(VIDEO): STARS National Series Announcement and Meeting
Oct 29, 2022
It felt momentous, relevant and most importantly, productive.
Bob Sargent of Track Enterprises formally conducted a briefing with Super Late Model teams concerning the impending arrival of the STARS National Series on Friday night following practice for the All American 400 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
It was a fitting locale because the inaugural season, comprised of three Southern Super Series, CRA Super Series and Midwest Tour dates respectively, will conclude with a national championship showdown in November at the legendary downtown short track.
The meeting, which also featured some of the most prolific figures in short track racing on behalf of the STARS Tour, allowed an opportunity for competitors to ask questions and learn more about the 10-race national championship.
While there is still much to be determined, many of the finer details intended to be hammered out by the Performance Racing Industry trade show in December, Sargent was able to provide a rough sketch of what his group intends to promote:
-Increased purses for national championship events with a guaranteed $100k points fund
-TBA TV partnership and contingency program to promote, generate revenue
-Schedule that takes place on tracks that meet a promotional, hospitality and activation standard
-Standardized rule book, inspection process for the 10 national events
-Loyalty program, in the spirit of the World of Outlaws platinum agreement
The briefing was attended by numerous heavy hitting competitors like Bubba Pollard, Donnie Wilson, Bond Suss, Michael Hinde, Chris Cater, Ronnie Sanders, Hunter Robbins, Luke Fenhaus, Jeff Purvis, Archie St. Hilare and James Finch.
The key takeaway from the formal presentation is that the regional promoters, like Glenn Luckett and Tim Bryant, have each bought into the vision established by Bob Sargent and believe they can build something using the shared resources and promotional experience.
"When we took over at Nashville and got closer to the Late Model world, we met a lot of great people in Tim, Glenn and RJ (Scott), Gregg McKarns and what they were doing and heard a lot of talk about a national series," Sargent said in his opening remarks.
"To plan something like this, I learned it was not going to be an easy undertaking. The more I talked to and listened to everyone, it became quickly apparent why it hadn't happened since the ASA days, so we methodically talked to Glenn and RJ and purchased (CRA) and talked to Gregg and purchased (Midwest Tour) and it was the right time for that.
"Tim and Pat (Bryant), it was the right time to join together and now we have a foundation to keep those regional series strong while also feeding into our national series."
That's an important distinction.
The national championship is not going to mean the end of the CRA Super Series, Midwest Tour and Southern Super Series. The three regional tours will continue to operate as they always have but offer three races each to count as national championship races.
Following a presentation by each STARS representative, Sargent took questions from the racers, including an impassioned state of the industry broadside by Finch. The veteran team owner and short track benefactor expressed frustration over Hoosier Racing Tires, increasingly thicker rule books, complicated inspection processes and events that get decided in tech.
Finch wanted to know what Sargent and STARS planned to do to lower costs and create better competition.
Sargent responded with a concession that he is a pavement short track outsider but one who has a promotional track record of success in other disciplines like Sprint Cars, Midgets, SRX, ARCA and NASCAR. He said he intends to work on behalf of racers to create an atmosphere where short track teams can flourish.
"You guys have one advantage over me being here, and it's that I haven't been in pavement racing very long," Sargent said. "I'm fresh enough to learn and as much talk as I've heard about the tires, it's a problem I'm going to address.
"We are well deep into it ... and we just have to figure it out even if that means we bring a couple of racers to the factory and tell them 'this is the tire we need, build it.' We did that with dirt Late Models 30 years ago. We went to them collectively and said 'change our tires,' so it can be done.
"I'm not ready to give up on Hoosier but I do think it needs to be addressed more, more intelligently, asking why it's not performing the way it should and solving the problem."
Pollard, a racer from the Deep South who moonlights all over the country, said it was important that STARS not force Wisconsin and the Midwest Tour to adopt Southern and Mid-American rule packages because that region is amongst the healthiest in the country.
"You have to be really careful with what you do there because their racing is different," Pollard said. "Whatever you do, make sure you talk to those guys a lot because you can't hurt their Saturday night racing package because we're not healthy down here and they are."
Sargent agreed and was adamant that only the three national races pulled from the Midwest will run on the four-barrel carb package as opposed to the two utilized in that region.
"Gregg McKarns is a very smart man and he has a great, successful rules package," Sargent said. "55 cars for (Oktoberfest) and a fun party atmosphere. Slinger too. We're going to work with the local tracks up there and the ARCA Midwest Tour. We're leaving the three tours the same and their logos are left the same on our logo for a reason."
All told, Pollard said he was largely satisfied with the presentation and is optimistic about what could come next.
"I feel like we have a good direction but also some issues we need to work out," Pollard said after the meeting. "I think there are a few key things they have to get right and I think they’re going to work hard to do it. I think its great everyone working together like this.
"They answered some questions tonight about the three regional series and I think it’s a good thing that they are going to stay separate. In a perfect world, you can have teams race close to home, win a championship and eventually grow to the point they're one day racing for a national championship."
Candidly, Pollard wanted to see more details by this point in the year but is excited to see what Sargent offers next time. That describes how Wilson felt as well.
"We always have concerns," Wilson said. "The schedule, purse, payout, all the uncertainties, but I think the biggest thing is the purse."
Wilson bluntly asked if the series would go to tracks that were perceived as run-down or dingy. Sargent said that television and the racers were on the same page that STARS events would take place on tracks that offered hospitality, suites and a clean image.
Sargent wants STARS to put the appropriate foot forward when presenting Super Late Model racing to a more casual audience. It’s consistent with the quality of events he has promoted with NASCAR, ARCA, SRX and USAC too.
It’s a resume that Pollard, also a dirt track promoter in North Georgia, values as well.
"He sees more than just Super Late Model racing," Pollard said. "He’s done the NASCAR deal, he’s done dirt and he’s a promoter. His hands are in so many different things and sees things from a different angle because we're so locked into our Super Late Model world.
"It’s going to be hard on these tracks to pay the purses they’re going to want. We own a race track and have big events and without some key players, we wouldn’t be able to do that so it’s going to be tough on these tracks. But if they can get some sponsorship lined up to help these tracks, and improve these facilities and draw fans, it could help all of us.
"I think him coming in with a different background is great."
All told, Sargent thought the briefing was productive too.
"Very informative for both sides, to get out there what we’re doing and listen to the racers too," Sargent said. "I want them to know we’re one group together and when they have concerns and interests, do everything in my power to help them out."
Sargent and Finch continued their conversation after the briefing and the veteran promoter says he values everything brought up on Friday.
"That was good constructive criticism, with Jeff Purvis sitting next to him and Bond Suss and Donnie, Bubba," Sargent said. "That's a lot of experience and smarts pulling in one direction."
Sargent plans to hold a similar briefing with teams at PRI and acknowledged that time is working against them to finalize every detail before the intended season opener next spring.
"We are definitely up against it, I can’t tell a story there," Sargent said. "We are far along, and I think we can get everything answered in the next 30 days. We are that far along with just about everything we’re working on – schedule, TV packages and sponsors.
But really, what this endeavor comes down to is determining if there is enough interest from teams, fans, tracks and the industry at large to support a Super Late Model championship over two decades after the last super regional tour folded to close a period when stock car racing was overall healthier.
"We’re about to find out."