Unified Sprint Car Summit report 2006-07-19

Unified Sprint Car Summit Aims To Grow Sprint Car Racing Pittsburgh -- July 19, 2006 -- Dave Blaney might be known these days for his ability to sling a massive stock car around racetracks at the highest levels of NASCAR, but on Wednesday in ...

Unified Sprint Car Summit Aims To Grow Sprint Car Racing

Pittsburgh -- July 19, 2006 -- Dave Blaney might be known these days for his ability to sling a massive stock car around racetracks at the highest levels of NASCAR, but on Wednesday in Pittsburgh Blaney joined 30 others with a vested interest in the future of sprint car racing in a day-long discussion of how to improve the sport for fans and competitors.

Promoters and officials from across the country representing touring series, sanctioning bodies and racetracks running 410 Sprint Cars on a weekly basis came together for the first 410 Sprint Car Summit. By the end of the day they all agreed to unify as a group to make the sport stronger from top to bottom.

"DIRT Motorsports is more focused than ever on the continued success and growth of local and regional Sprint Car racing," DIRT MotorSports CEO Tom Deery said. "This meeting was the first step in the process. Working together with the industry, we now have to turn it into action."

Two themes resonated from the closed-door meeting that featured many of those with a direct interest in 410 local and regional touring Sprint Car racing: make events more fan-friendly and make Sprint Car racing more affordable for the competitors.

"Everybody here is interested in making it more fan friendly and to have better racing," said Blaney, a former World of Outlaws champion who is one of the owners of Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio. "That's where it has to start. My main motivation is a better show for the fans."

From the start of the discussion, the diverse group agreed to leave any affiliations at the door as every aspect of sprint car racing was analyzed, from rules about wings, tires and motors to event promotion, driver safety and aggressive methods of attracting new fans.

"I think it's a great opportunity," said Alan Kreitzer of Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. "I think some of the things we talked about today, when we look back on it we'll think they were the right thing to do."

The meeting, which was organized by DIRT MotorSports, was arranged to examine 410 Sprint Car racing at the regional and local levels. Immediately, the discussion turned to the cost of Sprint Car competition.

"The big thing is cost," said Ralph Capitani, the Race Director at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway, widely regarded as Capital of Sprint Car racing. "We have to slow that down."

With that premise, everybody in attendance considered possibilities to make Sprint Car racing affordable once again, often bouncing ideas off of the All Star Circuit of Champions Ohio Speedweek champion Dale Blaney, who helps promote Sharon Speedway in addition to racing. All of the components of the cars were discussed and while most of the group runs similar rules across the country, the pros and cons of various rules were weighed. It was agreed by all in attendance that testing would be needed before any changes would be implemented.

While many pointed to the skyrocketing cost of motors as one of the key issues facing Sprint Car racing, most agreed that restricting motor builders wasn't the solution.

"Longevity of motors is a problem," said Todd Fisher of Susquehanna Speedway Park. "Low buck guys are looking for longevity out of motors."

Instead, several possible solutions were discussed to make the cars less reliant on horsepower, which should put the racing back in the hands of the drivers and their crews and extend the life of the motors.

"[The meeting is] a very positive step forward," said Mike Graham of Tri-State Speedway in Franklin, Pa. "Half of our weekly field is low budget cars and anything we can do to help is a step forward."

Larry Kemp from Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, looked at the overall picture, knowing he has a large facility that can afford to charge less for tickets than some other tracks.

"You need to have some ingenuity and technology, but you have to keep it affordable," Kemp said. "People are paying a lot of money for tickets and they've got to be entertained. We can't change for the sake of change. An ongoing process started today and it's all about entertaining fans."

While the meeting covered a wide range of issues, a focus and plan was in place by the concluding remarks.

"It's about making improvements," said Guy Webb of the All Star Circuit of Champions. "It's a step in the right direction."

The first step will include computer modeling and testing of various components to scientifically determine their affects on the cars and whether or not they would help to improve the sport from a fan standpoint as well as a driver's perspective. From there, testing on tracks of various sizes will determine what will and won't work in the big picture and on the local and regional levels so promoters and track operators across the country can come to a common set of guidelines.

"If we act on only 25 percent of the things we discussed, it'll be positive," said Don Grabey, the World of Outlaws competition director.

Fans were a constant topic throughout the day. From John Padjen at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif., and Steve Sinclair of the Midwest-based Bumper-to-Bumper IRA Series to Gary Risch Jr. at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa., and Don Leiby at Lincoln Speedway in Abbotstown, Pa., the discussion of what has and hasn't worked in attracting fans offered everybody in attendance something to consider and take back to their own organizations and tracks.

Ultimately, though, Steve Beitler of Skagit Speedway in Alger, Wash., put it best when he said, "We need to give fans a facility they want to be at."

In the end, though, it was Dave Blaney's words that were repeated to describe where the sport needs to go. "It doesn't need to be 410 racing," he said. "It doesn't need to be 360 racing. It needs to be Sprint Car racing."

And with that, the unified Sprint Car Summit was adjourned with the group agreeing to more discussions and a continuous review of the progress being made to ensure winged Sprint Car racing remains the premier style of racing on dirt tracks around the world.

-woo

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About this article
Series World of Outlaws
Drivers Dave Blaney
Teams Williams