My first trip to Reno was in 1993 with Mike Johnson. We were putting together a schedule for the CMA, and we booked lots of dates. I got in on my press credentials. Stuart always treated me well there, and I tried to make sure his event got plenty of ink. Mike actually didn't get in and was in the lobby. I helped get the attention of the promoters for him.
Of course, by the time the NCMA found out that we had out hustled their guy in Reno, the stuff hit the fan. In Reno, however, our unity message resonated with the promoters. It's a pity that feeling didn't last. It took the creation of Wingless Spec Sprints to finally make that vision a reality.
I think it was the end of 1999 that Don O'Keefe Jr. and I went to Reno. We went three times if I recall correctly, and I got a good idea of what went on in Reno. There were lots of interesting seminars, but I noticed how some promoters sort of broke off into cliques. My last year there was more encouraging in that I witnessed several promoters having a meeting about the future of the sport.
In 2001, I stood and watched as the opportunity presented itself to end the Chowchilla-Merced feud. This is something I wrote about in my book (If I ever edit and release it). At the time, I had the money to pay Tom's fine for him, and I nearly gave it to him to end that stupid feud once and for all. An early storm sent Don and I back early, so I never got the chance.
The one that I didn't attend probably contributed to my departure. Don was upset with me over that one, and I don't blame him. He's a lot more level headed than I am, and I was thinking more with my heart than my head. After missing the Merced banquet, I was done. I never meant to miss it, but my ride backed out so late that I couldn't arrange another ride. I ended up at the Antioch banquet presenting the State plaques there, rather than Merced as originally intended.
That messed up my 2004 plans pretty badly, but Don was his usual rational self. He insisted I go and speak with the promoters in Reno. He pointed out that I still had earned my press credentials and should attend. I should have a presence for The DCRR magazine and web page, The DCRR state point race and just for myself. He was right.
Had I attended that event, I probably could have done the damage control needed at Merced. They weren't responding to my attempts to contact them, and in person I may have been able to handle things. I never meant to miss that banquet, and they have no idea how much I wanted to be there. Also, John Soares Jr. and I could have talked about 2004 and where I fit into the plans. Maybe, just maybe, I would have had enough good news to inspire me to continue
With all the negativity that was surrounding me at the time, I couldn't see a point anymore. I was burnt out, plain and simple, but Don knew I could possibly turn it around just by representing myself at the biggest promoters gathering on the west coast. I know that now, but I couldn't see it then. Don has never steered me wrong with his advice.
Anyway, as Reno takes place (is it this weekend?), I will look back at a couple of articles I wrote about the event 12 years ago. Has it been that long? Where does the time go?
The Road To 2003 Goes Through Reno
RENO, NV...There had been a buzz for several months about it. Several of the top Bay Area and Valley dirt track promoters were going to get together and start talking about the future. The long-range goal would be to build a bigger series, but the short-term goal would be to begin repair the rift between tracks that has been in existence for over a decade. The place for this meeting would be Reno, Nevada during the 30th Annual Promoter's Workshop. This was just one of the major happenings that made the 2002 installment of the Workshop one of the most productive for Bay Area and Valley racing.
At the special meeting were Petaluma Promoter Jim Soares, Antioch Promoter John Soares, Watsonville Promoter Rick Farren, Bakersfield Promoter Doug Bainton, Western Dirt Late Model Tour Race Director Sandy Bainton, Chowchilla track manager Tom Sagmiller and special events promoter George Steitz. Though Merced Promoter Chuck Griffin was not at that table, it is not an indication that he didn't want to be included or that they didn't want him there. Many things were discussed at this meeting, much of which will not be mentioned here. What was discussed were a potential Super Stock/Limited Late Model Tour that could encompass as many as four tracks, working together on open show booking, honoring each others suspensions and other things.
This reporter will let the final outcome be revealed by the promoter's themselves and what was booked on their respective schedules. However, this appears to be a very big positive. The fact that the meeting even happened was big enough, considering where things have been in recent years. Conversations with Jim, John, Rick and Chuck have revealed four promoters who very much want to start building a stronger and better future for racing. Hopefully, things will work out in the long run as a successful SS/LLM Series could pave the way for similar efforts in other divisions and the return of the State Series that existed some 15 years ago.
While this was taking place, other things were happening. The NCMA Wingless Sprints are staring at one of their best dirt seasons in years, while still preserving pavement. As the NCMA will not have officially approved their schedule at press time, it is known there could be as many as seven tracks, including two possible Antioch dates, the Del Quinn Memorial and Darryl Shirk Memorial. What could challenge the NCMA on pavement is a proposed new group, headed up by former NARC Sprint Car champion Mike McCreary. However, the NCMA will still hold the dirt at Merced and Chowchilla, ending speculation of a new group emerging there. In fact, Chowchilla, to nobody's surprise, has thrown in the towel on their own carbureted Sprint Car effort, at least for the time being. Chowchilla was still planning a Third Annual Open Wheel Round Up as of Reno and is also expected to run a slightly adjusted Freedom Series and November Chowchilla Shoot Out.
