Some of the most prominent short track promoters in the country made their positions very clear over the weekend when it comes to the topic of approving the next-generation Super Late Model body produced by Five Star Bodies.
They will not allow it on their respective tours until either the original process of the Approved Body Configuration charter is upheld, or more realistically, when Five Star Bodies and AR Bodies reach some sort of an agreement that will see both sides produce a variant of the shell.
RJ Scott and Glenn Luckett of the Champion Racing Association were, of course, present for their season-opening Speedfest event over the weekend at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, Georgia. They were joined by Southern Super Series promoter Tim Bryant, who revealed that the Snowball Derby would abolish live pit stops for the 2019 event in December.
The ABC Committee is also comprised of the ARCA 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.
Five Star has reached agreements with the Pro All Star Series, TUNDRA Super Late Model Series and many other weekly tracks across the country. In fact, the first win for the new shell occurred on Saturday night when Michael Scott took his Chevrolet Five Star body to victory lane in the Chilly Willy 150 at Tucson Speedway in Arizona.
Short Track Scene asked Scott, Luckett and Bryant about the current status of the next-generation body while they attended Speedfest over the weekend.
Scott, the tour’s managing partner says all sides are diligently working towards an outcome in which both Five Star Bodies and AR Bodies are producing bodies that feature some kind of new look. He, like his contemporaries on the ABC Committee, does not want the new body to have a competitive advantage over the current one, which came out in 2004.
“We want to keep both (manufacturers) with the same shape, just like we did with the original ABC body, which bonded our short track Late Model community together in a way that got north and south (sanctioning bodies) competing together.
“We don’t want to get away from that. And having the same shape between the manufacturers is what made that possible. If we do anything other than that, we are opening up the wild west and we don’t want to return to those days. We all want a new shape but we want to do it in a way that protects the racers and the integrity of what we all do in technical inspection.”
An overwhelming majority of the industry seems to agree that Five Star produced a aesthetically pleasing body, but the promoters and technical inspectors of the ABC Committee disagree with how they went about it. A quick glance over of the original ABC charter reveals that any conception of a new body, much less the production of it, must first be approved by the signees.
That wasn’t the case with this new Five Star body.
Five Star conceived the body, produced it, and are now selling it without the approval from the current promoters and AR Bodies. The Committee has refused to allow it in their respective divisions, because they claim they literally cannot approve it since they are bound by the charter.
It’s worth noting that Five Star itself drafted the wording of the charter, which includes a ‘integrity’ clause and collected signatures from the group.
Five Star CEO Carl Schultz was adamant when reached by phone on Monday afternoon that everything the committee has said during this ordeal is a ‘bold-faced lie’ and that he has documentation in the form of emails to back it up.
He would not, however, produce these emails, saying that he wanted Speed51.com to publish them instead. It’s worth noting that another Five Star senior employee suggested the same thing to Short Track Scene shortly after the New Year, but no such story has been published as of press time.
As far as Schultz is concerned, the original ABC agreement from 2004 is not a binding document but is instead a loose agreement. And he says once AR Bodies founder Jerry Criswell refused to make a new body, it left his company with no choice.
“To our customers, it is unacceptable that a Late Model uses a 15 year-old body,” Schultz said. “We have 80 percent of the market and they all tell us that. We didn’t circumvent the rules. We just got tired of waiting.
“Jerry Criswell has stonewalled this process for six years due to the 100 percent agreement clause in the agreement. It’s just a guideline. We wrote the whole thing. We have the copyright to the ABC Committee. It’s a gentleman’s agreement. Jerry Criswell has refused, and said no, from day one. So we were left with no choice and just did it on our own.”
Bryant believes the ABC agreement is more than a ‘gentleman’s agreement and maintains that he wants to see it honored. That means having both Five Star Bodies and AR Bodies producing a next-generation body.
“Look, the new body that Five Star came out with is an excellent looking piece, from an aesthetic standpoint, and from changing the look of Late Model racing,” Bryant said. “We’re very open to that conceptually. We’re looking at options now, but we really want to stick with the original ABC concept with the manufacturers working cohesively together
“We’re not in favor of a single manufacturer, especially in the south, because there is a large contingent of those on AR Bodies and we don’t want to force them into anything. So, what we would like to see is the two manufacturers work together like they have been and I feel confident that we’re going to have a new look very soon.”
Five Star has offered the molds of the new body to AR Bodies, but Criswell has said that the current offers would make him nothing more than a regional dealer for the rival company, and he has no interest in accepting something that would force him to lay off employees
Criswell would prefer to retain the current bodies but reskin the nose and tail, something CRA leadership also advocated on Saturday night.
“There are some options on the table right now, and there is a proposal where they can develop parts of the body together, and Jerry has been receptive to that suggestion,” Scott said. “The body that we would be looking at would be similar to what we have now, but different, and the environment would be the same.
“Both manufacturers need to agree to the shape that either (1) they agree to or (2) we provide to them, saying ‘this is the shape, you build that’ and we move forward with it.”
