After having seen how the formation of the
IRL has destroyed IndyCar racing by dividing the sport, one would think
that the power brokers in Sprint Car racing would learn a valuable
lesson. As we saw with Indy Car racing, one man's ego can cripple
an entire industry. Enter Fred Brownfield, Sprint Car's version of
Tony George. Anyone who knows Brownfield will tell you he has a
huge ego, and it appears this ego may lead to the destruction of Sprint
Car racing just as Tony George's ego had led to the destruction of Indy
A little history
In late September, the National Sprintcar
League (NSL) was announced as a direct competitor to the long-running
World of Outlaw Sprint Series operated by DIRT MotorSports. Behind
it was Barry Graham, the Pettys and to a lesser extent Northwest
promoter and former World of Outlaws racer Fred Brownfield.
Twelve top Outlaw drivers, including 20-time champion Steve Kinser,
signed with the NSL.
The split in Sprint car ranks left promoters like Grays Harbor Raceway's
Brownfield in a tough spot: go with the old group (DIRT Motorsports and
the World of Outlaws) and relatively unknown drivers, or go with the
established drivers in an unknown series. Brownfield threw his hat
in with the new series at his track in Elma, plus tracks in the four
other states he promotes races in.
Brownfield used to lease Skagit Speedway in
Washington State. At one point he tried to buy it from its owners
but was unsuccessful. Mad that he couldn't, he stormed off and
vowed to bury Skagit.
Brownfield and wife Debbie started
Brownfield Promotions Inc. in 1994, the same year they brought the
Outlaws back to the Northwest after a 15-year absence. Brownfield
started promoting racing shows at Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma, Wash.,
about 170 miles on the other side of Seattle from Skagit Speedway.
This year he promoted Outlaw races in five states. The Brownfields
earned Outlaw promoting awards the last two years.
Brownfield did extensive renovations at the Elma track starting in 2002,
and the improved facility drew rave reviews. Outlaw series founder Ted
Johnson, a good friend to Brownfield, commented last year the Elma track
was one of the top-three facilities in the country.
However, Skagit's new promoter, Steve
Beitler landed a 2-day World of Outlaws race for 2005, essentially
taking one of Brownfield's WoO dates from the many that he had.
This really got Brownfield hot under the collar after he vowed to bury
Skagit years earlier. The 2005 WoO race at Skagit never happened
because of the controversy but the series is committed to running at
Skagit in 2006 and Brownfield is still mad about. So mad that he
threw his weight behind the NSL.
Earlier this fall, Brownfield had admitted the split was "not good" for
Sprint car racing and its fans but felt that because the new series had
all the big name drivers, the WoO would collapse, the same way Tony
George thought CART would collapse when he took the Indy 500 away from
them and started the IRL.
Instead it was the NSL that collapsed
because DIRT made all the right moves and kept the WoO alive. Not
only did DIRT have a good TV package they had all the race dates.
Race promoters stuck with DIRT and the WoO. DIRT moved to sign up
drivers to replace those that left and did deals to guarantee them tow
money to each race. With 90 races a year at around $500 per event,
the tow money amounts to quite a bit.
By late November, NASCAR's Petty family, which had spearheaded the NSL
effort, seeing how hard it was going to be to make NSL successful given
WoO did not collapse, withdrew its support. At the early December PRI
motorsports convention in Florida, it became known the NSL had folded.
At the time, it seemed drivers and teams would have to go back to the
Outlaw series and the sport would be saved.
Earlier this month, even Brownfield, seemed
resigned to going back to the series he has promoted in the Northwest
"I guess my statement would be that I'm disappointed the NSL was not
able to continue their quest to be where they wanted to be," Brownfield
said Dec. 7 before a trip to a promoter's convention. "But racing will
continue at Grays Harbor Raceway. We're working on setting Outlaw dates.
That's what I'm flying to Reno for."
Then the shocker last Saturday, a press release announced the formation
of Brownfield Promotions Inc's new National Sprint Tour (NST).
Brownfield stuns racing world with new National Sprint Tour (NST)
The new NST will compete with the Outlaws, and comes directly as a
response to the NSL folding. The same twelve top drivers that were with
the NSL have announced they will be in the NST. When the twelve
went back to the WoO they found that it was too late, the WoO had
committed tow money and purse guarantees to the new drivers and they
could not afford to go back to the race promoters and ask for more.
