The National/Divisional Compromise: 8/2
Last year, in our “New Deal” for the sportsman classes, one of the topics we discussed was separating the divisional from the national series for the Top Alcohol categories. The intent would be to make the class more marketable for the racers. Bottom line, national events have much more marketing value to potential sponsors. The idea was to separate the two series rather than have a combined points total for the national championship.
The response was very polarized. Racers either loved the idea or hated it. Racing at the divisional level is a valued tradition to many alcohol racers. We all strive for the prestige of winning a division championship. The races are closer to home for most racers and make travel less of a burden. Some are perfectly happy with the status quo. Some want to go to the next level.
In my own opinion, I feel the current state of the Lucas Oil Divisional Series is holding the alcohol cars back. The days of tracks using a divisional to pull in a crowd are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. The overwhelming majority of the divisional events on the schedule have become ‘back gate’ events. It’s a low-risk, profitable endeavor for tracks. They don’t take the risk on spending advertising money going for the crowd. They make good money off sportsman entry fees and crew member passes. Their biggest worry is weather hurting car count or scheduling hurting car count.
At these events, the alcohol cars are in a no-man’s land. The track doesn’t want the alcohol cars because they aren’t using them to book in a show. Since most of the alcohol cars don’t pay entry and get several crew passes, at these events that don’t look for a ‘front gate’ or spectator driven show, all the alcohol cars do is cut into the track’s ‘back gate’ revenues from the other sportsman categories. Many alcohol racers don’t like running at most of the divisionals because the payout is horrible ($2,500 to win, $700 to qualify) and the events have little to no marketing value to non-automotive/racing sponsors. Not to mention the quality of some tracks leaves much to be desired compared to national event surfaces.
The racers are forced to run these events. If you want to chase points, you have to chase the divisional series. Even if you aren’t chasing points, you have to run at divisionals to get the grade points to enter nationals. Divisionals cause a real problem on the marketing side. If a sponsor is going to give you a significant amount of money, they surely want to see you do well in points. If you want to do well in points, you’re going to have to go to divisionals. The problem, unless you have a racer-oriented company, is that that most divisionals have little marketing value. In the few instances that you are racing in front of a crowd, that has a lot of marketing value. However, in most cases you either have to discount the amount you charge a sponsor for a divisional or the sponsor is going to have a bad taste in their mouth. There’s little chance a non-racing company is going to have a warm fuzzy feeling about paying you as much for a national where there’s a big crowd and TV time involved as for a divisional that has no TV and no crowd.
So now you’ve discounted the eight division races you put on the schedule to chase the points. Unfortunately, the expenses stay the same. The payout is horrible, so in some cases it’s more expensive to run a divisional because you recoup less money. What this does is make the expense of chasing points much greater than the marketing value.
As mentioned above, there are still a lot of racers content with the current system. Most of these teams are self-funded and have no desire to chase national points or have a sponsor. After reading many of these racers’ concerns on my website, InsideTopAlcohol.com, I have devised the following ‘compromise’ to move the class forward.
The alcohol categories are the only classes that compete for a national championship at their best five of eight nationals and best five of eight divisionals. All other sportsman categories are contested at their best three of six nationals and best five of eight divisionals.
What I’m proposing is the national points championships be a racers best eight out of 12 nationals and their best two out of four divisionals. This would keep a national championship at 16 races just like the current 8/8 format. The national events would be emphasized in chasing a championship, while still keeping the divisional events a valued part of the equation. In doing so, the marketing value of chasing national points increases since more races on your schedule will have TV and big crowds. A sponsored racer could then pick divisional events that do draw large crowds as their divisional events to give their sponsors even more value.
I think everyone wins in this scenario. I also think this is a very viable option for 2008.
So what do you think? Drop us a line here, then when you’re done, log on to InsideTopAlcohol.com to discuss your thoughts with the rest of the alcohol community. Don’t forget, if you’re a fan of Comp Eliminator, log on to InsideCompRacing.com and if you like Top Dragster/Top Sportsman, log on to InsideFastBrackets.com.