A week after the announcement of the 2014 United SportsCar Championship (USCC) schedule, motorsport.com sat down with three influential Grand-Am team owners - Michael Shank, Bob Stallings, and Wayne Taylor - to gauge their reactions to the schedule.
All three generally like the schedule and think it could result in some new sponsorship opportunities and increased commercial viability. They are also happy to see the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Long Beach return to the schedule. But all three owners also recognize that two additional endurance races - Sebring and Petit Le Mans - will involve additional costs that could be difficult for them to cover in the short term.
Long-term, however, the owners are optimistic about next season.
What is your opinion on next year’s schedule? “I’m 80% like (on the schedule). But I’m a central Ohio guy so losing Mid-Ohio was a big financial hit for me. I had partners that loved to activate with us at that race.
“For the most part, though, I don’t think you can argue with our schedule; you can’t argue with our television package. And I think slowly - eventually - you will get to the point where our cars will be good too. From my standpoint, I have nothing to complaint about. And I think it’s a great step. Great events, which is what we need to help drive commercial sales, which is really what at the end of the day we’re talking about here. I’m pretty excited about it.”
Will the new schedule result in new sponsorship opportunities? “It’s an easier sell (to potential sponsors). (But there’s) no question (that) it’s more expensive. Even though we’ve gone from 12 (races) to 11, we have more track time. So that costs money. But the difference is worth it because of the (nature of) the events. We have Long Beach, Detroit, Indy - these are key events that are hard to match in any series in the US.
“I am hoping it’s a series schedule that more people can get involved and follow our racing. Ultimately, that’s what going to drive the growth of our series and commercial partnerships because people care about our series. You drive the spectators here, which will drive the marketing leg of it, which will drive our business. It just goes that like that. Anything else is going to fall short. We have made gain after gain in that department.”
Which new race are you looking forward to next year? “I’m excited about Sebring. I’ve never raced there before in my life - the 12 hours. We’ve already won the 24 and I want to try to win the major races in the US that I can. And eventually, in a couple of years, if we’re at Le Mans then I have an opportunity to win all of the major (races) in the world.”
What is your opinion on next year’s schedule? “It’s a fascinating schedule. There’s no bad tracks.”
Will the new schedule result in new sponsorship opportunities? “From an aspirational point of view, this series has never had a greater opportunity. Whether it manifests itself remains to be seen. We have the opportunity here to make the entire series and the teams more commercially viable is profound.
“We are certainly going to have more eyeballs. Eyeballs means more TV. More TV means more commercial viability. If all of those things come together and if we put on a good show and the series does a good job of promoting, I think it’s going to be good. Long term there’s much more of a likelihood that this becomes more commercially viable.”
Which new race are you looking forward to next year? “I’m looking forward to Sebring. I’ve never raced there before - except on my X-Box.”
Wayne Taylor - Team owner of the Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP
What is your opinion on next year’s schedule? “I think (the schedule) is brilliant.
Will the new schedule result in new sponsorship opportunities? “From a team owner’s standpoint, I have something more to sell (with the new races). (But) I look at the races and I’m going to have to find 30% more budget and that’s not easy.”
Which new race are you looking forward to next year? “Sebring.”