Late last month, the staff at Speed51.com dug deep into the ongoing saga of the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour. Recent event cancelations raised many eyebrows about what’s been going on in the popular Late Model series. It all started with the cancelation of the Watermelon Capital speedway event (click here for more). Then, more to the story about the Orange County race came to the surface (click here for more). That led to a co-sanctioned James Garrison Memorial event at Lanier National Speedway, which ended up not having any affiliation to ASA SAT at all other than some of the series’ drivers showing up for the track-officiated event. (click here for more)
Although we haven’t gotten a whole lot of information from ASA SAT series owner John Kee or Operations Manager Micky Cain, as both have remained quiet to Speed51.com throughout the past few weeks, we can tell you that the drivers have mixed feeling about the situation.
In review, the concept of running with ASA SAT things looks very promising. The series has worked with the rulebook to allow all type of Late Models with all different types of engine packages to come together on the same racetrack. The series also paid the drivers at the end of each event to aid them with their travel expenses to and from the track.
So it’s not hard to see why drivers would be drawn to this series. Throw in a National TV Package that started off strong in 2008 with over a half dozen events and things looked very concrete for 2009. That’s what all the drivers were thinking.
Now some are left wondering if a championship will be awarded, while others are left wondering if they will receive their checks from the last race. Others just want to race, but the economic struggle of the series is hurting everyone involved.
“It’s a rough time in racing,” said series point leader Jason Hogan. “During the last few weeks, several series have just up and closed. All said, we just hope we have something for next year. ASA had a great deal going. We still don’t know what’s going on. We still may have a great deal going. I hate to enter the last part of the year as the point leader of a series and not be able to win the championship.”
Hogan is not alone, others felt the writing was on the wall and it was only a matter of time before the series is forced to pull the plug.
“I really don’t know what’s going on,” said Paul Kelley who was contending for the series title. “I know there is a lot of speculation, a lot of hearsay. We all know how rumors are. The way things are economically right now I don’t see how they made it as far as they did.”
Kelley, like many other drivers enjoyed ASA SAT and the personnel that were associated with it.
“It was a good series,” added Kelley. “They tried to do as much as they could to keep it going. I really liked Micky Cain. He was great with the technical side of things. He is a real fair guy and that why a lot of people ran with them”
The small budget racers were also hit hard by the recent cancelations. Kevin Stephens has scaled his Late Model racing back in the last few years. However, he found a new home with ASA SAT.
“It’s very disappointing to a driver,” said Stephens. “We were able to drop in and run with them. We were not one of their regulars, but we were still able to race with them. If you had bad luck then you got your tire bill paid for (with your winnings). I am not knocking the GAS series because I know they don’t have the funds to do that. No other crate motor series could say that.”
If ASA SAT does get things rolling again with the up coming Hickory race, will the support from teams go away? We asked two-time GAS series champion Russell Fleeman that question. He had changed over to ASA SAT to finish off 2009 after already being a victim of another series closure earlier in the year.
“If they get things back to the way they are suppose to be then people will support them,” said Fleeman. “They had a good thing going there and with the economy the way it is right now it’s kind of sad that we not able to race like we were scheduled to do.”
A few of the drivers we talked to were upset about the series being pulled into the spotlight the way it was.
One driver said that this is the only series we have to left to race in, why is it getting all this bad publicity? Others are patiently waiting to hear word from the series.
“We have had to follow the deal and listening to the bad mouthing,” added Stephens. “We have not been able to listen to the response from ASA SAT.”
[Editor's Note - For multiple reasons that we have reported on, the ASA SAT situation has been much more complex than the other series closures - which have all been reported on by Speed51.com.
While Speed51.com has talked to numerous track operators, competitors, sponsors and others associated with ASA SAT, but we have not had any dicussions with the series principals themselves. Speed51.com has made multiple requests to ASA SAT officials for their comment on the situation and all voicemails have been left unanswered. The only public comment made by the series has been an interview that Series owner John Kee made to Z3 Sports. Please click here to read that story.]
Money seems to be the only thing holding ASA SAT back at this point. All the drivers in Georgia and around the rest of the southeast are hopping that things will be a go at Hickory next week. They like the rest of the racing is just playing the waiting game.
“They put on a good show,” added Kelley. “It’s just unfortunate they didn’t have the funds to go on the rest of the year.”
“You have to respect the guys from ASA SAT for not having the Cordele race,” said Hogan. “If the funds were not there then the funds were not there. I think Hickory will be the same way, if the funds are not there then they won’t have it.”
Speed51.com will have more on the ASA SAT situation