By T.J. Buffenbarger
(July 13, 2022) – Kyle Larson and Brad Sweet put the sprint car world on notice by dropping the announcement of the High Limit Sprint Car Series on the opening day of Kings Royal weekend at Eldora Speedway. After reading the initial announcement and the press conference here are my takeaways about the formation of the new series.
• It is apparent that Kyle Larson’s time spent in the Late Model world helped spawn the idea for the High Limit Series. Participating in multiple high paying races and citing the Floracing Night in America event he helped promote at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tennessee helped spawn this idea. Larson and Sweet both citing Late Model racing multiple times when talking about their motivation towards creating the series.
Some of the key things that point me towards this opinion was mention of creating opportunities for teams to make more money and get a bigger slice of the online pay per view money that has been injected into the sport in recent years. With the growth of streaming how the pie is sliced up between series, tracks, and competitors at times depending on who is in the conversation is a hot topic. Getting these men and women that drive, work, and own these cars more money in a sport where at times they feel under paid is a good thing.
Larson mentioned he wants to see more sprint car drivers start to push the million dollar mark in earnings. Filling some gaps in the schedules with these high paying mid-week races could be a big step forward in making that happen.
• The High Limit series is another seed planted in the garden for Sweet’s racing career once he decides to cut back or step out of the driver’s seat. His involvement of promoting World of Outlaws events the past several years, taking on promotion of Silver Dollar Speedway with Larson and Colby Copeland as his partners, are some of the steps taken before this most recent one with the High Limit Series.
With drivers starting their driving careers earlier and earlier the reality of what may happen once they stop driving more a reality. We’ve seen Shane Stewart and Daryn Pittman transition into the business portion of the sport in promoting and manufacturing, and I could see Sweet doing the same at an earlier age rather than racing full time well into his 50’s and 60’s
I also sincerely believe that both Larson and Sweet intend of stepping on as few toes as possible when it comes to head-to-head race dates with the series. Multiple times both guys seemed sincere when discussing scheduling about staying clear of the World of Outlaws schedule. That point was hit on multiple times during the press conference. It was also made clear that 12 races seemed to be the cap for this series and there wasn’t consideration for taking on more dates than that due to other commitments.
I feel this series is Sweet and Larson finding their place for promoting big races in a market that can be fickle at times for a multitude of factors. If they pull this off Sweet and Larson will carve out a unique place in the sport that they can grow for years to come.
• If you are hoping to see any World of Outlaws teams compete in the new High Limit Series, I would not get your hopes up. This is not based on any kind of conversations or information I’ve received, but just pure speculation, but I don’t see the owners and proprietors of Dirtvision letting their Platinum Member teams compete in a series with a large amount of backing by a rival streaming company on a regular basis. You may find an exception from time to time but would be surprised if it happened on a regular basis. I hope I’m wrong because I think there are teams that could benefit and would be fun to see compete in those events, but don’t see it happening.
• I am concerned that this could be the sign of where the pay per view revenue starts to become more important than the fans attending the race in person. The online pay-per-view has done some wonders for the sport such as keeping people that can’t go to the races as much as some of the sprint car nerds like myself and going to races in person when they can. It also allows distant family members, car owners, and others to see their cars compete.
In its current form I don’t think pay per view keeps that may people home. There is a degree that it does, but I think the number it keeps engaged and more apt to go to the races is higher based on the events I’ve attended and seeing crowds increase at several of these venues.
As a sport we must work hard to make sure the in-person experience matters and that the pay-per-view aspect supplements that. If we make sure as a sport to not cut back on things that make the in-person experience one of my favorite things, the online pay-per-view should continue to be a great tool to maintain what I feel is the most informed sprint car audience I’ve seen in my 25+ years of covering the sport.