Special from Short Track Scene
The success of a national championship tour rides on everyone
The case could be made that the Sunshine State 200 is the most pivotal Super Late Model race of this generation.
In an era where the World of Outlaws and Lucas Oil do big business for dirt Super Late Model racing, a resurgent pavement community has been asking for well over a decade when it would be their turn, with Bob Sargent stepping up to give it an earnest shot.
Sargent, the founder and president of Track Enterprises, spent the past two years acquiring the Midwest Tour and Champion Racing association, then entered into an agreement with Tim Bryant’s Southern Super Series to lay the foundation to crown a national champion. Using the three regionals as pillars, ASA STARS will take three races from each division alongside the prestigious Slinger Nationals, inviting the best Super Late Model teams in North America to compete over 10 races.
The schedule features larger purses, a $100,000 championship points fund, and a loyalty program that rewards the top-10 and top-20 in points for their full participation across the 10-race schedule.
Sargent has won countless promotional awards over the past 30 years, mostly in dirt, where he has promoted races for World Racing Group, USAC, ARCA and NASCAR regional events. He successfully promoted Macon Speedway in Illinois from 2006 to 2022.
This is a generally new universe for him, but Sargent is passionate and determined about the opportunity to elevate pavement Super Late Model racing from a series regional entities to one capable of crowning a national champion.
And at least for this first race, he has been rewarded an entry list reflective of that goal, a collection of marquee racers rivaled only by the Snowball Derby.
It’s one thing to get them all to this first event, but it’s another thing to keep them, especially with a 10-race inaugural schedule that will require a tremendous amount of travel:
March 11 | Pensacola, FL
May 7 | Madison, WI
May 16 | North Wilkesboro, NC
May 25 | Hickory, NC
July 11 | Slinger, WI
July 15 | Anderson, IN
August 1 | Kaukauna, WI
September 16 | Toledo, OH
October 15 | Winchester IN
November 5 | Nashville TN
But Sargent and his Track Enterprises team isn’t the only one who will be challenged to make this a success. A lot of this will fall upon the drivers and teams, too.
For far too long, pavement drivers have become club racers, an oval SCCA, a group that want the back gate to open so they can go race and then close the backgate themselves before going home, doing nothing else beyond the competition element of their favored hobby.
Meanwhile, dirt racers put on annual clinics of how to grow and expand their audience, taking aggressive swings at putting themselves out there on social media and selling merchandise. Pavement racers generally just race where their dirt counterparts view themselves as a hybrid of content creator, fashion designers and then race car drivers.
World of Outlaws contender David Gravel launched a wildly successful podcast over the winter for example.
Late Model Stock drivers, especially those centered around CARS Tour, are leading by example on the pavement front. Dylon Wilson and Brandon Pierce have started a podcast while Landon Huffman and Doug Barnes Jr. have captivating YouTube channels.
That’s how you build a brand in the 2020s.
It’s not enough to just show up to race and then go home, lather rinse and repeat, all the while lamenting how much it costs and decrying how purses haven’t grown to match the expense.
Give people a reason to walk through the front gate, make yourselves an attraction, and you’ll get paid to something more resembling one.
Sargent and Track Enterprises have given racers a national platform with dozens of press releases a month, a streaming platform with next-week MAVTV television broadcasts, larger purses and a loyalty program.
Is it perfect? No. Does Sargent want it all to expand? Yes.
Help him help you, racers.
Look at the expansion of CARS Tour over the past eight years, growing from the ashes of a moribund Pro Cup Series, into a super-regional Late Model Stock tour with bonafide stars and a new ownership group featuring Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Justin Marks.
For all the good things he’s done by racers, Jack McNelly didn’t singlehandedly grow the tour into something appealing enough to be purchased by such an all-star group. It took commitment from its drivers and owners, too.
Go the extra mile.
Create content around these races, generate and sell merchandise and tell fans where and how they can watch you race. Find fans where they are on social media and take them along for this ride with you.
The ASA STARS National Tour is the most exciting thing to happen to Super Late Model racing in decades. During that time, the discipline has become a playground for teenagers on their way to NASCAR, creating what’s felt more like a minor league.
This is a chance for veteran short track racers to take the spotlight and put it back on themselves, to create stars in a similar light to the golden age of short track racing with the likes of Dick Trickle, Mike Eddy, Bob Senneker, Ronnie Sanders, Jody Ridley and Gary Balough.
God knows we have that kind of potential veteran star power right now with Pollard, Nasse, Roderick, Craig and Thorn. There isn’t a single Truck Series conflict with ASA STARS this season. Let’s find a way to keep Majeski, Hocevar and Enfinger in the fold all season.
Let’s see the young guns versus veterans feud, exemplified by Roderick and William Sawalich, continue throughout the summer. There are no shortage of storylines but it’s up to the racers to make themselves an attraction.
Bob, Tim Bryant and Track Enterprises have given you the platform and now it’s time to run with it.