Bob Sargent wants everyone to know he doesn’t think he is infallible, that he doesn’t believe the inaugural ASA STARS season warrants a perfect grade, and that he knows there is much to improve.
With that said, the president and founder of Track Enterprises also feels very optimistic about the future of his national Super Late Model tour after an entire year of learning. They are applying those learned lessons and Sargent is expecting considerable growth as a result.
“I am extremely excited, extremely positive,” Sargent told Short Track Scene on Thursday. “I feel we are steps above where we were last year. We can see the vision we had last year starting to come together in ways it couldn’t this year because this all came together so fast.
“It was just a dream but I can see how it can really take off, and I mean becoming the premier national series in motorsports, and I mean all of motorsports, because I believe in this car, these racers and tracks that much.
“I believe we can gain extensive exposure that translates to growing our roster and fanbase. I really do.”
It’s objectively been a challenging season for the multi-time national promoter of the year, who has conceded on multiple occasions that he didn’t anticipate how many challenges would arise in creating a national Super Late Model series.
- An inability, at least for now, to reach an agreement with the SRL sanctioning body
- A crashfest and fight that resulted in penalties after the opener at Pensacola
- The challenges associated with incorporating Wisconsin into the new ASA
- Creating one national tour rule book out of the various regional rulebooks
- Intended full-time drivers falling off the tour for reasons largely out of their control
- The Winchester 400’s post-race theatrics and resulting penalties
Again, Sargent isn’t going to tell you they’ve been perfect but he does believe he has worked through all these hurdles diligently and that includes the process of communicating with the industry to do everything possible to get them to come race next year.
And while he is also working through that process with the competitors, Sargent also wants the fans of the discipline to know that they are part of his process too.
“What I don’t think we, collectively, spend enough time talking about is our commitment to fans,” Sargent said. “That we know this is an entertainment business and that I don’t want to stop until tracks can hang sold out signs in front of the entrance.
“I want this to be their show.”
To all of those points, Sargent feels so much better about next year, mostly because the pavement short track industry knows him better now. For all the promoter of the year awards, most of those accolades came on dirt or in ARCA circles.
People just didn’t know who Sargent was in pavement short track racing.
“Who is Bob Sargent,” he asked rhetorically of himself. “I think we answered those questions about our professionalism and how we want to run our shows. If there were 25 questions asked of us when we started down the road with this thing, I think we answered 15-20 of them and we continue to.”
Sargent feels very strongly about the decision to implement one unified rule book for all ASA STARS races, which is largely based off the Southern Super Series and Champion Racing Association rule books, meaning Wisconsin teams will have to adapt if they want to race in national tour events.
This mostly comes down to the 2bbl carburetor used in the state, a point of contention all year for the three races in Wisconsin, and all the challenges of trying to blend rule books.
Track Enterprises also operates the Midwest Tour and has decided to leave that rule book as is for the health of local and regional racing in the upper Midwest but the 2 bbl. package as it was run this year will not return in 2024.
“We feel it is very important to have a unified set of rules for all 10 races, to create consistency and prevent some of the phone calls we’re all getting to change this or that,” Sargent said. “For those Wisconsin races, they can either conform to the rule book or watch from the stands.”
That decision is also important from an officiating standpoint as Sargent is aware of the too many chiefs and not enough Indians perception that has been floated about his staff. Having the rules simply be the rules when it comes to the carb, bodies and etc. simplifies the process for everyone.
At the same time, there just may not be three ASA STARS national races in Wisconsin either, but Sargent does feel it is important for the national tour to compete up there.
“Two to three might be too many, and we’re working through that,” Sargent said. “We also have teams from up north and we don’t think it’s fair to only make them travel south. If we’re going to pay them a larger winner’s circle program, then we’re expecting those from the south to travel north too.”
That winner’s circle program is the biggest thing Sargent says will make year two a matter of growth compared to this first season.
First, there is a points fund that will pay $100,000 in championship money and that includes $25,000 to the champions at the end of the year. The winner’s circle program currently pays $700 to the top-10 in points after three races as long as they meet attendance requirements. Teams from 11th to 20th are eligible for $200 per race.
Sargent feels strongly that this number will grow and that is his number one goal and one he believes will grow the series the most.
As part of an expanded winner’s circle program, Sargent intends to protect drivers that commit to running the full season but isn’t sure what that looks like yet.
This is an important goal because Stephen Nasse failed to qualify into the Joe Shear Classic at Madison International Raceway in May and that effectively eliminated him from the championship battle. Be it CARS Tour’s Touring 12 or the World of Outlaws’ platinum agreement, a series like ASA likely needs to lock in drivers but Sargent will look to also lock drivers into committing to the series in return.
“We have a lot of commitments,” Sargent said. “We’ve had a lot of interest expressed to us too. People have told us they just weren’t prepared this year but they would be next year now that they’ve seen it and have a better idea of what it will take to do it.”