Schultz took exception to reading this quote for the first time on Monday because he hasn’t personally spoken to Criswell in years. Further, if Criswell and the members of the committee were open to negotiating, Schultz felt offended that no one reached out to him to express that position.
“Why am I hearing this first from you,” Schultz said. “I’ll tell you why. It’s because RJ, Tim and Glenn, they’re full of shit. Jerry Criswell has refused every offer for the past six years. He doesn’t want to duplicate the body.
“The only way he will participate is through the clause in the agreement that says the bodies have to be similar. What does ‘similar’ even mean? I wish we hadn’t even wrote that into the agreement. ‘Similar’ just means he can make his bodies better than ours after we give him the molds and brag about it. It’s not the first time he’s done it.
”If Jerry is interest in reaching an agreement, he needs to prove it to me. Call me. I’m so sick of this taking place on social media. Jerry has been silent for six years when he’s the one guy that can make this all end.”
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. Over the summer, on June 21, Five Star conducted a second test with tech inspectors Ricky Brooks and Eddie Chew present.
Even during that test, the new body was reportedly said to not be set-up in race trim, while the old body was set-up in race trim, with the new body still outperforming the old one 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 back in November. “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.”
Schultz says the bodies are equal.
Ricky Brooks is calling track owners and telling them our new car is 30 percent better,” Schultz said. “The Chilly Willy was won by a thin margin over a couple of AR cars. There were so new Five Stars in the back of the pack.
I had some of the best minds at the tests and not even the best teams in the country could find a difference between the bodies.”
Five Star Bodies has also claimed for much of the past year that the only reason the regional tour promoters haven’t approved the new body is that they haven’t received a large enough check from the body manufacturer.
Pro All Star Series spokesman Alan Dietz frequently refers to the committee as a cartel.
We agree. It’s a game by ABC to show their control over asphalt late model racing. We’re not playing and several others aren’t either. They will eventually allow these bodies too. They will have to or it will lead to them becoming even more irrelevant.— Pro All Stars Series (@PASSSLM14) January 23, 2019
You’re right. It’s unfortunate the ABC cartel is hung up on kickbacks and punishing a hard working company like @FiveStarBodies— Pro All Stars Series (@PASSSLM14) January 23, 2019
Schultz calls them a ‘mafia.’
Scott, Luckett and Bryant say that couldn’t be further from the truth. Bryant said, initially, the group of promoters were looking for a ‘body tax’ that would go towards parity testing between the current and new body.
“We don’t want any contingency monies,” Bryant said. “We like contingency products that we can pass on to the racer because they deserve it. There was at one point an option on the table to where we wanted a royalty fee, but that was only to go towards testing on the bodies without the series, drivers or teams having to pay for it.
That’s all that was. It didn’t sit well to me how that was represented, so we took it off the table, because it was never about us wanting money.
“Once we land on a new body, there will need to be proper testing and we need to do it the way we’ve done it in the past.”
Luckett, the series director, echoed that sentiment on Saturday.
“Twenty-three years and the CRA hasn’t received a dime from Five Star,” Luckett said. “That’s always been money and product that went to the racer.”
“We could not be any more clear that it’s not about that,” Scott said. “We don’t want penny one from Carl. That’s off the table.”
Schultz, once again said that’s not the case. He called Scott, Luckett and Bryant “liars” and “hypocrites.” And he says he can back it up with “extortion emails ” from the likes of Bryant, Scott, Luckett and Gregg McKarns.
Emails he would not provide to Short Track Scene, instead waiting for Speed51.com to publish them.
“These guys are loose cannons,” Schultz said. “They are bold-faced liars for saying that. They talk about the agreement, and it’s not even a binding agreement and they talk about not collecting money for themselves, and that’s bullshit.
“This comes down to ego. They thought they could band together and capture the entire market for themselves. But they aren’t as big as they think they are. We have every race track on the west coast on board except for Las Vegas and Kern County and that’s because of (Larry Collins.)
“The drivers want brand identity, and even the committee, and I hate calling them that, they want it too. But they’re going to go down protecting Criswell, who doesn’t even want to be part of this. Six years and he’s never wanted to be a part of it.”
So ultimately, this all comes back to the 2004 ‘Requirements of Participating Manufacturers.’ The overwhelming majority of series promoters and technical inspectors across North America maintain that Five Star Bodies did not uphold their end of the signed agreement, and the body, as such, cannot be approved.
Five Star believes they are not bound to that agreement, and were forced to take desperate measures to give Super Late Model racing a new look in the face of Criswell’s unwillingness to come to the negotiating table.
Ultimately, until Five Star and AR Bodies can come to an agreement to produce a next-generation body together, that is equal in performance to the current shell, the committee of promoters are no closer to approving it.
And where does that leave Five Star if the body is never approved?
“We are going to keep on making this body,” Schultz said. “This is about what the racers have told us. We need a new look and we can’t let one body manufacturer hold us up and drag short track racing down.
“And I think the committee knows that too.”