Just one look at the ARDC website and you can tell there are changes a brewing.
Since taking the helm in 2015 ARDC president Wayne Lesher and the ARDC board of governors has steered the 77 year old racing organization into a position that they, and many others, believe is the direction needed to be successful in today’s environment.
When I was elected in 2015 I had an idea in my head, Lesher says, but I didn’t really know how to pull it off. I’ve been in business for 16 years and I knew that the ARDC had to operate as a business; I knew if I could reduce the overhead and manage the business properly the rest would fall into place.
One of the first things Lesher said he did was to go over the financials of the organization with ARDC treasurer Jerry Steward. Lesher says, Jerry was in business for many years and he knows how to manage cash flow. I’m a little bit more aggressive and a risk taker then Jerry but his conservative nature makes a good balance between us. I might want to spend a little more on something and Jerry a little less and he makes me prove to him that my idea will work before he concedes.
From an outside perspective 2 of the most notable changes are the 2016 race schedule and list of sponsors. The ARDC has historically been a traveling series Lesher says, but it the past few years it had been more difficult for teams to travel. A lot of our teams are family operations, they have kids and full time jobs and there isn’t a lot of time left over for racing. Traveling as far as we were was just not working. I have traveled all over the United States with my own racing and it wears you out. So Lesher took the schedule and made what he calls “a tighter foot print”
I’ll travel anywhere to race….I love it! But you aren’t going to grow your ranks that way. Lesher says I look at where our market is and picked tracks that were within an hour of the area.
For 2016 the ARDC schedule consists of 23 races at 7 different facilities. All the races are within 1 hour drive of Harrisburg. There was a lot of thought put into our schedule this season Lesher says we have only 2 weekends that we race more than 1 race so it will still allow our teams to be able to do family events, work overtime, etc. and all the tracks are easy to get to from the turnpike, 81 or 83.
If we do have a multi race weekend we have a few week break in between. It just made sense Lesher says we still have a fair amount of racing with nice breaks in between events and they are all easy to get to.
With the schedule set it was now time to court sponsors. Lesher says I knew if I could get our schedule in a tighter area it would make it easier for me to convince sponsors to back the ARDC. I’m in business and spend a lot to market my business. It would be very tough for me to justify using the ARDC to market my business when the races were 3 hours away from where I do business. Because we were now had a more regional presence it made it much easier to find sponsors.
And find them he did. The list of growing sponsors on the ARDC website look like they also are in agreement with the direction of the organization.
Lesher says, I feel very optimistic about the future of midget racing on the east coast. I field calls and emails all the time from people asking about midget racing. We have a few teams renting cars this year so if someone wants to try a couple races before they jump in with both feet it’s a reasonable way for them to do that.
The cost of racing in general and midget racing in particular has been a topic of discussion on social media. That was one of the toughest things to overcome Lesher says. I would hear all the time people say “I would love to race own a midget but I don’t have $30,000.00 to spend on an engine”. That drove me crazy, my car won 3 races in 2015 at a 1/8 mile, ¼ mile and ½ mile track and I paid $12,000.00 for my engine. Brett Wanner who is a front runner with the ARDC and feature winner has $7,000.00 invested in his engine. Of course you can spend any amount you want to but you don’t need to and I have always said your racing will cost you exactly what you have to spend on it and not a penny more. So once I started pointing those things out to folks it definitely helped and the facts have a funny way of putting things in perspective.
Lesher also raised the race payouts for the 2016 season and has instituted incentives for teams that race more often. With being able to increase our sponsorship and reducing our overhead it has allowed the ARDC to put more back into the purse, Lesher says, we are traveling less, paying more and racing at tracks in front of the guys and girls that will buy midgets so we will see what happens.
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