T.J.’s Notebook: “Outlaws” Returning the Term to its Original Form

Brent Marks. (Bill MIller photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

(November 26, 2019) — Over the past several weeks several announcements by race teams could end up changing the complexion of how we see the winged sprint car racing world in three to five years. If the current tends continues with racetracks upping their purses, we could see the term “Outlaw” return to its original origin regarding sprint car racing.

If you look at the decisions CJB Motorsports, Brent Marks, and KCP Racing have made it makes sense from a business standpoint. Some of these decisions are sponsor driven but made viable by sprint car racing having more events paying five and six figures to win and increased purses combined with the cost to keep a team on the road. For a lot of teams, it makes more sense to pick and choose shows versus collecting the point and tow money following an entire season.

If you are from Ohio, Pennsylvania, or near the Knoxville area it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify chasing the World of Outlaws tour across to country. Passing up a decent paying race at a nice facility to chase World of Outlaws points at a track that may be quite as nice is not as attractive as it used to be to a segment of the sprint car world.

The tracks holding these bigger races are making the decision easier. Jackson Motorplex announced that the Jackson Nationals will pay $100,000 to win next season. This joins a series of events such as the Tuscarora 50, the Williams Grove National Open, and others that have crested the $50,000 to win mark or more over the past several seasons. Not all these races are World of Outlaws sanctioned, which has allowed teams to weigh options of not committing themselves to an entire tour a viable option.

This brings up an interesting dilemma for the World of Outlaws and some of the tracks that hold their events in the future. Can the point fund and/or tow package increase to be competitive with the temptation to stay closer to home and race some of these higher paying shows? Are there enough facilities that can book higher paying World of Outlaws programs in the $50,000 to $100,000 to win range to make chasing the tour tempting for those sitting on the fence deciding if they want to chase an entire tour?

This isn’t just a decision that impacts the Outlaws. As the All Star Circuit of Champions have increased the reach of their series through New York and as far west as Knoxville, which has caused some competitors to pick and choose their events rather than follow the entire tour.

I can see where all the teams choosing to pick and choose are coming from because I do the same thing for the website. If there is a facility that I feel is not very nice, I know will keep me there longer than most (remember, most of my work starts when the checkered flag flies), and doesn’t have enough “juice from the squeeze” as far as audience interest I will choose a different race to cover or work on things from home. If I’m putting in the extra hours of effort I expect the facility I’m covering to put in that same kind of effort, and the truth is we are increasingly seeing a world of have and have nots when it comes to the quality of facilities sprint cars are competing at. In the end there are some facilities that haven’t made capital improvements or purses that have remained stagnant that should be a little nervous.

Sometimes it just comes down to a team wanting to race at tracks they knowingly can run well at. For teams that are running a high-level program while maintaining careers outside of racing this is a viable option that helps boost some of these larger paying races.

With the way things have trended recently the sprint car world is going to look very different in three to five years. I see this trend of picking and choosing races over following a tour for a point championship to increase. Its likely we end up in a world where Sprint Car racing is more regionalized from a touring standpoint outside of a few big races or will we see increases in point and tow money to keep teams touring across the country or series will increase their tow and point packages to remain competitive.


• My cohort Jeremy Elliott at SprintCarUnlimited.com has done a great job uncovering some of these great nuggets of information on race teams throughout the winter. The subscription fee is minimal, and Jeremy and his team have been doing some great work over at that site.

• Michigan sprint car fans will have a decision to make as the ASCS National Tour weekend has shifted May 8-9, 2020. This is the same weekend as #letsracetwo featuring the World of Outlaws and USAC National Sprint Car Series at Eldora Speedway. This scheduling shift is apparently to accommodate some ASCS races further east. This may not seem like that big of a conflict, but Eldora has a strong following of Great Lakes State fans that travel south.

• With the annual PRI Show only a couple of weeks away schedules are starting to trickle out. Make sure to check some of the upgrades made to the Allstar Performance Open Wheel Calendar. Links for the 2020 schedule along with the races completed so far in 2019 are live. The search function also works well for filtering events by series, state, and track.
• Another feature as part of the “Codevember” improvements is breaking down entry lists for larger events. The Chili Bowl Nationals is being used as an experiment for this feature where the list will be broken down ever evening with additions, subtractions, and various statistics. If everything works out well and our readers enjoy it look for something similar for the 360 and 410 Knoxville Nationals.

• Ventura Raceway and USAC officials have made contingency plans for Turkey Night Grand Prix in case of inclement weather. The backup plan is to hold the event Friday and Saturday, but as of now all systems are go for racing to begin on Wednesday.