T.J.’s Takeaways from the Sprints on Dirt Situation

SOD Sprint Cars going through turn one at Crystal Motor Speedway in 2012. (Bob Buffenbarger photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

(February 27, 2020) — With the news breaking yesterday of two tracks that were considered fixtures on the Sprints on Dirt schedule dropping their race dates for the 2020 season, here are a few takeaways from this developing story.

1. If there is one group, I feel for in this situation it’s the track promoters. For decades the SOD series for places like Crystal, Hartford, and others were a point of stability. Even through changes of going from the series migrating to pavement, then to dirt with 360 CID engines, and shifting back to the open engine program the core group of promoters could expect that to be a profitable evening.

While other groups have done well building up some broad equity the past several years they still did not carry the same weight as series with over 40 years of history.

I believe the most valuable asset SOD has is its brand. Casual race fans in the area that would vacation on the lake and come to the racetrack in the evening often made that trip to see the “SOD’s” (which drove me crazy, Sprints on Dirt is already plural).

Having those tracks drop “the brand” is huge. While GLSS, FAST, and BOSS are growing quickly it will still take some time to build up the knowledge among the fans I consider the “difference makers” that go to the track a handful of times a year and are often the ones that tip the scales towards an event being profitable.

2. I think under the right leadership its not too late to save the brand. While there are lots of rumors on what might happen with the series for 2020 at this time that is purely speculation. Local/Regional series like SOD are just very similar to gardens. If the garden is tended to properly things will grow.

With a series it takes a very special person with the right balance of people skills and the support staff around them pleasing three different customer groups in fans, tracks, and race teams.

Its thankless work with little to no profit involved. Not to mention the race teams generally wear people out of the position after a handful of years, which is why you see such high turnover in those positions and why the people that have done if for decades are so highly revered.

I often wonder if running a series like SOD wasn’t so thankless and a handful of people were easier to deal with could someone has thrived doing it for more than a handful of years after Keith and Betty McCall parted ways with the series in the late 90’s?

3. With SOD essentially losing most or all its dates in the state of Michigan (as of this writing I am still working to confirm if Tri-City has dropped their dates) it adds a wrinkle to the storylines going into 2020.

How will this impact Butler Motor Speedway’s sprint car division?

Can Aaron Fry’s FAST and BOSS series find a larger foothold past this season in the Great Lakes State?

What will GLSS look like with the addition of the Traditional and Lightning Sprint division?

How will the Crate Sprint Car class starting at Orleans Speedway and others tracks impact all of these?

2020 has started off with a lot more questions than answers.