ASA: REACTION TO RESTRUCTURING Part III by Bob Dillner
No More Wait… ASA Is Going Racing Again
The new era of ASA begins now. We’ll call it the “a.r. era,” as in “after restructuring.” Teams will have a first-hand look at “ASA a.r.” on Saturday when they pull into Madison Int’l Raceway in Wisconsin. After all, this will be the first race since series owner Steve Dale announced his restructuring plan to get ASA out of its financial freefall.
ASA, while it will remain one of the premier racing series in America, has given up its top spot among similar racing bodies in monetary value for teams that compete in it (at least until a series sponsor is found). Skeptics can argue the point all they want, but now ASA, in dollar and cents, rivals that of the USAR ProCup Series and, even to some degree, the NASCAR Touring Series.
Competitors will tell you “the plan” has its good points and bad points. Good, the series is still operating and the players still have a place to race. Good, the purses have been raised slightly and that checks for missed payments
“I find it interesting, too, that they didn't decrease the rookie deal,” explains rookie Casey Smith honestly (after all, he would benefit by ASA not cutting it if he were to win the program). “That really doesn't make sense to me. They should decrease it by like $15,000 or $20,000 and put some of that money in the points’ fund. But they should also really limit the points’ fund and who gets paid. Make it like the top-10 and that's all or something.”
With the departure of two-time ASA champ Gary St. Amant, somebody needed to step up and be the voice of reason from the ASA competitors’ side. That somebody seems to be fellow two-time series champ Kevin Cywinski.
"We are seeing where we have to give up money coming in, but expenses for those races that we do run are not
going to go down,” explains the defending ASA champ. “Looking at the schedule that he (Steve Dale) released, it looks like ASA is going to keep some of the test days and they cost us both time and money.
“Without TV at a bunch of these races, it will be interesting to see if he has some leeway with the schedule and can move things around so we can make some of these shows 'one-day affairs.' If he wants us to race for less, he has to sacrifice, too. We can't race for less and spend what we've been spending like nothing has changed.”
Others are willing to sacrifice, as long as it is not for the long-haul.
“If we have to sacrifice a little bit right now to get it back to what it once was, then so be it,” third-year racer Todd Kluever says. “I don’t think we will be able to sacrifice everything forever, but I think we can all deal with it for now. It’s better than having two cars sitting in my shop and I’m not racing because the series is gone.”
From what was presented to us, the champion in ASA will now receive somewhere around $35,000. That’s a far cry from the $200,000 the champ would receive in past years. An additional $50,000 will be paid out throughout next season as an incentive for the champ to defend his title.
“I don't think the $50,000 championship bonus is a good plan,” adds Cywinski, who is one of the guys who might return if he does win it again. “I didn't like it when they were talking about it earlier this year. From a person that drivers for a car owner, it might help lock in a driver for the following year, but that is $50,000 that could be better used now, and in today's state, $50,000 is everything.”
Cywinski is also quick to point out that there are other ways to save money.
“They could cut out the banquet. There is more money spent there that could just be used elsewhere, where it is really needed. With the problems that Steve is having
this year and being that they are all financially related, to have a banquet in January, well after the season is over, seems pointless. This is a year that most people would like to forget about anyway.”
A couple of teams have already pulled their ASA programs; the most noted being Cywinski’s rookie teammate at Country Joe Racing, Joey Miller, and the Florida-based team of Mike Cope.
“I have to do what I have to do,” says Cope, who says he’ll still compete in a couple ASA races this year. “I love ASA racing. I love the short track racing side of it and these big tracks are great and we need to be there, rah, rah, rah; I’ve heard all that BS. Well, this thing lasted 37-years running short tracks around the country. There’s a lot of Super Late Model racing I can do in Florida for what I am paying in airline tickets to get to some of these ASA racetracks now.
“ASA has been hurt and it’s lost some credibility. Has Steve Dale lost credibility with me? Not really. I know what he is trying to do. The racer in him took over for a while there. In racing terms, he was smelling the ether. He needed to quit smellin’ the ether and smell reality and that’s what he is beginning to do.”
Steve Dale and his team at ASA have been putting a lot of hours into rectifying these problems in the past few weeks. This week will be the first time he faces all the competitors in his series since the announcement was made a couple weeks ago, and many believe him to have been humbled by this experience.
“Absolutely. I told him I did not think he could go forward until he did become humbled,” said Ken Smith, owner of three teams in ASA. “He had to ask for help. I told him from the beginning that if you take all the assets of all the teams and add them up, they have more value then ASA itself. For him to put all his dirty laundry out there, after being the successful business man he was, that was very humbling for him.”
And as for the future, everybody is in a waiting pattern to see if ASA succeeds.
“If it doesn’t, somebody will pick it up,” adds Smith. “Like I said, the assets are the teams and there is a lot of equipment
on past races are beginning to hit the team’s mailboxes. Bad, the points’ fund has been cut drastically as a cost-saving measure and the winners circle program for regular competitors has been suspended. And yes, only having TV for four more races isn’t a positive in the drivers’ eyes either.
“It's good and kind of a relief that we are going racing again, since everyone has all of this equipment sitting around,” says 18-year-old Reed Sorenson, who is fifth in points. “I mean, it (the plan) has its good parts and bad parts, but I guess that was to be expected.
“I am really happy that we are going to be doing eight races, though. I know a lot of us heard it was just going to be four and that wasn't going to work very well. I just can’t wait to get to the track to try to win races again; that’s all we are thinking about.”
In a way, that is easy for Sorenson to say. Next year he is off to the “big leagues” of NASCAR under the guidance of Chip Ganassi Racing. For other rising stars who are still trying to cut it in this sport and for veterans who are just trying to survive, there are some concerns about what lies ahead and suggestions as well.
out there to be used. If it does, for some reason, fail this year, I still believe we will be racing in 2005 under some banner.”
“Right now I have issues above and beyond this stuff; I have sponsor issues," added Todd Kluever. "And as everybody knows, my sponsors have very close ties to ASA with SK Hand Tools and
Sign 1-1. A lot of my future depends on what they want to do. If they decide they are a little fed up with ASA and they want to do something different, then that’s what I’m going to have to do.
“It’s up to ASA to win back the trust and loyalty of their sponsors as well as attempt to get new ones. We’ll see how hard they want to work for it. I think with what they have done, their heart is in the right place, but my future lies in my sponsors hands.”
“The future? I don't really care about that right now,” claims 1999 ASA champ Tim Sauter. “I don't care if they race Jeeps next year. I'm just trying to get through this year.”
And right now, that’s just what ASA is doing. We hope they succeed.
Casey Smith and the rest of the drivers will only have to race for the TV cameras four more times this season.
Crashes, like this one suffered by Reed Sorenson at Kentucky, will be harder felt in the pocket books for the rest of the year.
The championship will mean as much, but not pay as much.
Racing isn't any cheaper for big time owners like Ken Smith (#06) or smaller teams like Greg Stewart (#33).