If Antioch's announcement of offering the NCMA it's first dates there since 1998 aren't surprising enough, Soares had a further surprise. Though Antioch and Petaluma are doing a new Late Model effort for 2003, the Western Dirt Late Model Tour is being offered race date opportunities at both tracks. Soares has said all along that he will try to work with the Southern California effort as much as possible, and though nothing has been announced as of yet, it looks like it may happen. The Bainton Promoted Dirt Late Model Tour will also probably return to Watsonville as well. Sandy Bainton is hard at work making sure that the Western Dirt Late Model Tour will have a solid 2003 season.
Antioch and Petaluma will work more closely together than they have in over three decades. All Pro Series Rule Books will be printed up as books for both tracks, and huge changes are not expected. One proposed change in the Dirt Modified division of no engine claim and the use of a restrictor plate should make racers happy. The tracks will share divisions and a few of the classes may not have track championships, but rather an Overall title. Late Models, Wingless Spec Sprints, Super Stocks, Dirt Modifieds, Street Stocks, Dwarf Cars, Pure Stocks and Mini Stocks (Trucks at Antioch) should see dates at both tracks, while Petaluma's sagging 360 Sprint Car effort will probably have some dates at Antioch. The 2003 schedules at both tracks should be better than ever.
Watsonville Speedway should offer more of the same with Limited Late Models being added to the roster along with Grand American Modifieds, Street Stocks, American Stocks and the Figure 8. It won't be a surprise to see the BADCA Dwarf Cars back at Watsonville several times, and in fact, that group will likely have a few shoot out dates at Petaluma with the All Pro group. The two jewels of the Watsonville schedule, the Tim Williamson Classic and Mike Cecil Memorial, are both expected to return in 2003, and with several other special surprises sprinkled in there, 2003 will be a great year at Watsonville.
In Reno, it was revealed that Perris Auto Speedway and Susanville will be joining IMCA as well as one other track in Washington. With Perris in the mix, if the schedules are booked just right between Victorville, Imperial, Ventura, Bakersfield and Barona, it could enable a new Regional and State player to emerge. Merced Speedway will remain with IMCA and will probably book another 30-race season to keep its IMCA Modified division competitive. A couple big Modified shows were also being considered at press time. Street Stocks will remain Merced's top CCMR division and will continue to feature the Little Indy 100 on Memorial Day Weekend and the Timmy Post 99 in July. Hobby Stocks will take a more prominent role and the entry level Pure Stocks will remain. Many other surprises will also be in store in 2003 at Merced.
The BCRA Midgets will continue to race dirt and pavement, and this year, they will race once in Banks, Oregon, as well as most of the same places they raced in 2002. The BCRA Midget Lites and Vintage Midgets groups both also report solid racing schedules. However, of interest is the growing USAC Ford Focus group. Boasting huge sponsorship from Ford that helps with the purses, this division is making a serious play for Northern California dates, and it won't be a big surprise to see them at Nor Cal tracks. Contrary to rumors, it appears that the Golden State Challenge Series has a healthy schedule for 2003 with the 410 Sprints racing at Chico, Calistoga, Hanford, Tulare, Placerville and Watsonville. The Civil War Pacific Sprint Car Series, likewise, is still going strong and will remain prominent at Chico, Marysville and Placerville with Hanford and Calistoga two other possibilities.
Marysville recently changed promoters as Clyde Tipton, a former SORA Sprint 100's Promoter, has taken over for the retiring Hall Family. Carbureted Sprint Cars are expected to return to Marysville, possibly under the NCMA banner, while the headliner Pacific Sprints, Mini Stocks, Stock Cars and NCDCA Dwarf Cars are also expected to return to the fast quarter-mile clay oval. The carbureted Sprint Car movement may or may not be a reality at Sacramento Raceway, but it appears that the quarter-mile dirt oval will host at least six 600 Multi Sprint/250 Modified Midget Events in 2003. It also appears as if Argyll Park in Dixon will finally be hosting races on the banked one-fifth mile clay oval. A new Quarter-Midget association (CORA) will be staging these events.
