping It Up
Asphalt Late Model racing has certainly seen its fair share of ups and downs. The sport is healthy and will continue to thrive for years to come. As the economy improves, look to see car counts come back and far exceed what they were pre-economic decline. That means the technology, talent, and competition will soon be greater than ever!