DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — Southern National Raceway Park is a 4/10-mile high-banked oval and was one of the first tracks to sign with the ASA Member Track program. However, at some point a former track owner felt the Kenly, N.C. needed a different sanction for success.
That line of thinking quickly changed when Del Richards took ownership on July 15. He told the competitors that he was going to change his track’s sanction back to the American Speed Association to take advantage of their 40-year history, the commitment to building championship drivers and their strength in the short track racing community.
“I gave five weeks notice to the competitors and there was not one bit of opposition from anyone,” Richards said about changing to the ASA sanction in mid-season, an extremely rare thing to do in the short track industry. “If an ongoing participation with the other group was going to provide even a moderate benefit then I would not have made the change to ASA, but I felt that it would be better for everyone – my racetrack, my competitors and my fans – to go with a sanctioning body that cares about and supports short track racing.”
Southern National Raceway Park (SNRP) joins the ASA Member Track program as a Level I participant beginning September 15, 2008.
So far, Richards reports that the sanction change has been welcomed by the track’s competitors as has his ideas on how to run and promote a racetrack acquired in his 35 years in motorsports. His background includes virtually every aspect of racing from being a driver to team owner to track owner and promoter, so he truly understands the business from every perspective. And for proof that his ideas work, he simply points to recent attendance figures.
“On July 12 the racetrack had 320 people in the stands. Just a month later there were 5,000 people,” he reported.
When asked how his philosophy differs from the previous owners of SNRP, Richards said that he has found success simply by focusing on the participants.
“The most important thing is to take care of is the infield. That is the core group – the team owners, the drivers, and the crew. You have to treat them with respect and prove that you are being proactive in helping them reduce their costs to compete and not just telling a good story,” he explained.
“You must start with what makes the show and grow from there. If you don’t have a show then all you have is a facility that isn’t worth squat no matter how many companies names are on the billboards or how many fans are up in the stands. Without a good show the rest is all short-lived, but with a good show everything else will take care of itself.”
Richards said that the decision to bring SNRP back into the ASA family was a simple one.
“The ASA’s beliefs and desires and hopes and goals are all identical to that of every local short track. They promote the sport and faces in a cohesive and organized fashion, and they offer direct benefits to our competitors,” he said.
As part of the ASA Member Track program, the participants will be eligible for the $500,000 Excess Medical Benefit as well as the $20,000 Accidental Death and Dismemberment Benefit. Coverage for the member begins while traveling to a location promoting an ASA-sanctioned event and continues until arrival home again. The American Speed Association is the only sanctioning body to offer insurance coverage which extends beyond the boundary of the racetrack itself (complete details are available online at www.ASA-Racing.com
“Overall, I would just say that the ASA is a much better value for the expenditure, and that’s what drives these people (the competitors)”
Richards said. “They all know that building a car is expensive. But the degradation of the sport comes through the incremental costs – the tow to the track, fuel, tires, entry fees and all the other expenses that add up so quickly. The way it is now you can win an event and still end up losing money. That’s why I feel that it is important to give something tangible back to the racers – like using some of the sponsor money to pay for tires as an example. And that is exactly the same thought process that Dennis puts into the ASA – to give something back to the racers and help them in a number of ways.”
“I applaud Del for understanding that a sanction should have a lot to offer a racetrack and I am really pleased that Southern National Raceway Park is back again,” said Dennis Huth, president of Racing Speed Associates which owns the American Speed Association. “Racing is a business and owners need to take the steps they feel are necessary for success, but all to often they find out that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side. We welcome all weekly tracks into the ASA Member Track program and look forward to working alongside Del and his staff help Southern National regain their status of one of the finest short tracks in the Southeast, and anywhere.”
Richards expanded these thoughts on racing as a business by making the unlikely comparison to a marriage.
“Racing is a business not unlike any other business, but what makes this unique is that it is a living, breathing thing. You can’t expect it to live in perpetuity without fostering it and taking the steps to help in grow and be successful. Like a marriage, it has to have a solid foundation on which to build, but in some ways it is much harder than a marriage as there are a lot more personalities involved. As an owner, you have to take the steps necessary to keep as many of those personalities as happy as possible and have a good reason for what you do. Presented with logic, most people are accepting of the decisions made when the can see the benefit to them, especially when those might not be immediately apparent.”
To learn more of the Daytona Beach, Fla.-based ASA Racing Member Track program, call (386) 258-2221 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
For news and information from all the racetracks and regional tours involved in the ASA, visit www.ASA-Racing.com.