In what appears to be a difficult week for the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour, more interesting developments have come to light today. Officials from Lanier National Speedway have informed Speed51.com that the race scheduled for Saturday, September 12th will no longer be a points-paying event for ASA SAT. The event will now be a co-sanctioned non-points race between ASA SAT and the Georgia Asphalt Series.
Initially on Tuesday, Speed51.com reported that ASA SAT would be cancelling their next scheduled event at Watermelon Capital Speedway (GA) - the announcement of which surprised track owner Marvin Ragan [click here for the story]. On Wednesday, Speed51.com learned more about the situation surrounding the previous cancellation of an ASA SAT event at North Carolina's Orange County Speedway [click here for the story].
Now, Speed51.com has learned new details about the tour, its business dealings and its possible future. But while several parties who have had relationships with the series have been very open and upfront about those dealings, there has still not been any word from the series itself. On Tuesday night and on Wednesday, Speed51.com attempted to reach ASA SAT's Operations Manager Micky Cain for the series' side of this story. However, calls to Cain have gone unanswered and voicemails have not been returned. For now, the only comment on record from the series is a quote from owner John Kee in a press release delivered to us at the close of business on Tuesday.
“We have experienced great car counts and very competitive fields in 2009,” said Kee, in the press release. “We don't want any of our teams to worry. The intent is to move forward with the balance of the season as scheduled, beginning with the James Garrison Memorial at Lanier National Speedway on Saturday, September 12.”
Speed51.com called officials at Lanier on Wednesday to inquire about the Sept 12th ASA SAT race at their track. On Wednesday, Speed51.com was told that Lanier officials and Kee were scheduled to have a meeting at 4:30pm to discuss all aspects of the event. On Thursday morning, Lanier's Terry Roberts informed Speed51.com that meeting lasted until 10:30pm.
“The race had been originally scheduled to be an ASA race and in the last couple of days, there was a whirlwind going around of what's been going on and we wanted to get an answer. We requested the meeting. We didn't want to listen to rumors; we wanted to know what was happening and how we all need to proceed forward,” said Roberts.
“The result of the meeting was that the James Garrison Memorial will be presented by both GAS [Georgia Asphalt Series] and the ASA SAT series. It will be a non-points race for both. We wanted to make sure we honored James Garrison and his family for what this event was originally scheduled for. And for the best interest of our sport and everyone involved, this (combining the series' efforts) was the best way to do it.”
Teaming up with GAS, which shares common ownership with the Lanier track, was a way to ensure that this event would continue on.
“The whole focus was on the James Garrison Memorial and not whether it was an ASA SAT or GAS race,” said Roberts. “Here's the race; we are both going to do it. It was a mutual decision that came out of this meeting. It was a long meeting and a lot of ideas were tossed around by both sides. After about five hours we thought this was the best way to proceed forward.”
Roberts shared with Speed51.com a few of the details around the partnership.
“[ASA SAT's] Micky (Cain) will be involved in tech,” said Roberts. “All of their [ASA SAT] officials will be here. They will have their presence as we will have ours. The purse and all will be paid for by Lanier. The organization of everything will fall in my lap as well.”
Roberts wanted to assure teams not to be afraid of entering the 100-lap race.
“We want to invite all the competitors to come out and remember what the real purpose of this event is all about,” said Roberts. “It's to honor James Garrison and remember all that he did for racing in this area. It will be a special night at Lanier. All the divisions will be running. It will be an increased purse for the other divisions as well and we will be paying $3,000 to win this (Pro Late Model) race. People don't need to forget what this event is all about.”
What comes next for ASA SAT after Lanier? That is still a question mark at this point, but Roberts does not have an answer.
“My understanding is that ASA SAT is proceeding forward after this (race),” said Roberts. “My only concern stops right here with this race.”
The ASA SAT website still lists scheduled events at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) in September and October, Dillon Motor Speedway (SC) in October, Desoto Super Speedway (FL) in October and Concord Speedway (NC) in November to close out the season. However, with the latest two events on the schedule being cancelled and the Lanier race now having outside involvement, the fate of the final five races of the ASA SAT season still has yet to be answered.
If there are any more points-paying ASA SAT events this season, it is almost certain that they won't be televised. Although the ARCA RE/MAX Series, USARacing Pro Cup Series and NASCAR Camping World East and West Series all have some type of television packages in place, ASA SAT has billed itself as “America's Only Nationally Televised Short Track Racing Series”
However there have not been any new ASA SAT races televised since the early part of the 2009 season. Details are now emerging on why that has been the case.
Speed51.com has learned from broadcaster Rick Benjamin that the Carolinas Production Group, Inc., which is the production arm of his Visioncast company, is still under contract with the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour. The ASA SAT television package was discontinued earlier this season pending payment to Carolinas Production Group.
Carolinas Production Group isn't alone. 51 Sports, the parent company of Speed51.com, provided public relations services and produced and maintained the website for ASA SAT for 2008 and in the early part of the 2009 season. That was until 51 Sports suspended their version of the ASA SAT website due to billing issues. Meanwhile, the series then entered into an agreement with a company run by two former 51 Sports employees for website and public relations services. Although the current ASA SAT website and press releases have a similar look and format to the ones produced by 51 Sports, there is no longer a business arrangement between the two companies.
At least one sponsor of the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour is not happy about their business dealings with the series either. Georgia's Hedman Husler Heders were the official headers of ASA SAT for the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Chris Vandergriff, Hedman Husler's Director of Racing, told Speed51.com that as part of the company's sponsorship agreement, ASA SAT was obligated to provide at least 10 televised events in 2009 and produce a television commercial for Hedman Husler. With the television package going on hiatus and no commercial being produced, it is Vandergriff's position that the tour's obligations were not met and that Hedman's sponsorship dollars should be refunded by ASA SAT as a result.
Vandergriff is also a principal in the #23 race team of driver Paul Kelley, who was leading the ASA SAT point standings heading into the tour's most recent event at Anderson Motor Speedway (SC). The team did not enter that event due to the problems between the tour and Hedman, a move which essentially prevents Kelley from becoming the 2009 ASA SAT Champion.
What comes next for ASA SAT is still not clear. Operating a series in this economic time in our country is certainly no easy task.
What is clear is that our phones have been ringing off the hook here at the 51 newsroom as more details emerge about the situation regarding ASA SAT. Although none of those calls have been from series officials, we will continue to monitor the situation and report all new developments as soon as they become available. Stay tuned for more.