Nine of the nation's top stock-car tracks operating weekly shows have banded together informally to try to exert some influence on their governing organization, the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR).
"No one there would talk to us so we finally had to start talking to each other," said Dick Gore, owner of Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas.
NASCAR was created 30 years ago by Bill France Jr. It has been one-man rule all the way, with no formal route of appeal from France decisions. There can be no doubt this usually benevolent dictatorship has improved racing conditions, purses and audiences over the years for its 18,000 members and 40 to 50 member tracks.
"The basic problem is promoters are never consulted about fee or rules changes any more," Gore said. "The last NASCAR promoters meeting was three years ago. NASCAR should be looking out after our interests and it isn't."
Tracks in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee are in the new group. Beltsville Speedway was invited to send a representative to the initial meeting several weeks ago but did not attend. Among them, they presented 75 per cent of NASCAR's special long-distance races for the late-model and limited-sportsman classes for purses of $1.5 million last year. They paid $330,000 in fees to the national body for the privilege of staging these events, according to Gore.
As an example of action NASCAR should be taking on behalf of its promoters but isn't, Gore cited insurance coverage. By shopping around and bargaining themselves, the group was able to save $13.000 a year in premiums with no less coverage. To do it, they took their business away from NASCAR's house insurance agency and brought it to competing firm.
"NASCAR was concerned about that," commented Gore. He noted NASCAR gets income from insurance, as it does from sanction fees, so the nine tracks should get some attention based on their payments to the national body.
The nine are specifically concerned about the increase in the minimum purse they must pay for a "national championship" race at their tracks, up to $7,500, and about the higher sanction fee they must pay for the right to schedule such races.
The increase in license fees and "pit fees" for each race that competitors must pay also bothers them. "Some drivers may feel $30 to $70 a year for a license is just too much and will stop racing. That reduces our fields," Gore points out.
"Promoters weren't asked about these changes before they went into effect. They were told they were in force, and there's no appeal from that in NASCAR," he added.
Gore feels NASCAR's director for late-model sportsman racing, Pete Keller, is not representing the promoters as vigorously as he might. "We'ver asked Pete for a formal meeting with NASCAR, but none has ever been scheduled, says Gore.
In addition to insurance purchasing, Gore feels the nine tracks might cooperate in joint purchasing of racing tires, which could be offered to drivers for as little as $65 each compared with the current $100 price."That could probably be lower if NASCAR negotiated for all its member track," he observed.
"I want to make clear this is not a splinter group or a rival organization or anything like that," Gore stated. "In the past, promoters had no good reason to get together. Now we do. We'll meet again soon and we may invite someone from NASCAR. We didn't ask them to the first meeting."
Gore doesn't feel NASCAR will react by withdrawing its sanction from the nine tracks. Such an act would bar NASCAR members from competing at the banned circuits. "Old Dominion has opered very successfully without a NASCAR sanction in the past," observes Gore, "But that is not the point."
In Gore's view, "NASCAR seems primarily interested in the Grand National races at 15 or 16 tracks and the tracks at Daytona Beach (Fla.) and Talladega (Ala.) and not much else." The Frances have a financial interest in the two superspeedways.