RPM Promoter's Workshop In Reno Turns 30
RENO, NV...The Racing Promoter's Monthly newsletter celebrated a couple milestones in Reno in December. It was the 30th Annual Promoter's meeting held in Reno, and a record turnout of Promoters, Associations and Vendors were on hand for this event. RPM's Publisher Stewart Dody and his crew once again did an excellent job of organizing the big event, which was sponsored once again by K&K Insurance, Hoosier Tires and NASCAR. The three-day event featured several seminars, covering a wide range of topics, including track safety, promotional ideas and things that will affect auto racing in the near future.
A definite highlight to the event was the opening speech of Knoxville Promoter Ralph Capitani. Capitani is the 26th Auto Racing Promoter Of The Year, and kept everybody's attention with great promotional ideas mixed in with a few well-timed jokes. Ralph talked about promoting a family type atmosphere at your race track, including giving fans job opportunities when possible and getting drivers involved in helping increase pit and grandstand attendance. He put forth some great ideas on raising point fund money, including going to manufactures and using billboard sign money. Ralph also spoke of the importance of big shows, adding that they can take a few years to build and that to start money is as important as to win money.
Also on opening day, NASCAR Winston Cup racer and racetrack promoter Kenny Schrader spoke for an hour on his racing career and becoming a promoter. Schrader was down to earth and very enjoyable to listen to. A USAC Silver Crown & Sprint Car champion before becoming a Winston Cup racer, Kenny still loves to return to his short track roots whenever possible. Kenny sees himself racing on the Winston Cup Tour for a few more years and the Craftsman Truck Series maybe a while after that, but he says he will eventually retire and promote his race track, I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo.
In another seminar talking about promoting short tracks, Ventura Raceway Promoter Jim Naylor was one of a panel of three. Jim put the one-fifth mile clay oval in Southern California on the map, defying the odds along the way. He ran a popular TQ Midgets program, and when they said he couldn't run Midgets, he did that, and got TV for those USAC events as well. He built Stock Car and IMCA Modified programs, but his crowning success may have been the SCRA Sprint Car events. Again, they said Sprint Cars wouldn't work at Ventura, but he's proven them wrong once more.
In recent seasons, Naylor introduced the very successful VRA Wingless Sprint Cars as well as the companion Senior Sprints, which allow drivers over a certain age to run the same car. This means two registered drivers for several cars. As Naylor's money to sustain the racing program comes just from the front and back gate and whatever sponsorships he can attain, the Senior Sprint program has been a positive in keeping things going. Recently, however, Ventura Raceway hit a major snag.
A growing concern to California Fairgrounds based racetracks is an increasing interest by the state in finding other ways to generate income with the property. Back in July of 2002, Naylor admitted that Ventura Raceway came within a few hours of closing as County Officials proposed other options for the facility, including a concert hall. However, Naylor fought back, and with the help of hundreds in the racing community, the track survived and has been given the green light for 2003.
Naylor admitted that there would be more fights in the future, but is very confident that he and the rest of the Ventura team will be ready. They are taking a proactive stance in this battle and a Save The Ventura Raceway committee has been created to prepare for those future battles. What Jim has learned in this battle is that Ventura Raceway has many friends. He is also using all the threats against the track to generate positive publicity and is confident that 2003 will be an even better year for the track. Naylor's ideas for track promotion and his story of the battle of 2002 were the highlight of this particular seminar.
These and other seminars were just a part of the event. Once again, there were several booths displaying everything from tires, to designer schedule window signs, racetrack officials uniforms, race track score boards & bleachers, insurance information, web sites and racing associations. Once again, IMCA and WISSOTA were both well represented, and both racing associations reported that new tracks would be joining up for 2003. The oldest motor sports sanctioning body in the US. IMCA, is expected to report at least three new tracks in the Western Region for 2003. This year, there was even a NASCAR booth promoting their Weekly Racing Series.
As usual, a few of the West Coast Racing Magazines were represented, including the 40-year tradition known as Racing Wheels and Don's California Racing Review. The DCRR proudly crowned six California State champions in 2002, but at one of the tables, they were boasting an even bigger accomplishment. The people at www.racefan.com, in association with Valvoline Oil, crowned 33 National champions in various categories. The cash awards of the championships alone was $1,000 per class, not counting contingency prizes and cash and awards to others in the top ten in their categories. This was an impressive accomplishment indeed.
Another nice aspect of this event is the renewing of friendships. For some people, this is the only time they see each other and an opportunity to talk about the last year in racing. For others, this is an opportunity for promoters to form alliances that help build the sport. For the various racing associations, this is an opportunity to secure race dates and build a schedule as promoters look for those special divisions to build their schedules. All this and more makes the RPM Promoter's Workshop in Reno an event every racing promoter should attend. There is always something to learn at one of these events, and RPM has been doing their best to help the sport for more than three decades.