by Jacob Hord, @HordRaceWatcher
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but it’s not all doom and gloom either. The sale of the All Star Circuit of Champions to High Limit Racing will, overall and over time, better the sprint car world. But there’s no doubt that there is now a void in Ohio left by the All Stars.
The All Stars had a very nice fit in the sprint car world, they supplemented a variety of regions well. In 2023, the All Stars had 17 scheduled races in Ohio, including Ohio Speedweek. Now there are 17 races missing from that schedule; races that offered more money and offered tracks a chance to make some money with a larger crowd.
Well, now what? It’s no secret that the local racing week in and week out isn’t very profitable, if profitable at all. Tracks relied on these bigger All Star and Outlaw shows to minimize the losses of a regular night of racing. Take Attica Raceway Park for example. In 2023 they had two World of Outlaw and five All Star dates to help pay the bills. Now there’s five less races for them to cash in on a bigger crowd that comes with an All Star show. These All Star races didn’t sell out Attica by any means, but the crowds were certainly larger than your normal Friday night show.
During a time when teams are (rightfully) asking for more purse money, there could be less money coming in. Where do tracks make this money up? There’s no guarantee that having an unsanctioned show that pays what an All Star race paid brings in the crowd because there isn’t that All Star brand attached to the race.
We’ve probably been spoiled in Ohio for quite some time with the All Stars having such a heavy presence in the State, and it’s great to see other regions like the Midwest and California get the high paying shows as well. This isn’t an article saying that races should be taken away from these regions like so many on X (formerly Twitter) have assumed. I’m ecstatic for these regions that have been overlooked for years. I just worry what this means for our local Ohio tracks.
Attica and Fremont have upped their purses and points payouts to an all-time high once again for 2024 despite not having the luxury of the All Star races, but they can’t operate in the red forever. People like comparing Ohio to the Knoxville region and Pennsylvania region, but you’re comparing apples to oranges to lemons there. The only track in Ohio that has a “Crown Jewel” race, races sprint cars three weekends a year, and that track is vastly different than the other tracks we see in Ohio. Knoxville is a weekly track that also offers the Knoxville Nationals, which probably funds the entire season for Knoxville. Pennsylvania is an outlier. I don’t know how they do what they do, but it probably involves scrapple.
Point being, the “local” Ohio tracks don’t have a Crown Jewel event to fall back on like Knoxville, Port Royal, Williams Grove, etc that allow them to pay a good purse for their local shows. The combined Outlaw and All Star shows throughout the season were the “Crown Jewel” for some of these local tracks. Now, that Crown Jewel doesn’t exist.
Sunshine and Rainbows: From what I’ve been hearing, tracks are working together for the 2024 season. As mentioned before, Attica and Fremont are upping purses and points payouts. The AFCS Series and FAST Series have also both committed to upper their purses and points payouts. Sponsors that have helped bring in the Outlaws and All Stars are staying on board with our local tracks to support other shows. And who knows, there may even be some folks who feel slighted by High Limit that throw some money towards our locals. It sounds like Speedweek, albeit slightly different, will happen in 2024, offering our local drivers a chance to race for an increased purse and points fund. Maybe most important, though, is that the tracks could work together to make sure our local racers get to race in the “big races” like the Pete Jacobs Memorial, Attica Ambush, Jim and Joanne Ford Classic, just to name a few. These races have offered an increased purse, and hopefully this means that drivers won’t have to choose between racing for bigger money, or racing for points on a given night. This takes a lot of cooperation, and tracks making concessions, but if it works out, it’ll deserve a round of applause.
It’s going to take an effort from tracks, teams, drivers, series, etc to help get butts in the seats for not only the bigger shows, but the local shows as well. A task that will probably fall mostly on the tracks and the product they can offer.
It’s all very complicated, probably much more complicated than we all know or realize. Everything is connected to everything in obscure but very visible ways. It’s time for the Ohio locals– tracks, teams, fans, series, to lace up the boots and get to work. 2024 and beyond will look different, but it’s up to us to determine what kind of different it will be. Will it be doom and gloom, or can we make it sunshine and rainbows?