Promoter’s Corner is a new, bi-weekly feature on Speed51.com powered by JEGS that allows racers and fans to see a side of short track racing promoters that we don’t often see.
Speed51.com has assembled a group of 10 well-respected promoters from different short tracks and disciplines of racing throughout the country. On a bi-weekly basis, promoters will take their turn sharing their thoughts on an interesting short track racing topic or giving a behind-the-scenes look at what they do.
Our panel of promoters who have kindly agreed to be involved in this feature include: Alan Dietz (Pro All Stars Series), Doug Hobbs (Evergreen Speedway – WA), Gregg McKarns (Madison Int’l Speedway – WI & ARCA Midwest Tour), Jeff Hachmann (World Racing Group), Joe Skotnicki (Race of Champions), Josh Vanada Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT), Larry Collins (Kern County Raceway Park – CA and SRL), R.J. Scott (Champion Racing Association), Tim Packman (Lancaster Speedway) and Tim Bryant (Five Flags Speedway and Southern Super Series).
To begin this new feature on Speed51.com, we asked five members of our panel to answer the question: how do you work with other track/series promoters?
As Skotnicki said, it was a “dynamite topic” right out of the gate. Each promoter’s responses to the question can be found below.
Alan Dietz – Media Relations, Pro All Stars Series
PASS has worked with a number of promoters, from track operators to other series entirely. First off, we work really hard to not schedule on top of other tracks, especially when it comes to their major events. Secondly, it’s an essential to work with track operators and promoters to have PASS races at their respective tracks. That’s probably one of the most important things we do, in addition to working with our competitors, in order to put on unforgettable events for our fans.
Lastly, for a number of years now, we have tried to have good working relationships with other series. The American-Canadian Tour (ACT), NEMA, Southern Modified Racing Series, USAC Eastern Midgets, and MASS Street Stocks are just a few examples of the folks we have partnered with recently and we’ve been able to put on some great events thanks to that.
At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. If a track or series is struggling, it reflects on us all. And, any black eye that occurs in the sport can have major effects on everybody.
Doug Hobbs – Promoter, Evergreen Speedway
One of the very first items I did in 2011 after taking over Evergreen Speedway was to reach out to all the tracks in Washington, Oregon and Idaho to establish common rule packages in all the cross over classes, and especially the Super Late Models which are most everyone’s feature division.
A few ways we work together is to meet once a year in person at our Western Region Promoters Conference and share new updates or rule changes for the new year. Most of our classes use the same Hoosier Tires which helps to control costs. On a year-round basis, we contact each other frequently just to stay in touch on shocks and new engine platforms. We also try really strive hard to never schedule events on someone’s marquee weekends.
We cannot survive alone, and the culture to communicate and respect each other has grown to be a very healthy relationship.
One other thing we do at Evergreen Speedway is to share our Marketing Information with other tracks and racers. We help close sponsors for other tracks and racers. Recently we had a returning sponsor that loved racing so much that we facilitated agreements with two asphalt and two dirt tracks for 2017.
We also share information with tracks on national and international events coast to coast and even into Europe. We give shout outs on the PA, social media sites, especially Facebook, for upcoming big events at area tracks year round.
Joe Skotnicki – Promoter, Race of Champions
First off, you have to create a dialogue and be open to the idea that there is room for everyone to be successful; however, we are in a business that is very competitive in all natures, and some people as hard as you try do not believe in working together, even though – if you really look at it – the biggest success stories are when everyone works together.
There will always be a point where you have to put your foot down and do something that is in your best interest, but the will to discuss things is step one. Scheduling, by far, is the most difficult because for some reason, people believe they own a night and if there is an opportunity or a change, people get defensive and can attack and try to ruin or alter a plan. It is challenging and with a limited amount of opportunities to race, it makes it hard to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together.
With that said, you have to be an open book about it. There are circumstances that present the opportunity and others that do not.
What I call “the island mentality” still exists. There are thoughts that if you build your own island then you don’t have to work with others and you can do your own thing, but with less participants and less fans, it really limits what you can and can’t do. There is a significant difference in that aspect from dirt to asphalt. Dirt seems to have rules more aligned, where on asphalt it seems as though it is a bit more challenging and scattered when it comes to rules and who can participate where.
I hope over time we can help overcome some of those barriers because if we start working together more, recognizing our challenges collectively and create a path where as a sanctioning body we can help tracks realize how good it is to have unified rules which opens the doors for more participants at events because you have a bigger pool of racers to entice to come.
The only way we can do this is have that open dialogue and that’s the best way to create a positive working relationship with all of us. Start talking. We may walk away with a better understanding of our business if we do.
