Lexington, Michigan -- The ASA Late Model Series Presented by GM Performance Parts is gearing up for its' fifth anniversary season in 2007. Not since the days of the USPRO Cup Series in 2003 that anticipation has been so high for the Lexington, Michigan based series.
All three divisions within the ASALMS, the crown jewel of the series, the Challenge Division, as well as the Northern and Southern Divisions are busy preparing for the 2007 season as the 2007 season is only two months away.
The ASALMS Fifth Anniversary Season begins on Friday and Saturday March 2-3, 2007 with the 2007 ASALMS Challenge Division Season Opener at the fast 0.500 mile high-banked paved oval of the San Antonio (TX) Speedway in San Antonio, Texas for the running of the Alamo 200.
The ASALMS Southern Division will then christen its' 2007 season on Friday and Saturday March 16-17, 2007 at the 0.333 mile high-banks of the Bronson (FL) Motor Speedway, located West of Gainesville in Bronson, Florida for the Gator 100.
Finally the ASALMS Northern Division take center stage with its' 2007 season opener on Friday and Saturday April 27-28, 2007 with the A.S.I. Limited 100 at the famed O'Reilly (IN) Raceway Park at Indianapolis. The progressively banked 0.686 mile paved oval is located West of Indiana's capital city of Indianapolis, in Clermont, Indiana.
The complete schedules are as of Sunday December 31, 2006 at 12:000pm (EST) and are available on all three websites. There's still a potential for 3-5 dates yet to be added between all three divisions of the ASALMS with 1-2 dates still available in each division.
All three ASALMS 2007 Season Openers will feature a full day of practice for the cars and stars of the ASALMS the day before each respective 2007 Opener in San Antonio, Texas for the Challenge Division, Bronson, Florida for the Southern Division, and Clermont, Indiana for the Northern Division.
In what has become an ASALMS tradition to begin each season, ASALMS Director of Media/Public Relations-P.A. Announcer, Matt Prieur, once again sat down with ASALMS Founder/President, Ron Varney Jr., to talk about the upcoming Fifth Anniversary 2007 season as well as other various items of interest.
In the theme of 20 Questions, no punches were pulled and some light was shed on quite a few topics;
Question 1. First and Foremost; Will television return in 2007?
Answer 1. This is yet to be determined, however TV has not done a whole lot for us, so I’m not sure I have the appetite to do it again. First, to spend nearly a half a million dollars with very little return on investment for the series and the teams? Without a better channel and corporate involvement, I just don’t see the upside. We are still talking with some marketing partners though and if we can get some interest, we may televise some of the events.
Q2. There’s a new series that will begin in the 2007 season; The ASA Midwest Tour which is co-owned by Steve Einhaus and Tim Olson with involvement from Dennis Huth, what are your thoughts on that and will the new series pose a problem for the ASA Late Model Series?
A2. I wish them all the luck in the world, as they have a huge task ahead of them. As for being a concern to ASA Late Model Series, no! We are an established series with a good following, it’s unfortunate that they feel they need to use those three letters to promote themselves, but if that is all they feel they need to succeed then they will need all the luck in the world!
Q3. Due to the rapid growth of the ASALMS in 2006 from one to three divisions, Busy became a four letter word! Some team members within the ASALMS didn't finish out the season! How was it possible to maintain the various staffs and keep a cohesive unit throughout the 2006 season?
A3. Good people are hard to find, I made a couple of hiring mistakes and fixed them, we are still more lean than what I’d like us to be, but I will not rush to fill positions just for the sake of filling a position, that’s what got us in trouble in the first place.
Q4. The first race of the 2007 season for the ASALMS Challenge Division is down at the San Antonio (TX) Speedway on March 2-3, 2007 for the Alamo 200. Why so far away from the home base of the ASALMS to begin the fifth anniversary season?
A4. Growth! We are planning on a 2008 expansion in the West and we must keep our name and product in place in Texas in order to expand successfully. Terry Dickerson is also a big reason, he is such a huge backer of the ASALMS and a good friend to the series and the teams.
Q5. In what is regarded as a great idea, the ASALMS Northern Division will begin its’ 2007 season at the famed O’Reilly (IN) Raceway Park at Indianapolis (Formally Indianapolis Raceway Park) on April 27-28, 2007. What do you expect out of the 2007 season for the Northern Division and kicking off the 2007 season at such a famous establishment?
