The third party of the three-way Super Late Model sixth-generation body tug-of-war has entered the public discourse.
AR Bodies president and founder Jerry Criswell believes Five Star Bodies has repeatedly attempted to put his company out of business and is using the next-generation Super Late Model body platform as a means to do it. He also believes the next-generation body has the potential to unnecessarily force teams to spend money to keep up with the new look – a poignant topic after only 24 cars showed up for the All-American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville last weekend.
Criswell has largely stayed out of the public back-and-forth that has included Five Star’s threatening to release the new body and the ABC Committee responding that it would not approve the body. Five Star made the bodies available for purchase last week and the ABC Committee once again stated that it would not approve it.
The current members of the ABC Committee are made up of the CRA Super Series, Midwest Tour, Big 8 Late Model Series, CARS Tour, Northwest Super Late Model Series, the Race of Champions, Southern Super Series and SRL Southwest Tour — a considerable collection of promoters from all corners of the continent.
In an interview with Short Track Scene last weekend immediately following the rained-out All-American 400, Criswell pointed to several instances in which Five Star Bodies has acted against the wishes of the ABC Committee and violated the published rules of the regulating ABC body program.
First and foremost, Criswell says conceptually, the Gen-6 body should have never been conceived, much less produced or made available, because it did not receive unanimous approval from the committee members — which also includes Five Star and AR Bodies as the current approved manufacturers.
Any decision regarding the production or modification of the ABC body must be met with unanimous approval by the Committee, and in this instance, Criswell claims it has not.
“Even when it’s just an idea, it has to be put in writing,” Criswell told Short Track Scene. “They failed to do that. We are supposed to be part of the approval process. We all signed the requirement of participating manufacturers agreement.”
When Five Star first revealed the body at the PRI trade show in 2013, that came without approval from AR Bodies. Further, Criswell claims Five Star intentionally tried to meet the promoter members of the ABC Committee in secret, only telling AR Bodies at the last minute, to get the body approved without AR Bodies’ involvement.
“Five Star chose to end-around this process by building a body, unbeknown to the entire committee, only informing members of the committee after the body was nearly finished with the prototype stage,” Criswell said. “And failing to inform the full committee much later.”
Even when the body was in the testing phase, Five Star ran the body through the Aerodyn wind tunnel in Mooresville, North Carolina without members of the Committee present. Only recently, on June 21, did Five Star conduct a second test with tech inspectors Ricky Brooks and Eddie Chew present.
Even during that test, the new body was not set-up in race trim, while the old body was set-up in race trim, with the new body still outperforming the old in overall downforce numbers.
In Criswell’s view, that debunks the statement that Five-Star claims the bodies are completely equal, with teams eventually and probably feeling a need to switch over believing they would be beat by the Gen-6 bodies.
“Teams have found that one way to gain an aerodynamic advantage is by skewing the rear of the body to the right side during mounting, and not mounting the body straight up, as called for by the ABC rule book,” Criswell said. “It has been established and admitted that the baseline ABC bodies car had a body that was skewed in this way.”
“The Gen-6 body was mounted straight-up, not cheated, and STILL (his emphasis) outperformed the current body. Not all the committee members were present at the wind tunnel test and Five Star Bodies refused to allow photos of the test bodies to be taken for the other committee members to even know what was being tested.
“The wind tunnel tests that were performed were not performed with the cars in yaw. These tests offer a better idea of real world comparison, and the longer, square quarter panels will likely increase performance numbers of the new body versus the current body.”
Most recently, with the Committee unwilling to approve the new body, Five Star has entered negotiations with AR Bodies. Amongst the offers have been pushing Criswell to either become a supplier for the Five-Star body or providing the plugs for the new body for Five Star, which they could not modify anyway.
With the current ABC body, the two companies’ productions are similar in appearance and performance, with certain posts and rear-end components made different to allow differentiation between AR and Five Star.
With the new body, Criswell says Five Star has made a product that is considerably stronger in performance than the current body, would force teams to immediately switch over and would also put the second supplier out of business, creating a monopoly of sorts on the industry.
“Essentially, all of their options would force me to become a Five Star dealer or a Five Star warehouse,” Criswell said. “Each of their options would force me to lay people off and I’m not willing to do that. If this body is released, it’s going to force teams to have to spend money and keep up, and I’m not willing to do that either.”
Five Star Bodies has asserted in interviews with Short Track Scene and in open letters that AR Bodies is against a new look for the Super Late Model community, which is why it has broken protocol and proceeded without the industry’s approval.
Criswell says he is absolutely for a new look, but it has to be done the right way.
“AR Bodies is willing right now to do a cost-effective new ABC look so long as ABC guidelines and protocol are followed,” Criswell said, who has advocated for a reskin of the nose and tails of the current car.
“We are not willing to allow the teams with unlimited resources, and in many cases, receiving free bodies to run roughshod over teams with les funding, simply because they can either afford, or received, the next big thing in bodies each year.
“To this point, Five Star had made no attempt to follow protocol under the ABC program, and have failed to even present wind tunnel test results from a true baseline body compared to the updated body.”
Meanwhile, the body has been made available for over a week with only the Pro All Stars Series and TUNDRA Super Late Model series approving the body beyond the local level. Five Star hopes that by releasing the body against approval, enough teams will begin purchasing the product to force the hand of the industry.
Last weekend, Midwest Tour promoter Gregg McKarns, issued similar concerns to Criswell over why the committee has not relented.
“I have never worked this hard to lose a sponsor and longtime supporter of my endeavors over the past 15 years,” he wrote in an open letter of Five Star’s involvement in the Midwest Tour. “But right is right and wrong is wrong. The process of this body coming to market was and remains wrong. A path to a resolution exists, but not when one group feels they can do as they please. We are all in this together.”
Ultimately, both the Committee as a whole, and Criswell believes Five Star has not followed protocol and that’s why this body cannot be approved. By the written language of the ABC program, the committee literally cannot approve the body, because it wasn’t conceived or produced under the regulations that Five Star itself wrote.
“The ABC concept came into existence in 2003 to fill a need in the industry, and provided a checks and balances system in regards to the body design,” McKarns wrote. “By side-stepping the approval process, this system fails us all.
“Most, if not all of us are in favor of a new look, but it needs to be proven to be competitively equivalent and economically mindful. Following the guidelines set forth in the Original ABC Agreement would allow those aspects to be proven, through the prescribed checks and balances.”