Josh Vanada – General Manager, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park
Now, I’ll confess at the outset that Thompson’s situation is unique, as we host seven major events this year, and are not running on a weekly basis. Nevertheless, I’ve found there are three main areas to work with other promoters: (1) rules; (2) scheduling; (3) resources. I’ve listed those three in order of importance to me. I believe that without compatible rules the other two are irrelevant. It’s the rules that set the bedrock for this type of cooperation, and offer drivers the ability to race at Stafford, the Speedbowl, and Thompson.
I’ve got two great examples of how we have worked with other series and tracks on rules. The first is with regards to our Late Model Division. In 2012, when I came to Thompson, we were struggling to get more than eight cars per race. We decided to open the rules to allow legal American-Canadian Tour (ACT) cars to participate. Our logic was simple: there are more cars and engines in circulation for that division than any other type of Late Model. Also, as we were phasing our Thompson Modified Division out, those teams could use those engines.
Secondarily, over the past several years, we worked together with Shawn Monahan to unify rules at both Thompson and the Speedbowl so a competitor in either of our divisions could just go and change their setup and race at the other track. This was met with rave reviews from our teams, and certainly helped to strengthen both tracks.
With regards to scheduling, I think this one is a bit easier. Being close to tracks that have been in operation for over five decades, most of our major events are annuities. It’s a plug and play situation. I have spoken, however, on several occasions with Mark Arute (Stafford), David Alburn (Seekonk), Shawn Monahan (Waterford), and Bill Callen, when he was managing Lee USA Speedway, as they considered moving major event dates or where they may put a new event that they are working on. We also have great relationships with the touring series organizers.
Lastly, we have often shared resources with tracks. Whether this be staff or equipment, we are always willing to work together. While managing Lee, Bill Callen approached me and several others to help manage Oktoberfest. We’ve also shared equipment with Lee. Every Oktoberfest we allow Lee to borrow golf carts from us, and last year they allowed us to borrow their turbine blower. A bit closer to home, over 85% of the staff at Thompson also works at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. This is true on the touring level, also, as some of the touring series have asked to send their staff here for training.
To summarize, it’s a small community. In order for the sport to strengthen, all stakeholders – track owners and operators, drivers, car owners, crews, fans and sponsors – we all have to work together. After all, “no man is an island.”
R.J. Scott – Managing Partner, Champion Racing Association (CRA)
Working with other promoters is key to the future success of short track racing. Through the years, too many promoters have felt that being an island to themselves would benefit them through locking in their drivers to their track or series with intentionally different rules. It made it where the racers had a car they could only race one place, thus creating less value in their equipment.
When tracks or series work together to create common rules, for example, they not only create a larger pool of racers to draw from for their larger special events, but they create more value in their racers equipment. The more places you can potentially sell your equipment the more it is worth.
In the past, I have heard some promoters say “well, if our rules are the same as the nearest track, then the racers might decide to go race with them instead of me.” To me, that is just an excuse not to do your job. If you do your job, focusing on taking care of the racers and the fans, then they will come to support you. Do your job to the best of your ability and focus on what is right, and the rest will take care of itself.
Through the years, CRA has prided itself on being a leader in trying to work with other sanctioning bodies. In the very early years, before there was a common body throughout the country, we led the effort to bring groups together to create what became the ABC body.
Today, we have a common body so racers can go about anywhere and race in the country. When we first started CRA over 20 years ago, a racer from the north couldn’t go south without building a special body, and vice versa. Those days are gone because promoters and sanctioning bodies were willing to work together to make a change for the better, and eliminating the “island” mentality.
The same can be said for engines in the Super Late Models. When we started with 9 to 1’s, they had gotten to almost $50,000 for a top of the line new engine. By working with other groups, we were able to eventually form the Sealed Engine Alliance Leaders (S.E.A.L). This group helps oversee the use of sealed Super Late Model engines which has cut the cost of a top flight competitive engine by over half. All of this is done through groups working together.
In an even larger setting, we now have multiple groups working together on an overall rules package for Late Models. For the most part, a racer can now take his Super Late Model or Pro Late Model with a crate engine, and race in a similar division anywhere in the country. The unified rules that we have now in Late Model racing have become invaluable. All you have to do is look at the big events, see who the players are and where they came from, and you can instantly see the value of promoters working together in all areas.
I believe that the value in groups working together is probably no more evident than in 2017, where we see this incredible buzz surrounding the Short Track U. S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway. Five different sanction bodies are working together to create one of the biggest short track shows anywhere. Without their cooperation, an event of this magnitude would never be possible.
We’ve worked with and co-sanctioned races with other sanctioning bodies for many years in the past, and I see no reason why that won’t happen in the future. In fact, I see it happening even more in the future, if we all want to be successful and create something positive for our industry.
We are fortunate to get to work with great series promoters like Tim Bryant in the Deep South, Jack (McNally) and Chris (Ragle) from the CARS Tour in the Southeast, Gregg McKarns in the upper Midwest, and Larry Collins out West. It is great to work with like-minded people. Quite honestly, when doing it with the right people, it can be some of the most fun we ever have in racing!