A5. Going to Indy has become a tradition with us, however putting fans in the stands is tough in Indy, by making it not only our (ASALMS) opener but also O’Reilly’s opener, we hope its an instant success and it can continue as the opener for years to come. 2007 should be a great season as we have closed our radius of travel to help teams afford to race with us more often.
Q6. The first season of the Southern Division had its’ share of ups and downs. Despite the various problems the South series had in 2006, is the Southern Division on track for a successful 2007 season?
A6. Anytime you start something new there are going to be struggles, we are no exception. 2006 laid the ground work for 2007 and we have seen a large increase in interest from both tracks and competitors. 2007 should be a banner year for the Southern division.
Q7. How proud were you when you watched 2005 ASA Late Model Series Challenge Division Champion, Stephen Leicht take the green flag in his NASCAR Nextel Cup debut at the Pocono (PA) Raceway on July 23, 2006?
A7. What can I say about Stephen that hasn’t already been said? It is easy for people to talk and him as a driver and he’s a damn good one, but first and foremost Stephen is a friend of mine, we still talk every few weeks when I remind him that he promised to come back and race in the series when can, and he will, he hasn’t forgotten where we came from and that’s what makes him so special.
Q8. The last two ASALMS Challenge Division Champions, Stephen Leicht and Kelly Bires are now running in NASCAR and in all three divisions within. Leicht will race for the 2007 NASCAR Busch Series title and make some Nextel Cup appearances while Bires will run for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Rookie of the Year title and make some Busch starts as well. What does that say about the ASALMS?
A8. That the old ASA has always produced some great drivers and the ASALMS is carrying on that tradition. We have some more drivers that will move up soon and continue to boost the ASA Late Model Series name and product.
Q9. Two of the 2006 ASALMS Champions, Jesse Smith (17) and James Buescher (16) are under 18 years old. Plus some stout drivers in their teens and just over their teens include; Landon Cassill, Nick Neville, Dillon Oliver, Danny Ouderkirk, David Pollen Jr., John Wes Townley, Dalton Zehr and others are all under 18 or just turned 18. Is the ASALMS on the right track with developing future super stars in the world of auto racing?
A9. Absolutely, the series is a great place for young drivers to develop their skills and get noticed. I think we do a better job than anyone else of promoting our drivers, and while we may only get them for a few years, the pain of losing them is softened by the pride of seeing them succeed on an even bigger stage.
Q10. This season is the fifth anniversary of the ASA Late Model Series dating back to the USPRO Cup Series days in 2003, are you still on track with your overall aspirations and plans for the foreseeable future of the ASALMS?
A10. If you would have said in 2003 that one day I’d have one of the biggest late model series’ in the country running at tracks like Bristol, Milwaukee, and Iowa Speedway, I’d have thought you were crazy, and yet here we are. The future looks bright for us even in the face of declining short tracks, even with the many obstacles that we face, we just keep on working extremely hard to be the best late model series in the country.
Q11. Why was Jack Smith, one of the leaders in nearly every all-time statistical category in ASALMS history and his team, UB Machine Racing’s 2007 Licenses not renewed? Will they be allowed to apply again in 2008?
A11. Next question! ... No wait I’ll answer that. Jack Smith is one of the most talented drivers we’ve ever had in our series, however Mr. Smith has a hard time adhering to the rules and conduct as mandated by the series, no driver or team is above the law of the series and unfortunately Jack paid a very big price. At some point I will allow Jack to reapply for his license, I just think he will have moved on by then. If that happens, it will truly be a shame as I always believed Jack could have been the next Bob Senneker or Mike Eddy.
Q12. The ASA Late Model Series recently attended the P.R.I. Trade Show in Orlando, Florida. Was it a success and what all transpired that you can tell us about that the great drivers, fans, teams, and everyone associated with the ASALMS can look forward too as the series moves ahead to the fifth anniversary 2007 season?
A12. This year's P.R.I. show was by far our best show yet. Many new teams and sponsor's stopped by our booth to say hello and pick up valuable information about the series. With all the new sponsors coming aboard we will announcing a record points fund as well as reinstating the Winner's Circle program.
Q13. The ASALMS is going International in 2007 with the series’ first ever appearance at the famed Cayuga Motorsports Park in Nelles Corners, Ontario Canada on June 29-30, 2007. How did this event come about and what, if any, problems will teams possibly have crossing the border?
