HEDGER: The Long Look
When asked how he felt about the purse, Thomson also has a ready answer. He’s obviously considered the topic on a lot of trips home after a bad night at the pay window.
“I need the back of the payoff to be higher and so do the majority of the other teams. The ones who don’t win three or four races a season. $2,000 to win is OK, but the $200 to start is tough. If you run 30 laps you need $300 for a tire and your fuel. Maybe $300 to start and $500 for 10th instead of $250 would help keep the numbers up. I’m sure the promoter’s response will be, ‘Where do I get the money to cover all that?’ and I don’t have the answer, so it’s a tough situation.”
An unprompted observation from Thomson also sheds some light on how racing has changed through the years.
“The top division owners used to be able to sell used parts to the lower divisions,” Thomson said. “You’d think I could sell stuff to guys starting out in the crate sportsman division but they only want the lightweight parts because that’s the only way they can cheat. And seeing 16-year-old kids with a big hauler and a paid crew in that division really bugs me, too. They’d turn out to be way better drivers if they struggled with a little less and had to learn how it all works.
“You also see guys with a big trailer and a toterhome who can’t afford to put tires on their race cars. The world is crazy today.”
Kenny Tremont Jr., Lebanon Valley’s all-time leading winner and one of the region’s best drivers, sees the cost situation differently.
“A lot of promoters have had good ideas for limiting the cost of racing over the years,” declared Tremont. “But it all falls apart because they don’t hire the inspectors needed to enforce their rules. Spec tires and spec heads are good examples and the multiple options for small-block engines now are even worse. You ask about checking somebody and they say, ‘It’s late and we only have one guy for the whole field,’ and don’t check anything. And all the racers know that.
“At first, spec engines sound like a good cost-cutting rule. But then, even if they enforce the rules, guys start buying titanium drive-line parts and lighter and lighter wheels to get an advantage.
“You need to mandate steel drive flanges, axles and so on to keep them from spending a fortune there and then you’re back to too much work for the tech guys again.
“Manufacturers always come up with ways around the rules and they all cost money,” Tremont continued. “Finding traction control was the big thing for a while, now I’m hearing about traction control from a satellite so there are no sensors on the wheels to give it away. It never ends.”
From here, it looks like controlling the weather might be easier than cutting the cost of racing. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Maybe adding a couple of skilled tech inspectors to start, even if competent help does cost a little more. And at many tracks, if they didn’t have to consider three or four possible cylinder head/weight/carburetor options for small blocks, time might be less of a problem.
Rule changes and tight procedures always bring outcries and threats to leave. But few of those threats are ever carried out and in the long run, the good of everyone has to be the prime consideration. That extends also to starting the guys who cause a lot of wrecks last until they calm down. One team will scream, but the three or four who do not have to replace half a car before returning will applaud the move.
The bottom line, after all, is the bottom line.