T.J.’s take on winged pavement sprint car racing in the area

Heat race formed up at Kalamazoo Speedway. (T.J. Buffenbarger Photo)
Heat race formed up at Kalamazoo Speedway. (T.J. Buffenbarger Photo)
Heat race formed up at Kalamazoo Speedway. (T.J. Buffenbarger Photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

Saturday night’s Auto Value Bumper to Bumper sprint car series event at Kalamazoo Speedway was the second winged pavement sprint car race I have attended this season. Earlier in the month I went to a Must See Racing series event at Berlin Raceway. While Berlin and Kalamazoo’s events took interesting twists and turns the car count was below a full field primarily because of the feud between the two entities. Saturday the situation is amplified AVSS will be at Auto City while Must See Racing competes at Berlin for a special time trial event.

Tires combined with politics have created a situation in the area has taken a fairly strong product and has split it into a field that often is short of full. While some smaller teams are reaping benefits from this by starting features and getting some better finishes, the problem with the car count seems to getting worse.

The good news is the winged 410 sprint car on pavement product in this area still draws good crowds. Berlin had a nice crowd for the Must See event while Kalamazoo also had a huge crowd on hand for their AVSS program on Saturday. With the short fields though one has to wonder how long the fans will keep coming. Cars tend to draw fans, and as those car numbers dwindle so do the fan counts.

The Must See Racing concept ironically stated to bring AVSS and HOSS together with television coverage for a handful of races. Eventually that morphed into its own series utilizing American Racer Tires. The benefit or not of the durability and cost of the American Racer tires is different with every person you ask. A majority of teams will tell you it does save some money. However the saying, “You lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink” saying is fitting here. You can offer racers a cheaper/better product, but if they don’t want to use it you cannot make them.

While Must See Racing’s television deal is nice, having television races with small fields similar to what took place last month at Anderson Speedway leading into the Little 500 does not make a good impression on people watching on at home. Also when showing up to cover those races one is constantly besieged with tire politics from officials and over the p.a. system. While the tire cost story was a great topic several years ago, we’ve told it a million times. To me focusing on the on track product (which is decent) is a higher priority. Most of the fans might want to hear about the technical side once or twice, but eventually the fans just want to see and hear about the racing.

The USAC relationship with AVSS is a strange one to say the least. Most of the AVSS contingent I would describe as not being fans of the organization. While USAC does have great insurance (so did AVSS prior to USAC being involved) there was no noticeable benefit on Saturday of having the USAC name attached to the series. While I enjoy working with a lot of the people with the midget, sprint, and silver crown series over at USAC I don’t feel the move was a good fit for AVSS. From my point of view USAC needs AVSS a lot more than AVSS needs USAC.

King of the Wing series is a great concept that is helping winged pavement sprint car racing in certain parts of the country. Because of the rule structure I do not feel it benefits the racers as much in this area. I do think both series should support the platform by keeping dates open, but make them non-point races due to the restrictors for the 410 engines and travel involved to the other races.  Additionally instead of worrying about television or uplifting winged pavement sprint car racing across the country things in our own backyard need to be taken care of first. We have the only pocket of winged 410 pavement sprint car racing in the country. With the amount of equipment sitting idle the focus needs to be getting those cars out to compete rather than restricting 410 engines teams are running now so someone from Washington car race in the Midwest for three shows a year.

Instead of focusing on television or putting each other under I feel the solution is either getting into some common ground to have one series or have both series exists but work together with scheduling conflicts. If both series avoided scheduling on top of each other and didn’t discourage teams from running one or the other behind the scenes (if they are) then the fans and teams could decide which series or both could carry on.

Some of this does fall on the race teams as well. At times with certain drivers and crews I hear a bit of apathy about going to particular tracks and what not. The situation reminds me what was happening just before pavement midgets went away in this area. People started getting very particular on where and when to race, and eventually ended up with no place to run at all. I know it take a lot of work and money to run those cars. It seems like even five years ago people had more of a want to race than they do now, not just in pavement sprint car racing, but all over the sport. Things like the AVSS/Must See situation tends to help the apathy propagate among teams.

To me that later is the most logical solution because the teams and fans would be deciding which option they feel produces the best program. While two series working together would be okay imagine one series with a strong corporate sponsor, television deal, and a full field of cars. To me that would be a winning situation for everyone involved.

As of now the situation reminds me a bit of the All Stars in where the series name does still carry weight at the front gate. However, Informally talking to race teams at both events they are tired of the infighting, and eventually because of short fields the tracks and fans will grow tired of it as well. If the car counts continue to diminish due to the infighting going on the winged 410 pavement sprint cars could go the way of pavement midgets in this area.