Winter Series, part 1: Off to an ominous start

The Winter Series is a series of bracket races that encompass three race tracks over three weeks. Each track has five quarter-mile races and three eighth- mile races. Simple math puts the number of events you can enter at a staggering 24 events in 18 days!

Along with the 24 events comes a high price tag for entry fees. If you enter the ten $15,000-to-win races, the five $10,000-to-win races and the nine $7500- or $5,000-to-win eighth-mile races you will spend $4,325 for regular entry fees.

Then you have to consider whether you want to buy back or not if you get busted first round. Buy-backs are $125 for the big races and I think they will be $50 for the eighth-mile races. Let’s say, for example, you decide the $15,000-to-win is a good enough lure that you will buy back if you lose first round. You lose first round a third of the time, in this example, so you spend another $650 on buy-backs in the big races and $150 to buy back in three of the eighth-mile races. Current tab for the Winter Series is now $5,125!

This has become a very expensive three weeks of racing, without a doubt. It is becoming evident that there are only about 100 racers in the country who are willing to participate in this expensive race series. A lot of these racers bring two, three or even four cars with them. Find some good drivers, give them good equipment and you’ve got a chance.

Has the weak economy changed this Series?

In my opinion it has changed the number of racers who can afford to race this series. (Note: I have raced at a lot of these events but this year I am racing only the nine eighth-mile races with $100 entry fees.) The racer attendance has fallen off to about half what it was a few years ago and probably one-third of what it was 10 years ago for five $15,000-to-win races.

I think I heard them announce 120 cars in one of the $15,000-to-win races at the first Winter Series event in SGMP. The eighth-mile races had about 150 cars entered. This should indicate something, right?

The quality of the events has remained a constant with great track prep, friendly track personnel and some of the best bracket racing on the planet. The cost of entry fees, as most of my readers know is just part of the overall costs. Staying in Florida for three weeks and the cost of fuel, meals and groceries, race car fuel, race engine oil changes, trans fluid changes (if not the complete transmission!) all add up to a complete race season worth of expenses in three weeks.

Will the Winter Series survive?

Since my crystal ball is a little foggy this morning I will give you my opinion. I think it WILL SURVIVE. I also think it will require some planning by track operators to better fit the bracket racers who are willing to run the Winter Series.

I know we are only one race into the Winter Series but here are some ideas and conclusions I have made so far. (I will update this column over the next two weeks to keep you posted on what is happening.)