On Thursday, the ABC Body Program approved the new “Next Gen” body presented by Five Star Race Car Bodies for competition in the 2021 season. While we are still a year away from seeing the body in action in series such as Champion Racing Association, the CARS Tour, the Southern Super Series, the ARCA Midwest Tour and the SRL Southwest Tour, drivers are already discussing the impact of the announcement.
Jack Dossey, III is a former JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour champion and now competes more frequently in Super Late Models. Dossey is excited to see the new bodies in action, but hopes they are limited to Super Late Model competition.
“I think it’s going to be pretty cool for late models to have a new look for the first time in a good while, although I think the option should only be for Super Late Models,” Dossey told Speed51. “They are one of the top tiers of short track racing and there are too many divisions’ bodies who look similar and, I feel, take away from the prestige of racing a Super Late Model, but that is just my opinion. I can’t wait to get our hands on the new hardware for 2021.”
While Dossey is interested in using the new body, he holds reservations on the potential costs if the new body proves to carry a significant competitive advantage.
“From what I have heard it does cost a little more for individual parts, I have no true knowledge of that, but the price of the whole body is really close to being the same,” explained Dossey. “The tough part for us is hanging the new body on three different cars and having to spend that money all at once if the new body is that much more superior to the old-style body. That’s a pretty big chunk of time and money going out at once to run competitive if that becomes the case.”
Kodie Conner has been a frequent independent campaigner in the Carolinas, in series such as PASS South, the CARS Tour and the PRA Tours Super Late Model Series. Conner first saw the new bodies in action at the PASS Commonwealth Classic last spring at Richmond Raceway (VA).
“I saw the new body for the first time at Richmond, and I thought it was pretty cool and it made a difference,” said Conner. “Other than that, I think a new body is just new looks.”
While he sees the visual appeal, particularly for fans, Conner is not committing to the new body himself, citing the expenses of purchasing and hanging a new body.
“As an owner/driver, I feel that there’s really no need for a new body unless you really do need it. It’s cool to have a new body, it’s interesting for fans to look at. If everybody starts running the new body, it may become a common thing and then we’ll need a new body.
“I won’t be running it unless something happens and it’s given to me. I’d like to run it because it looks cool, but I don’t see taking my body off and putting a new body on. It’s pretty expensive to do all that.”
Derek Griffith had an opportunity to race the new body while competing in PASS events in 2019, but stuck with the ABC approved body in order to race it everywhere he traveled. He still isn’t committing to a body switch, but thinks his team will inevitably make the jump.
“We looked at them originally but the reason we strayed away from them is they were not approved. It’s not a guarantee we’re going to do it. We’re not going to put a body on just because, but I think we’ll be using one in the future.”
Another New England runner, Connecticut’s Devin O’Connell, shares the viewpoint that it is a positive for the fans but has hesitations on the cost point.
“It’s 50/50. It’s a good look, the fans are going to love it, it’s going to be something different. The bodies seem to mount really easily. From what I’ve seen, they’re pretty even. The downside is, if you’re on the fence between a re-skin and a new body, that’s money some people may not have.”
2019 Snowball Derby winner Travis Braden has a largely positive reaction to the news, but expects some growing pains as part of the process that comes with any change.
“I think the bodies look great and could be a great addition to the sport,” said Braden. “The time has come for change. With that being said, I think any major change will always have its challenges, just like this one has. There will always be someone who feels left behind or disadvantaged. The old-style body could be 10 times better aerodynamically, and if I go out and win a race with the new body, guess what happens? Someone will feel like it was the body that made the difference.
“It's no different than any other excuse. Hell, I won every race I ever entered until the guy next to me unloaded a 'better car' on that day. It's just racing, and I am glad to see the change is finally coming. Hopefully its pros end up far outweighing its cons.”
Terry Senneker is both a racer and a car-builder, supplying many racers at Senneker Performance. Senneker doesn’t have a strong personal opinion on the new body, and sees the positives and negatives of its implementation.
"I didn't have a strong opinion,” said Senneker. “I could see both sides of it. Yeah, it's good for the industry and kind of good for the fans to have a new look, something updated, modern. But the negative side effects are that the guys that already have got money invested in their old bodies might feel like they need to spend money on a new body.
“After the wind tunnel testing and all that they were pretty equal. I guess I don't have a strong opinion either way. I think it's going to be neat that we're going to have two different versions. For us chassis builders, it just means we'll have to stock more variety. Bumpers and door bars and things like that to fit the new body, but that's not a huge deal."
As a Michigander in the heart of Outlaw Super Late Model country, Senneker’s passion ultimately lies outside the Template Super Late Model world and considers it more cost-efficient than the current Template options.
"I will always say strongly I favor Outlaw racing. The bodies are much less expensive. I would say when you go hanging a body, you have similar hours in an Outlaw body versus the ABC body, but the difference is I have to spend the thousands of dollars up front like you do to buy all the fiberglass panels for the ABC body. I'm hugely in favor of the Outlaw style body. For one, they look cool and they're more aerodynamic and go a little bit faster. Secondly, they're more cost effective."
Meanwhile, some are just happy to move forward and re-focus on racing. Steve Dorer, a racer as well as owner of Racecar Engineering, expressed that sentiment.
“I’m glad it is finally over and there was a decision made,” said Dorer. “I have heard all the talk and I’m just glad they finally just said, ‘Ok, that’s it, we’re done. No more fights at the PRI Show. It’s just done.”
Dorer did not have a strong opinion one way or the other on the new body, having used it in races at Slinger Speedway (WI) in 2019, but admitted the transitional period was providing complications from a business standpoint.
“As a distributor I’m not a fan of it, I wish it never came about. It makes you double your floor space for inventory, because now for the next five years I have to carry old body parts and I have to carry new body parts, so now I have to have double the floor space, which I don’t have available. I have to figure out what I’m going to do for it.”
Dan Fredrickson was brief in his assessment of the announcement.
"I'm just glad the whole argument is over.”
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo