Now that the three-day extravaganza that was the Gateway Dirt Nationals is history, we can all look back on the event and reflect on what it meant to the sport. Predictions are all good and well in the world of supermarket tabloids but does little to further the sport, so for those predicting a huge disaster, please re-calibrate your crystal ball.
Unfortunately I did not get to attend in person, but from everything relayed to me from those that did, they had an enjoyable experience. I let the icy roads spook me Friday and Saturday, so shame on me. I cannot imagine the effort that went into putting this whole thing together, so a tip of the hat to all involved.
One of the biggest gripes I’ve been seeing on social media from the racers is about payout, so I will start with a question: since it has become obvious over the last two decades purses throughout the sport at most events (weekly and special events) are staying relatively stagnant, is it time to re-think the costs involved? Financial guru Dave Ramsey preaches the gospel of reducing your expenses if your income is stagnant. The question is how to do this. Three of the biggest costs in racing are engines, tires, and in recent years the shock program. So how do you reel those in? There are plenty of ideas out there, so a respectful and intelligent discussion shouldn’t be hard to start. Keeping it on track may be the issue.
I’ll let those with more knowledge of how things work talk about the particulars, but will offer this observation: during NASCAR’s greatest years of growth in the modern-era (mid 80’s – mid 90’s), there was a conscious effort to keep the cars as technologically-dumb as possible. While other racing series’ were allowing teams computer data acquisition and unbridled innovation, NASCAR kept the thumbscrews on tight. Not to say there weren’t issues (the late 80’s tire war didn’t go well), but by and large the sport grew exponentially during a time when the cars were much simpler. Recently, one well-known regional late model racer has suggested creating a leaf spring class. I’ll just toss that out there…
Could we look to sprint car racing as a guidepost? For the most part, the open 410 cars are limited to a few tracks scattered through the Midwest, Pennsylvania, and a handful of touring series. What has saved that discipline has been the emergence of the 360 sprint over the last 20 years. Yes, there are those that will say a 360 costs as much as a 410, and they may well be right. But it must have some ability to keep costs in check considering how close the sprints were to last-rites as a weekly show in the early 1990’s.
So in a nutshell, are those with skin in the game willing to at least discuss reducing the costs since payouts don’t seem to be going anywhere?