Laying Down the LawNo one ever said Johnny Fenn’s job was going to be easy. Riding herd on a group of racers literally defined by the word “outlaw” would challenge the most wise and diplomatic of souls, and as president of the Atlanta-based Outlaw Racing Street Car Association (ORSCA), Fenn gets plenty of opportunity to demonstrate how much of each trait he possesses.
ORSCA and Fenn burst into the sanctioning body game in 2004, awash in enthusiasm from competitors, track operators and fans alike. Finally, after years of loosely organized, hit-or-miss events where racers did little more than eye each other’s cars up before deciding, “Yeah, I’ll race that,” ORSCA brought the promise of safer racing conditions, guaranteed purses, and a year-end championship with all the bragging rights to go along with it. And for awhile, that was enough.
As inevitably happens in all forms of racing, though, better organization and promised purses inspired racers to spend more money on their efforts—and push the rules to the brink, sometimes slipping over the edge. As a fledgling sanctioning body, ORSCA in its early days turned a somewhat blind eye to developments that pushed the envelope, perhaps reasoning that the “outlaw spirit” made policing its own regulations almost impossible.
Regardless, the end results are $100K-plus rolling chassis and $80K-plus engines for Outlaw 10.5 cars that mock the “requirement” for stock-type front suspensions on the stock mounting points. New Limited Street cars are being built to 10.5 standards and some EZ Street cars are capable of running down many of the supposedly quicker LS entries. Essentially, it’s turned into a battle of the wallets at the expense of the rule book.
But that may be about to change—or at least the part about the rule book—because Fenn says he, along with new race operations manager Jason Mote and chief tech inspector Ray Donald are committed to regaining control of the game by enforcing the rules. As proof, Fenn pointed to seven official tech infraction letters being issued at ORSCA’s recent 2007 season opener and three cars being sent home for violations too severe to overlook even for that race alone. The most visible of the infraction notice recipients were Outlaw 10.5 driver Marcus Birt and crew chief Joey Martin, who drew ORSCA’s ire for adding humps for tire clearance to the rear fenders of team owner Tim Tindle’s '68 Camaro.
"That clearly, visibly, is not stock body lines. Now, we don’t have a template like NASCAR to check the cars, but clearly, blatantly, that’s not a stock body line for a Camaro,” Fenn emphasized to me at Huntsville Dragway. “Of course the suspension and all those things have just gone crazy on these cars, we know they have, but they still look like Camaros and Mustangs. For now we’re going to concentrate on fixing the things that our fans can see. We have to keep Outlaw 10.5 cars looking like Outlaw 10.5 cars. Everybody already calls them Baby Pro Mods, but we’re not Pro Mods and don’t want to be.”
Fenn also said that gone are the days of hashing out every little rule issue on ORSCA’s online message board. In fact, he’s told Mote and Donald to make their decisions and stick to them, regardless of the inevitable Internet chatter. “It’s the only way we’re going to get anything done,” he said. Too often in the past, ORSCA-initiated discussions about rule making descended into lengthy, pointless squabbles with racers and fans alike, making it even more difficult for the sanctioning body to finally put its legislative foot down.
For instance, I was amazed the very day ORSCA announced its creation of Modified Street last year, a new class in 2007 for single-stage-nitrous, small-block powered cars. Almost immediately, several racers took to their keyboards, not with praise for a relatively affordable, entry-level, heads-up class, but lobbying for various other engine combos and weight breaks. To ORSCA’s credit, Modified Street made a very successful debut at Huntsville in its original configuration.