ASA: REACTION TO RESTRUCTURING Part I by Bob Dillner
Point Fund Reduction Is Biggest Concern
The most important period in ASA history is right now. It may sound like a bold statement, but as ASA begins to rebuild itself after announcing its restructuring plan this week, it is more evident than ever that ASA is in a critical period.
At an owners/drivers meeting in Indiana on Wednesday, ASA outlined its plan for the remainder of 2004. Included in it were the cancellation of one more race, a slight increase in event purses, the suspension of the winner’s circle program and most importantly, the reduction of the ASA points’ fund by nearly three-quarters of a million dollars.
It sounds drastic and ASA admits it is, but most drivers and owners, although not completely happy, realize it is something that needed to be done.
“I’m happy that we are racing. I’m happy that ASA is going to go on. I’m happy that my cars are still going to have value,” says third-year ASA driver Todd Kluever. “Sure I’m disappointed that we are going to lose money. Do I know what the future holds for Todd Kluever and TK2 Racing? I really don’t. Will I be in ASA next year? Who knows?”
Ken Smith, owner of three ASA teams with his SS Racing program, was at the meeting. And while he knows everyone didn’t agree with all aspects of ASA’s plan, he did think most felt more at ease once the series laid things out on the table.
“You had multiple teams with different agendas so there were all kinds of different questions and concerns,” claims the third-year ASA owner. “After three-plus hours, I think all
of those were addressed. I think everyone left the meeting knowing what ASA had planned for the immediate future and now it is their option whether to continue to race or not. There were some people that were not (satisfied), but I think the majority were.
“I think it’s (the status of ASA) a concern for everyone, but this is a survival program right now. He (Steve Dale) has got to land a sponsor in the next 90-to-120-days and he needs our support to be able for him to do it. We have to be ambassadors of the series. Right now there are too many things in the media that people are talking about negatively. We have to talk more about the positives and gloss over the negatives. We have a lot of strengths of this series.”
Dale, who took over the series last year, is always one to point out the positives of this series, but he was forced to reveal ASA’s financial difficulties when asked about it at a drivers’ meeting at Berlin Raceway (a few weeks ago). He went on the record with speed51.com last week about why the series was in financial woes. The meeting was just one of many things ASA conducted this past week to get the ASA National Tour back on the right track.
“I was not at the meeting for much of the day because I was in sponsor meetings. In fact, when I showed up, most people were gone,” admitted Dale. “Based on phone calls and so forth, they (drivers and owners) seem to be very supportive. I think they’ve been surprised at how much pain I have been willing to take financially.
“The coming months are very crucial for the National Tour. For the Late Models and the Member Tracks it is a non-issue. That National Tour, with the level to which it had grown to with the purses and so forth, is the most difficult to deal with. You know what others (other racing series similar to ASA) pay compared to what we have done with the points’ fund and so forth. It’s (ASA) enormous by comparison.”
The reduction of the ASA National Tour points’ fund seems to be the major point of discussion after the announcement was made. Dale claims the point fund was a million and change. We have been told it was approximately 1.2-million. Now it is at $350,000, which is similar to several other racing series, but not what ASA competitors are accustomed to.
“The points’ fund thing is terrible,” said 1999 ASA champ Tim Sauter. “That was going to be a big thing for people, especially at this level. I know that was going to be my long-range bonus package.”
“A lot of our people's salaries are structured around points-fund bonus,” explains two-time and defending series champion Kevin Cywinski. “So with a very limited points’ fund, if we have one at all, it raises a lot of questions still. It is something we really have to look into.”
Cywinski says his team will be affected by less $$$.
“He had some damage control to do,” claims team owner Ken Smith. “Some people may talk about the points’ fund being reduced, but quite frankly, I am surprised there was even one there. I think that was a major token on his part to facilitate that program.
“I think it was a fair analysis that he came up with because ultimately you have to look at how much money he has to spend and how can he best put it to work for the betterment of the series. This was probably the best solution.”
There are plenty of other issues to discuss, including television being limited to just four of the final eight races, the series making a plan to pay drivers for the last couple races and promises that were broken and more that must be kept. Last but not least, the future of this series beyond this year. Speed51.com, during the next week or so, will explore those issues by speaking with both ASA and its most important component, its competitors.
During our conversation with Steve Dale on Friday afternoon, he expressed how hard ASA is working to rectify its situation.
“We’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us,” states an exhausted sounding Dale. “I’ll be working all weekend. I had to laugh a little bit today because I have had trouble today getting a hold of people I need to speak with because they are off enjoying their families on this holiday weekend. We are going to be hunkered down here at the office working hard for next year.
“We have several things in the works as we speak. We are finalizing our ’05 schedule and that will allow us to complete some of our sponsorships at the same time. The schedule is so important to everyone, especially our sponsors. We are getting close; this month we should be done with the schedule.
“Simultaneously, we are working with several potential companies to possibly support ASA and some of them are very close.”
Todd’s feelings are shared by just about everyone involved in ASA. He did not attend Wednesday’s “State of ASA” meeting. Instead, he opted to save money and speak with ASA owner Steve Dale personally on the phone as well as reviewing the plan via an e-mail the series sent out to its competitors on Tuesday evening.
“I give Steve a lot of credit. I know he’s trying,” continues Kluever. “There are a lot of negative people in the world, and of course it always kind of sucks to give up money whether it is the winner’s circle or points’ fund, but at least we know what is going on now. I was more nervous that we’d have cars we couldn’t race anywhere than I was about anything else.”
“The points’ money is what you used to race ASA for, as well as the television, and now most of that is gone,” claims two-time NASCAR Southeast Series champ turned ASA-regular Mike Cope. “This is going to be a huge blow for everybody. With the amount of money that it is going to pay to run the entire schedule, it almost makes more sense for me to pick and choose my races. The points’ money pales in comparison to what it was.
I wish we would have known this before the season began because it would have made my decision a lot easier,” continues Cope. “Don’t bring me halfway down the aisle and tell me my bride is not going to be at the altar. That’s what has happened here.”
There are always two sides to every story and other competitors, despite the decrease in point-fund money to be paid out, feel fortunate there is still something there.
“I am actually surprised to see a points’ fund,” admits ASA sophomore Travis Kittleson. “Everything that I was visualizing happening was a lot worse. I was seeing us not getting to race but maybe a couple more times the rest of the year. Now we are getting to race and getting a points’ fund.”
“I was glad to see the points’ fund was still around, even though it is not much money,” rookie Casey Smith says. “I don't know the exact breakdown of what they pay, but at least there is something. They needed some sort of points fund to keep people coming to each and every race.”
Travis Kittleson (#30) and Todd Kluever (#55) race at Lanier (GA) this year.