A13. Cayuga and the old ASA were traditions for years, we opened a dialog between us and after some back and forth, we put a deal together! As far as crossing the border, we will have all the information available to our teams on what they’ll need. Plus one of our teams is from Canada and after consulting with them it shouldn’t be a big deal. They crossed the border every time they raced with us in 2006.
Q14. The ASALMS will make its’ first ever appearance at the track that is closest to the home offices in Lexington, Michigan; The Dixie (MI) Motor Speedway in Birch Run, Michigan. As of now, plans are in the works to add a second show in the series home state and tentatively has set a date at the track where one of the most dramatic and exciting finishes in series history occurred back in 2003; The Owosso (MI) Speedway. How big of a deal is it to maintain the Mid-Michigan Doubles Weekend?
A14. Since this is our home state we should have a bigger presence than we do, Michigan’s a tough market, a lot of promoters are set in there ways and its tough to get them to change there way of thinking. Even now Template bodied cars are not widely accepted here. As for the “Double”, that idea was hatched in Hotel room after getting rained out and just sitting around throwing ideas back and forth. I’d like to keep the tradition alive, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Q15. Will there ever be live pit stops in the ASALMS now and/or in the foreseeable future for the ASALMS Challenge Division? Why or Why not?
A15. You may see some type of hybrid live pit stops like we did at Iowa Speedway, but I just don’t see a full blown live four (4) tires and fuel pit stop in the foreseeable future. Maybe three or four years down the road we’ll see!
Q16. After one season of having the Challenge Division on the Hoosier Radial Tires while the Northern and Southern Division ran on the Bias-Ply (10-inch Slicks) Tires, why not have all three divisions on the same tire and what is the reasoning for the Crown Jewel of the ASALMS, the Challenge Division running Radial Tires?
A16. If I thought it would work, I’d have every division on the radial tire! It’s just not cost effective to do so though. The reason we keep the radial tire in the Challenge Division is simply to give people that are looking to move up some radial tire experience and to set us apart from every other late model series in the country.
Q17. The ASALMS is going to the Bristol Motor Speedway on August 3-4, 2007, This event has to be a huge feather in the cap of the entire ASALMS. How does it feel to be taking the series to such a prestigious facility and will this event be any different than a typical Challenge Division show, or will this event be status quo and nothing changes?
A17. You don’t know the half of it, I think they finally gave me race so I’d quit calling them! If you had to pick a holy grail for short tracks, Bristol is it. For now it will be a regular Challenge show, but we are working on some things to make sure everyone who comes to this event get to race in a feature event, with possible transfers to the main event. Stay tuned!
Q18. Recently, the ASALMS had two outstanding shows indoors at the DeVos (MI) Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan during the Mason-Dixon/Dixieland Challenge. The event Promoter, Gerry Olson in turn has done some pretty awful things to the drivers that ran that show in the support divisions as well as the ASALMS itself. What has the ASALMS done and will do to rectify the wrong-doings of Olson?
A18. First off, I'd like to thank all the teams that participated in this unique event, and thanks to the ASALMS staff in attendance who worked the show while we where at P.R.I. Also a special thank you to my brother Bob who took the ball and ran with it for this event. It's nice to know that we have a solid system and people in place for occasion like this.
Now as most of the racing community knows the promoter of this event; Gerry Olson has paid most of the competitors and the ASALMS with checks written off of a closed account. We have contacted the proper authorities and will pursue this as far as we can to recover the funds. We have already paid all of our teams that participated out of our pocket, even though the ASALMS has not been paid. Unfortunately this is not the first time or probably the last time a promoter has skipped out on paying the series, but it is by far the largest amount to date.
Q19. Once again looking into the proverbial crystal ball for the ASALMS, now that the ASALMS has reached its’ fifth anniversary, are you on track as far as where you saw the ASALMS heading and where do you see the ASALMS going in the immediate future as well as long term?
A19. Are we where we want to be? Yes and No... We’re one of the largest sanctioning bodies for late model stock cars in the country, we can and will be better. Eventually I would like every track in the country to run an ASA Late Model class weekly, will it ever happen, who’s to say, but we are sure are going to try.
Q20. Finally as we end the 2006 version of 20 Questions; Are there any other misconceptions, rumors, anything at all that you’d like to clear up right here and now.
A20. No, not really, I guess if I could change anything it would be how people perceive me. But hey, you always have to a good guy and a bad guy, I’m just more comfortable being perceived as the bad guy