The decision by a group of major Super Late Model touring promoters to approve and eventually adapt the Five Star Bodies Next-Gen body for late 2020 and beyond does not come without questions.
It wasn’t quite four months ago that the Approved Body Committee doubled-down on its stance that Five Star Bodies, AR Bodies and any other entity that wanted to create a next-generation Late Model shell do so in accordance to a charter that was agreed upon in 2004.
Over the past several years, the sanctioning body members of the ABC Committee included 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.
When the approval statement was released on Thursday, it came under a new moniker as the “Approved Body Configuration Next-Gen” with representation from the CRA’s RJ Scott and Glenn Luckett; Tim Bryant of Five Flags Speedway, the Snowball Derby and Southern Super Series; Larry Collins of the SRL SPEARS Southwest Tour, the Midwest Tour’s Gregg McKarns and CARS Tour owner Jack McNelly.
There were a lot of moving parts to the seven-year debate between the various promoters, Five Star Bodies, AR Bodies and the racers themselves.
Five Star claimed that the industry needed a new look to modernize a car that featured the same appearance for 17 consecutive seasons. The ABC Committee insisted that the conception or development of any new body required an endorsement by the entire industry as required by the 2004 charter.
Five Star founder Carl Schulz insisted that the charter was a “gentleman’s agreement” and nothing more.
At the same time, several tracks and sanctioning bodies approved the new Five Star Body, led by the Pro All Stars Series in December 2017.
The development of a new body that met ABC Committee would not come easy as AR Bodies showed a reluctance to create an approved alternative, leaving Star as the sole supplier of the Next-Generation option. There has been some hesitation about Five Star assuming a sole supplier status in Late Model competition.
Five Star claims it offered the design schematics to AR Bodies, but the company’s founder Jerry Criswell has been unwilling to develop them, himself countering that it was all a scheme to put his company out of business.
Instead, AR Bodies released over the winter a reskin of the current greenhouse Late Model body with a redesigned nose and tail — a design that was not approved for use in the “Approved Body Configuration Next-Gen” statement on Thursday.
When asked for a response on the matter by Short Track Scene on Thursday night, Criswell offered a “No comment.”
Meanwhile, Scott of the CRA Super Series offered a clarification for why February 2020 was the right time to approve the Five Star Next-Generation body. From the promoters’ standpoint, it came down to assurance that the new shell was competitively similar to the longstanding ABC body while featuring a common shape for all future developers to meet upon entering the market.
“It was never about contingency money and sponsorship,” Scott told Short Track Scene via email. “In an early proposal, we suggested a fee like we have on the SEAL engines (that would) cover the costs of inspection, education, testing and development going forward.
“Currently Five Star is paying for most of that, so we didn’t want to be beholden to them when it came to how this level playing field was created on their dime. They balked at the idea of the fee, and we removed that from discussions immediately.
“Contingency money and sponsorship NEVER stood in the way of advancing this, and there are no financial commitments with this introduction other than a cost-control program (that) we put in place to protect the racers.”
As for the 2004 ABC guidelines, Scott says the entire purpose of the charter was to ensure that all manufacturers build an approved body from a common shape. Scott has previously argued this point in interviews, explaining that the provision was written into the charter to prevent the Late Model body landscape from becoming “the wild wild west,” with escalating costs associated with innovation.
“In reference to the 2004 guidelines, the original way the first ABC body was done, the builders used builders templates taken from a common shape,” Scott said. “That was important to us. When the builders were trying to get new bodies approved, they were either trying to eliminate the builder’s templates and going to a plug, or even suggesting completely different bodies from each manufacturer.
“People that understand the Industry all believed that a common shape was most important, as to ensure one body didn’t have an aerodynamic advantage over another. Once we got back to builders’ templates taken from a common shape, then we were able to move forward.”
An additional request for clarification was requested from Five Star Bodies but they were not made available as of press time.
As it stands, the Five Star Next-Generation bodies will be universally approved by 2021, but each sanctioning body may allow them to enter races by late 2020 to begin a gradual implementation. The previous bodies developed by AR Bodies and Five Star Bodies are also approved, but the AR Revolution is not.