It hasn't been an easy season if you have been a Pro Late Model or Super Late Model fan or team in the Deep Southeast. That's because events have been disappearing off the calendar left and right.
Both the CRA South Series and the Southern Pro Late Model Series saw their 2009 seasons cancelled after just one and two events, respectively, were actually held. The Georgia Asphalt Series also just cancelled one of their races at Watermelon Capital Speedway (GA) as well.
[Editor's Note - On Wednesday, Speed51.com spoke with Terry Roberts of the Georgia Asphalt Series. Roberts clarified with us that it was the track that requested that the GAS race at Watermelon Capital be cancelled, so GAS and the track worked together to call off that show. It was not due to business troubles with either GAS or the track, but for reasons that include the start of the very popular high school sports season around the same time of the planned race]
More recently, it hasn't been an easy time if you want to catch an ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour event. Two of the last four races have been cancelled. The event at Monroe Motor Speedway (LA) was axed first, with high fuel and travel costs being the official reason. Meanwhile, a race at Orange County Speedway (NC) was rained out and then rescheduled and then cancelled again.
So when you consider those two factors, you might have thought that the ASA SAT race scheduled at Georgia's Watermelon Capital Speedway (GA) was an endangered species. Late on Tuesday afternoon, that was confirmed by a short press release issued by the series right at the day's close of business. Attempts by Speed51.com to reach Micky Cain, ASA SAT's Operations Manager for more details were not successful, so the press release remains their comment of record - for now.
“Officials for the RC Cola / MoonPie ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour announced today that they have canceled the Melon 100 at Watermelon Capital Speedway, originally scheduled for this coming Saturday, August 29th. The event will not be made up,” stated the release.
The ripple effects of this announcement are yet to be felt. On one hand, the series has taken a “don't worry” approach, while a few other red flags questioning the health of the series are starting to raise up.
Tuesday's release stated that, “two area companies scheduled to sponsor the race notified ASA SAT officials that they were unable to sponsor the event as prior agreed upon, thereby forcing the cancelation.”
The Watermelon Capital event had been placed on the ASA Southeast schedule before the season even started. As recently as Tuesday, the race was still listed on the series website without any mention of an event sponsor. No ASA SAT race since April has had a title sponsorship according to the series website and no event sponsors are listed for the final six events that are still on the ASA SAT schedule - which could be a warning sign of more cancellations to come.
When Speed51.com contacted track officials at Watermelon Capital Speedway 30 minutes after the ASA SAT press release was distributed on Tuesday, they were surprised to hear from us and had not yet received word of the decision.
Track owner Marvin Ragan had been in discussions with the series about a possible cancellation, but had offered up other solutions as well - including having the pre-registered ASA SAT teams racing at the track this weekend under the track's purse structure. Ragan heard from Speed51.com though before hearing back from the series.
“I haven't heard back from them. I wish they would have called me and told me that,” said Ragan of the cancellation. “I have called them a couple of times and they were trying to get something put together. I told them..I said 'look, if you cancel this race, it is going to look bad on you, it is going to look bad on me.' I said 'you need to try to find a way to have it.' They said 'we are trying, we are making some phone calls now.' I said 'let me know, because I've got to rearrange my schedule to let people know what I am going to do.'
“I don't know if that is the case or not (on two local companies sponsoring and pulling out). It was a track rental deal where they rent the track from us. It has sort of got us in a jam with a last minute deal. I don't know what the problem is. I guess they are having financial problems, is what it sounds like to me.”
“We are going to race this weekend. I will call the other classes that were going to be off this weekend because of the ASA race and we will run our normal schedule this weekend. We intend to race.”
This is not the only confusion that involves the remainder of the 2009 ASA SAT schedule. Officially, the ASA SAT website still lists the race being scheduled for Orange County as well, however that event was announced as being cancelled earlier this month by ASA SAT officials.
The Orange County event was supposed to include the ISCARS Dash Series, and officials from that tour have stated on their website that it was an ASA SAT decision to pull the plug on the show.
“ISCARS DASH Touring learned last Saturday of the announcement from the Southeast Asphalt Tour that the event at Orange County Speedway had been canceled,” states an entry on the ISCAR website from August 20th. “This did not leave adequate time for ISCARS to advertise a standalone event and felt it was fair to let the fans know about the change in which Series would or would not be participating.
“ISCARS has agreed to promote an event on Saturday October 31. ISCARS will honor rainchecks being held from July 11th.
“We apologize to our fans, the folks at OCS and for any participants that are affected by this change.”
Speed51.com was not able to reach officials from Orange County Speedway (NC) for comment.
Publically, ASA SAT officials are not predicting any more cancellations for this season and made a point in Tuesday's press release to assure race teams that the series is continuing on.
“We have experienced great car counts and very competitive fields in 2009,” said John Kee, owner of the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour 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.”
The release went on to state that, “ASA SAT teams may request an immediate refund of registration fees or may have their fees moved to a future event by contacting the ASA SAT offices.”
There are signs that teams are starting to worry though. Paul Kelley was the ASA SAT point leader heading into the last series race at Anderson Motor Speedway (SC) on August 8th, but inexplicably did not show up for the race.
Speed51.com spoke with team officials prior to the Anderson race, but the team did not publicly wish to comment on their reasons for the decision.
Another concern of teams involves the fact that series events are currently not being televised, which was a selling point of the series when it was introduced in 2008.
Former TNN RaceDay host Rick Benjamin and his Visioncast, Inc. production company were the driving force behind producing ASA SAT races for air on SportsSouth and other networks in 2008 and early 2009, but the series and Visioncast parted ways without explanation after the 009 season started. Visioncast is still involved in producing racing events, mainly in road racing, while ASA SAT has not partnered with any other production company.
[Editor's Note - ASA SAT and Visioncast have not in fact parted ways. Speed51.com has learned the Carolinas Production Group, Inc., which is the production arm of Visioncast, 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. For more on this situation, please click here to read about more fallout from this situation.]
All mentions of a television package have been removed from the site, yet the slogan at the top of the site still calls it "America's Only Nationally Televised Asphalt Short Track Series."
Speed51.com will continue to stay on top of the situation involving ASA SAT, so stay tuned for more developments.