Editorial

Road and TRAC
by Pete McCole

April 25, 2002

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Next spring, a new racing series will treat race fans across the country to a new concept in stock car racing. Instead of rooting for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Terry Labonte or Bill Elliott, fans may be rooting for the Carolina Storm, Texas Torque or Atlanta Thunder. 


TRAC teams and the region they represent shown in red.
Photo: Pete McCole

Team Racing Auto Circuit (TRAC), first announced last year, is a unique venture in motorsports, based around a league concept like that of other major US sports leagues. Each "franchise" will be located in major US cities and will consist of a three-car team that will represent the city or region in which they are based. All three cars will compete as a team, with points based on the finishing order of all three cars. 

Teams will be named for the city or region they represent, such as Carolina Storm, Indianapolis Speed and Las Vegas Rollers. They will be based in cities that have major motorsports venues nearby, which will be their "home field".

TRAC is set to debut in April 2003, with the inaugural event scheduled to take place at Lowe's Motor Speedway. The new auto racing organization hopes to have at least ten regionalized franchises set up by that time, as well as iron out a few details.


Humpy Wheeler announced the season opener would take place at Lowes Motor Speedway in April, 2003.
Photo: Pete McCole

At a press conference at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Wednesday, TRAC announced they have reached an agreement with Speedway Motorsports, Inc. to run at least two events each at five SMI-owned tracks in Atlanta, Bristol, TN, Charlotte, Forth Worth, TX and Las Vegas. TRAC hopes to have franchises based near all five tracks.

"Major racing venues, especially superspeedways, across America need more events," said Lowe's Motor Speedway President and General Manager H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler. "TRAC's new and unique approach to auto racing has the potential to provide more motorsports entertainment for those hungry for more racing, while at the same time bringing first-time ticket buyers to our venues." 

"This league concept is certainly an innovative approach in motorsports marketing. It is an additional entertainment option for fans and venues and shouldn't be viewed as competition to any other motorsports series."

"Obviously, one of the first priorities for executing our plan was developing relationships with key venues," said TRAC President and Chief Operating Officer Jon Pritchett, "Speedway Motorsports has five extraordinary oval tracks in five strong markets and they have two of the top ten TV markets and all five are in the top 100" 

TRAC officials are also in negotiation with several other track owners, including those owned by International Speedway Corp. such as Daytona at Talladega, and are looking for team owners in areas where ISC tracks are based.


TRAC President and CEO Jon Pritchett.
Photo: Pete McCole

"Our position is, when we find the right owner-operator, we will be knocking on the door," Pritchett said. "We see no downside to any track. We're providing content here. Without undue risk, you have an opportunity for incremental revenues as a track owner. There are not a whole lot of opportunities out there for major television and incremental revenue to come to the track."

"I'd assume if we had the right team owner in the right market, we'd be racing at ISC tracks."

Although the teams will have sponsors, the franchises will not financially rely solely on individual corporate sponsorships, but rather will share revenue from ticket sales and merchandise much the same way as major sports leagues such as the NFL and Major League Baseball. Teams could expect to earn $10-11 million.

So far, only one franchise has been sold, but TRAC officials say negotiations are on-going in other major markets, and hope to find 10 more owner-operators for the remaining regions.

The cost of owning a franchise includes $2.5 million for cars and haulers, supplied by TRAC; $2.5 million for equity in the league; and $6 million for the exclusive, territorial operating rights. 


The Ford Mustang, Dodge Viper and Chevrolet Corvette will make up the TRAC field.
Photo: Pete McCole

"At least you're buying something," said league spokesman and former Winston Cup champion Cale Yarborough. "Speaking as an ex-team owner in Winston Cup, you don't have anything to sell when it's over with. When you go out of business, the only thing you can do is have a fire sale, and usually the checks you get from a fire sale bounce."

Also on Wednesday, TRAC unveiled the three prototype cars that will compete in the series. Designed by Riley & Scott Race Car Engineering, the three types of cars - Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette and Dodge Viper - look very much like SCCA road racing cars, but have been designed to run on the high-banked ovals usually reserved for stock cars.

The cars will run a 600 horsepower, 7 liter, fuel-injected engine. Teams are not permitted to make changes to the engine or the body of the car, but can make drivability changes, such as shocks, springs and sway bars. Among the details still to be worked out include a TV deal, rules and regulations, and the selection of drivers.

TRAC has received at least 1500 driver applications, and plans to use a procedure similar to a draft for owners to select six drivers each - three primary drivers and three backups. Salaries will be in the neighborhood of $200,000, along with incentives and bonuses.


Still looking for a TV deal, TRAC may have to compete for air time.
Photo: Pete McCole

A TV deal has yet to be worked out, but TRAC Chairman Robert Wussler is hopeful the series will have an agreement with a major network soon.

"We have been negotiating with an organization for the past six months," said Wussler. "We had hoped that we'd be able to announce something today, but we hope to have another major announcement on that subject in the next couple weeks."

TRAC is hoping for a schedule of 22 races - 20 regular season races, an All-Star race and a season-ending World Championship race, beginning next April and running through August. 

The author can be contacted nascar@autoracing1.com

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Author

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