Is Racing During Speedweeks Good for ACT “Young Guns”?

Posted: October 27, 2010 in ACT Tour
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Yesterday I read Justin St. Louis’s article over on Vermont Motorsports Magazine’s website about the possibility of the American Canadian Tour (ACT) running a race in Florida during Speedweeks this February and it got me thinking. Click here to read the article from VMM: http://www.vtmotormag.com/touring/index.php?subaction=showfull&id=1288101503&archive=&start_from=&ucat=1,6&.

As some of you may know, I spent most of this summer working on an ACT Late Model team that fielded a young driver. Besides my official role as a tire specialist I also helped promote the driver. I spent many hours brainstorming new and interesting ways to get his name out into the industry. Yet, anyone who has worked in Motorsports or has tried to enter the industry knows it is not always about how good you are it is about who you know. Being in the northeast there are few opportunities to meet the decision makers who can advance a young driver’s career. So what does this have to do with Florida?

The answer is simple when a driver is looking to move forward in a career they will look for whatever opportunities they can to get that elusive “exposure.” For the drivers up here in the northeast that often means having to “go down south” and race. In St. Louis’s article some of the ACT drivers mentioned how the cost of hauling their car down to Florida for a week  may make them decide to not go. Though cost is always a factor in lower levels of racing, are there any benefits to racing at Speedweeks?

After working with a young driver all summer my mind went after this question in a little bit of a different manner. Are there any benefits for a young driver to race an ACT race during Speedweeks?

Let’s face it 90% of the drivers in ACT are at the highest level they will achieve, but the series also fields some talented “young guns” who have the opportunity to move up. The three that come to mind are: Joey Polewarczyk, Austin Theriault, and Brad Babb. Could racing in Florida provide them with  the “exposure” they need?

I will admit I’m on the fence about the race getting these guys “exposure” because “exposure” itself is debatable. The best analogy I could come up with is Speedweeks is racing’s version of spring training. Every March, hundreds of college sports teams go to Florida for various tournaments and to start training for the season. Many of those athletes may be hoping to play their sport professionally but only a small fraction will even be noticed. Why? Because the scouts can’t be everywhere and if the scouts aren’t at your game they aren’t going to know who you are.

Let’s apply this to racing…

Yes, NASCAR will also be in town for Speedweeks. Yes, there is a lot of racing going on. Yes, you can get an early start on your late model program for 2011. But there are hundreds of other racers there too. Some may even have more recognizable names like Elliott, Blaney, and Kenseth with the backing of some big teams. Of course those drivers will be racing in Super Late Models or whatever top division will be racing at New Smyrna. The point is where they are is also more likely to have decision makers in the stands.

In an industry where who you know is the difference between becoming the next Jimmie Johnson or racing at your local short track for the rest of your life, knowing who is going to be watching you race becomes priceless. I’m not saying that there won’t be important people in the stands to watch ACT, but I am saying that the probability is much lower than if you were racing against an Elliott, Blaney, or Kenseth.

I also know that within ACT there are people with enough connections to at least get word out to some of these decision makers, but will that be enough?

I personally think ACT is a great development series for drivers and crews. There is a great core of experienced teams who are willing to help out newcomers and show them the ropes of racing ACT. The intensity of each race weekend is as close to a professional series as you can get in the northeast. The drivers and teams add to the professional atmosphere with their talent and respect for each other. ACT has run two very impressive invitationals at NHMS showing that racing on a big stage is not a problem for ACT teams. I have no doubt in my mind that an ACT race in Florida would be one of the best races people would be able to see.

So what’s my conclusion?

For a young driver, an ACT race during Speedweeks could create some useful connections and maybe even some coverage in the southeast but it would take more than just showing up and racing. The driver would have to be looking around now at who may be there and see if they can make some contacts that would commit to watching them race at Speedweeks. For those two weeks every February the hub of auto racing in the United States is located in Daytona and proximity may entice some of those “scouts” to come watch a young driver. The drivers could make it a priceless experience for themselves, but to just go and hope someone finds you probably won’t yield the results you are looking for. So I say to those drivers, “Go south young man, but do your homework before you go.”

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Comments
  1. just your average joe ;-) says:

    Well written ms. Coombs….

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