Super Late Models
Bubba Pollard wins Battle of 26s in Cordele
Jan 30, 2022
The logistics have to make sense and cents, but the most prominent names in Super Late Model racing are prepared to support some kind of combined national championship.
Bob Sargent of Track Enterprises declared his intent to create such a schedule upon finalizing the acquisition of the Champion Racing Association on January 25. The most likely path forward could be choosing select events from each regional schedule east of the Mississippi River and creating a championship within the CRA, Southern Super Series and Midwest Tour championships.
Perhaps interested tracks could even host one-off events not within the current existing infrastructure. It’s all theoretical at this point.
For his part, Sargent has already initiated exploratory conversations with Southern Super Series director Tim Bryant and Midwest Tour president Gregg McKarns. He also plans to meet with Jack McNelly to see if CARS Tour had any interest in participating even after swapping the Super Late Models series for one utilizing Pro Late Models.
The SRL Southwest Tour is also expanding eastward with an East Coast tour this year in addition to its preexisting West Coast slate. That will be the subject of future conversations, too as multiple parties work towards the goal of a national championship.
"We've already had a lot of conversations with Tim and Gregg and we have more to come," Sargent told Racing America last week. "We'll see where CARS Tour fills in. We've reached out to Larry (Collins, Southwest Tour) and there's conversations to be had there too."
It’s early in the process.
But pavement short track enthusiasts have long wanted something like the World of Outlaws for their favorite discipline. They dream of a world in which every regional championship contender racing against each other at least a dozen times a year.
That’s the goal, and it would purely be at tracks east of the Mississippi.
"I don't know that there's an appetite for East Coast teams to travel out west," Sargent said. "I know NASCAR does it, USAC and World of Outlaws does it, but it's very expensive. We want to be realistic. We're conscious of all those things."
So, what would it take to entice those types of names to run the full schedule and compete for a national championship? Stephen Nasse says the purse, tires and rules will all be scrutinized, but it ultimately comes down to delivering a high caliber of competition every time the back gate opens.
"To me, if you have enough good competition to run a touring series, I would be all about it," Nasse said. "We race competition. If we were racing for the money, we would have been out of it a long time ago."
With that said, money is still a determining factor. The Southern Super Series raised its purses across the board to a minimum $10,000-to-win and $750-to-start for every race in 2022.
Both Nasse and Bubba Pollard have committed to the Southern Super Series for that reason, and a national championship purse structure would have to be within that same range if not more, too.
"When someone puts up the kind of money everyone’s been asking for, you got to support that," Pollard said.
But more than that, both Pollard and Nasse believe a national championship would need to have a strong marketing strategy to entice fans to come to the track in droves, which in turn would assist growing the purse.
"More money is much needed," Nasse said. "A lot of these races are paying the same they paid 30 years ago and that's crazy to me. If they want to get car counts up to where they want to be, they're going to have to do something in that department -- marketing and advertising.
"I think we have a lot of strong personalities in short track racing, and we just have to get in front of people and get them in the stands."
Derek Griffith agrees that the purse structure has to make sense, but also said teams ultimately want to feel like they are wanted and are contributing to something special.
"When we raced at Jennerstown, man, they wanted us to be there and really let us know it," Griffith said. "The GM there, Bill (Hribar) will do anything for you. Literally anything. He's doing that for everyone and that goes a long way and makes a 12-hour trip for us feel like eight or nine.
"It's the same thing every time we race at Berlin. They treat us the same way. We enjoyed it a lot. So, for a national championship, that attitude is really important, so that plus the money are the two biggest things to me."
To that point, Pollard says the racers just have to be treated right.
"This has the potential to be something great," Pollard said. "But a lot would have to change for me to be a part of it. Look at what dirt does right, having a healthy fanbase across the country, and it's only getting stronger.
"Having Derek Thorn come out here is a big deal, and when the money was right for me to go out to California, that's how we grow a national fanbase. But at the end of the day, you have to treat racers right, and for this to work, you have to do the right thing and it could be really great if they do."
Super Late Model team owner Donnie Wilson, a 20-year veteran driver, believes every national championship race should be $15,000 to $25,000-to-win. But more pressing, he says, is just getting the cost of tires under control. He says the start money should at least cover the cost of tires.
"If you have $2,000 in tire costs," Wilson said, "last place should at least have the cost of their tires paid for in a national championship race."
Beyond that, Wilson just wants a consistent and fair tech procedure, meaning one primary tech director for races designated under the national championship umbrella.
"There needs to be consistency," Wilson said. "I'm not saying it couldn't work with a rotating group, but that's one of the biggest issues we have right now, is that it's not always consistent from on series to the other."
Lastly, a championship fund would need to be established to pay the top finishing entries by owner’s points at the end of the year.
"There should be a big prize fund at the end of the year for points, you know," Nasse said. "I think that's a good incentive for guys to get involved to do big series races like back in the day."
Sargent already has a healthy group of sponsors through Track Enterprises and the CRA, but has already had at least one major inquiry for a major entitlement sponsor for a national tour.
That's where a series like USAC or the World of Outlaws truly shines with NOS Energy Drink.
"When I was growing up, ASA and Pro Cup had these big end of the year purse funds," Wilson said. "I don't entirely understand how we got away from those in the early 2000s."
Reigning Snowball Derby winner Chandler Smith drives the No. 26 for Wilson but says he would even be interested in having his car continue to race even at the events he personally couldn't attend.
If he could have someone else drive his No. 26 while he's racing in the Truck Series, that would still let he and Wilson race for the owner's championship fund at the end of the year.
"That way, you still get our car there," Smith said. "It keeps the car counts up and it's like NASCAR, in that even if you don't have the same driver in the car every week, you can still count on that car showing up if you're a fan or promoter."
Smith says he would commit to as many these national championship races as a driver as his NASCAR schedule would allow just because he is that committed to the discipline and wants to see it continue to grow.
"I am a thousand percent in favor of this, and always have been," Smith said. "I'm really excited to see everyone finally start working together on this kind of project because we've needed it for a long time. I want to be a part of it.
"I just want short track racing to thrive, because I'm a fan first, but it's also the reason I was discovered by Toyota and why I get to do what I do in the Truck Series. I'm a grassroots guy at heart and I want my roots to be as strong as they can be for the next generation, too."