"I was not happy with the circumstances I was in," Brownfield said
Sunday afternoon. "With the closure of the NSL, I was trying to merge
back with DIRT. It wasn't going satisfactory to my liking (because
Skagit had a WoO date meaning he had one less), plus the 12 drivers
hadn't signed back with DIRT (because of the tow money). I felt
compelled to talk to them. They wanted to race for me. It came together
in 72 hours."
Brownfield said Sunday Paul McMahan would be
driving for NASCAR champion Tony Stewart. Steve Kinser, Danny
Lasoski, Jason Sides, Shane Stewart, Brian Paulus, Tim Shaffer, Jason
Meyers, Jason Solwold, Brandon Wimmer, and Lucas Wolf were announced the
day before (Saturday).
Brownfield said he had "no idea" what happened with the NSL, and had no
thoughts of starting a national series until the NSL collapse.
"I was shocked," Brownfield said. "I felt a big hole in my stomach. I
had put lot of faith in that organization and the teams that were racing
Brownfield has ambitious plans, and
recognizes it could take a full season before things are settled down.
"We would like to start with 60 races," Brownfield said of 2006. "I
would like to start the season in February. I think we're close to
having February dates final. We will be scheduling tracks throughout the
year. It will be difficult for tracks since they've already set their
schedules, and we recognize that." He is trying to do deals with
tracks that never had a WoO date. Plus he has no TV deal.
The odds are clearly against him, but he has
a big ego and is moving forward.
"We are very excited about the possibility
of growth and what we can contribute to the sport," Brownfield said.
"There's no question that without a certain amount of pain, there won't
be any gain. We'll do the best that we can.
"All of the responses have been extremely
positive," he said. "There has been considerable surprise, to be honest
with you. I think it caught a lot of people off-guard."
AutoRacing1.com spoke to both Chris Dolack,
DIRT MotorSports VP of Public Relations, and Steve Bietler, promoter at
Skagit about the situation. Both felt that what Fred Brownfield is
doing to the sport by splitting it is analogous to Tony George
destroying IndyCar racing by splitting it.
To their credit, DIRT has made some
off-season moves that corrected some of the management issues they had
and brought Ted Johnson back in. And last year DIRT delivered on
all their promises. Drivers were all paid and even Steve Kinser's
photo remains on their webpage even though he is behind the split with
Brownfield. Of all the drivers, it is Kinser who is pushing
hardest for the breakaway. Before he retires he wants to run a
limited schedule in 2006 (60 races instead of 90) so he can spend time
with his son Craig who will be debuting in NASCAR.
Dolack and Bietler are dismayed that Kinser
and Brownfield insist on splitting the sport instead of trying to iron
out their differences with DIRT.
"In a nutshell, the NST was created because
the NSL drivers failed to make that series work and when they wanted
back in with the Outlaws, there weren't any spots available that paid
tow money or signing bonuses," said Dolack.
"Of course, they all received significant
amounts of money from the NSL, a "series" that never ran a race. The NSL
came about not because of anything DIRT MotorSports did or didn't do,
but more because Steve Kinser was still upset two years later that
Outlaws founder Ted Johnson sold the series to DIRT rather than a group
that involved Tony Stewart.
"It seems to me to be a group of drivers and teams who believe
everything on the Internet message boards. Fred Brownfield, a promoter
who was going to take his dates to the NSL, became the organizer of the
NST because the Outlaws agreed to race at Skagit Speedway, a track about
170 miles north and on opposite sides of Seattle from Brownfield's
Bietler told AutoRacing1.com he feels it's a
direct result of Brownfield's hatred for Skagit and the fact they got a
2-day WoO date.
"I'm disappointed in Fred," said Bietler.
"We used to be good friends and worked together for years running races
at Skagit together. Years after Fred failed to get Skagit, I
bought it, and even though we were friends, he still had it in for
So there you have it, the real story behind
the split in winged sprint car racing and the prediction by yours truly,
that if Brownfield is able to get the NST off the ground, he will
ultimately destroy the sport.
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