Sunday, April 14, 2013

How To Kill A Division In Three Easy Moves

When we started the Spec Sprints at Antioch in 1999, we heard all the comments.  Don O'Keefe Jr. and I did at least.  We were out there spreading the word.  We heard it all.  We'll get more cars with push starts.  We'll get more cars with fuel injection.  We'll get more cars with wings.  And on and on.  There was one magic word that we used to keep us on course.

You see, we had a good set of rules.  John Soares Jr. gave this division a good schedule and purse.  Everything was set.  So, all we needed to say at a time like that was no.  N O spells no.  It's simple.  One of the reasons it flourished early on was that rule adjustments those first few seasons were very minimal.  The main adjustment was going from $75 to $100 to start and up to $600 to win. 

Sometimes, it's better to shut up and race.  Stop reinventing the wheel.  Pick a division that exists and race it.  We have the 410 Sprints King Of The West Tour, the Civil War 360 Sprints Tour, regular 360 Sprints shows at various tracks and Wingless Spec Sprints.  That is more than enough to cover the bases.

Along the way, somebody tried and failed to start a 6 cylinder injected winged Sprint Car class.  It failed as it should have.  It was not needed.  Folks, I don't want to shout, but WE HAVE TOO MANY DAMN DIVISIONS AS IT IS.  ENOUGH ALREADY!!!

Sorry for shouting, but I had to make my point.  Antioch has ten divisions now, and some tracks aren't far behind them.  This dilutes car counts, and you end up with a plague of 6-10 car divisions that few people care for.  Then, the promoter is a jerk for canceling the class or accused of favoring a few drivers who have been loyal by keeping the class. 

The jury is still out on Sport Mods as far as I'm concerned.  We'll see in 3-5 years.  I understand recycling older cars, because it worked with Limited late Models until about the time John brought back full Late Models for a couple seasons at Antioch.  The subsequent merger of Limited Late Models and Street Stocks killed Street Stocks, but now we have Super Hobby Stocks.

But, it's not about recycling older cars.  There are new cars in the Sport Mods already, so one of it's hype points is failing fast.  But, I know, car count is doing okay now, so I'll shut up.  We'll just see what Dirt Modified car count looks like going forward, how the Sport Mods grow and just what we have then.

I'm silly, because I'd just try paying better in the B Main, keeping B Main points and encouraging car counts in the Dirt Modifieds.  You know, one full car count instead of two lesser ones.   But, as I said, we'll watch this play out.  Maybe I'm wrong and this move will be the one that bucks the trends of the past.

What I'm a little disappointed by is this whole idea of Economy Sprints at Chico.  I'm not a fan, sorry to say.  This was not the move to make, and it's already having an effect on Spec Sprint car count.  Why do this?  I would bet it's just a few racers wanting this for whatever reason.  So, instead of 13 Spec Sprints opening day, there are seven Spec Sprints and six Economy Sprints, and people bitching about car count.

Chico management used to know how to handle this track.  You had 410 Sprint Cars, Dirt Modifieds and Pure Stocks.  Occasional traveling divisions.  Add Mini Stocks.  I get it, Orland has a good field of Mini Stocks, so borrow from that count in building your own.  Add Limited Late Models?  Well, I'm not thrilled about that, but I get it.  In the past, there were Late Models at Chico, and there is an interest in the area.

I'm just not seeing the need to play with the Sprint Car situation.  Adding this Economy Sprint class that takes cars from the Spec Sprint ranks is bound to hurt.  Is is about wings?  Some people like that crutch on the car, and that's okay.  Merced Speedway had Limited Sprints.  It never really took off, but it had it's moments in it's decade plus long run.  Funny, none of the tracks were clamoring for it then.

The obvious question is if you are so worried about the 410 Sprint Car's future, why not add a 360 Sprint Car division?  Why intentionally sabotage the Spec Sprints?  Why not just drop the class rather than impact it's ability to get cars and then point at its failings?  I don't see other tracks doing that to their divisions.  Thing is, this move will impact tracks like Marysville when it comes to Spec Sprint car count too.

It's just disappointing that Chico has developed "Divisionitis" or too many divisions, and is adding a class that isn't needed.  With the Hunt Series and still lots of cars out there, this isn't the move to be made.  However, there are people out there that think the only good Sprint Car racing is with wings.  I disagree with that sentiment, but some people believe it.

Chico management should know better.  Open your history books guys.  How many years ago was it when you had a big show with over 70 Spec Sprints?  That's right.  This happened at Chico, because you had a man named John Padjen who knew how to promote open wheel racing.  I'm not convinced the Economy Sprints could even have half of that, and let's be honest here.  Some of you who have been in the sport a while know this.

Now that you have this class, somebody is going to push for more.  A "big time" team will get in there and sell the idea of changing the motor rule or whatever.  It will happen, because I know this mentality.  It won't be "real" Sprint Car racing until it's a full on Sprint Car.  Many of the low buck guys thinking they are on the bandwagon now will learn quickly when they can't afford it anymore.

It happened at Baylands.  It happened with the VMRC and it will happen again.  But, some people will be happy if they can wipe out the Wingless Spec Sprint class along the way.  So, why not stop pretending and just start the Winged 360 Sprint Car class at Chico now?

I'm not saying the 360's or 410's are bad.  I'm saying those two divisions have that level of Sprint Car racing covered pretty well.  Let the Spec Sprints do what they do best.  Let them help make a path for young talent and old veterans to go Sprint Car racing.  That's the way it should be.

Maybe I'm being suspicious, but I heard the comments 15 years ago when we started putting this all together.  I heard the comments about us starting a "bastard class" and this not being "real" Sprint Car racing.  Even when we had car counts in the 20's at tracks, people were critics, and let's just say some we're not just fans in the stands but people with an agenda.

I just know if you want to kill the Spec Sprints, this Economy Sprint division is the way to do it.  Not that it's better, but it will divide the car count.  A choice will be made, and that will probably be the end of Spec Sprints at some tracks.  I agree with the columnist who said it was nice to have some Sprint Car racing in NorCal without the wings.  We'll see what happens, but I'm not thrilled with what Chico is doing here.