Speedway Digest Staff
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Since the Covid crisis started wreaking havoc with racing schedules around the country eight months ago, a lot has been said about drivers and fans. But, what about promoters? Don Kazarian, who with his family-built Perris Auto Speedway in 1996 and who has remained the promoter to this day, sat down with Scott Daloisio for an interview last week. The interview covers how the track has been affected by Covid, what has it done to make things safer for everyone, and what does the future look like moving forward. The interview also covers a new sprint car class the track is starting, extra purse money for the PASSCAR and IMCA drivers and the future of the USAC/CRA Series.
Daloisio: Let’s cut to the chase. How disappointing and frustrating has it been losing all but one event of the 2020 season at Perris Auto Speedway?
Kazarian: Well, considering it was our 25th anniversary season and we had a lot of neat things planned, it is horribly disappointing. It is not devastating. I mean, we are going to survive. It has been a long road since March 7th at our last event (the only event The PAS got in during 2020).
Daloisio: You said you had a lot of things planned for the 25th season. We only got one event in. So, will 2021 be the 25th anniversary season?
Kazarian: Yes! Even though it will be our 26th season there, it will be our 25th anniversary season. We can’t consider this as a season at all. We had some fan appreciation nights ready to go. We had purses that were going to be extremely large in all of our PASSCAR/IMCA divisions. We are going to roll all of that over to 2021.
Daloisio: Go back to the very first time you heard of Covid. Did you think it could affect the track?
Kazarian: I first heard about it, about mid-February that they had this issue in China. At that point, I did not think it would affect us. The more I read about it on the Internet, read about it anywhere else, or heard about the news reports on tv, I started to become concerned that it could affect us. I told you in the press box at our first event on March 7th that I thought we were going to get shut down the next week. You thought I was crazy. Now here it is in the third week of October and we are experiencing a third peak. I originally thought we would be closed two or three weeks or maybe a month at the most. But I never envisioned we would be closed the entire year.
Daloisio: Thinking we were only going to be down for a month at most, you went ahead and made some modifications around the facility to protect fans’ health. What are some of them?
Kazarian: We purchased all automatic flush valves for all of the restrooms. We have not installed them all yet. We purchased touchless faucets for all of the sinks in the facility. I have to be honest with you, we have not installed all of them yet. So, they are tucked away, but all will be installed when we can race again. We paid probably 300% over retail because you could not get them when Covid first hit. We designed social distancing for the entire facility which was going to require us to paint X’s all over the grandstands, concession areas, and restrooms. Even with the early postponements, I was convinced we were hopefully going to be okay to race right after the fourth of July. I had a schedule prepared that was to begin July 12th and ran until the middle of December to get all of the races in. That came and went. We have been open since May 2nd for private practices. Initially, we had quite a few private practices, but as the year has gone by, they have gone down in numbers.
Daloisio: We are still open for practice and will be all winter, correct?
Kazarian: Oh yeah, we are still open for practice. There have only been two or three weekends when we have not had at least one round. When we first started having practices again, it was not uncommon to have five rentals over Saturday and Sunday. Like I said, they have slowed down quite a bit, but I think they will pick back up when we get to the beginning of next year.
Daloisio: How often do you hear from fans asking what is going on?
Kazarian: We have not spent a lot of time in the office as there is really not a whole lot to do. The facility is being maintained. Charlie (marketing manager Charlie Watson) probably gets more phone calls than anyone else from the fans. They are wondering how we are doing and are we going to get through this mess. It is clear we are going to get through this mess. We did get help from the first stimulus act. That was the “Cares Act.” So, we have been able to keep the facility up and running and keep our bills to a minimum. There is still a huge, fixed cost to the facility just sitting there on a monthly basis. As of right now, we are able to cover those costs.
Daloisio: Does insurance help cover any of that?
Kazarian: No. I actually called our insurance company before we got shut down. I think it was the Monday after our first event and I said, “Hey, if we get shut down, do I have coverage?” And, she goes, “no, you did not buy pandemic insurance.” I also asked if there was pandemic insurance and she said, “yeah, there used to be, but not anymore.” We buy terrorism insurance every year, but I had never heard of pandemic insurance. That market was actually shut down on, I think, March 6th. So, no, we do not have insurance coverage for this.
Daloisio: Two weeks from now the 25th Oval Nationals should be taking place. That is like your pride and joy as you have developed it into the best non-wing sprint car race in the nation. How much does it hurt you personally to have that taken away this year?
Kazarian: It is a huge personal loss. That was a tough pill to swallow. USAC called me a couple of times to ask me what I thought way back in May. I told them it was to early to make a decision. We talked in July, and it finally got to August and September and there was no clear-cut chance to host the event. It had gotten to the point where teams and fans were having to make hotel reservations and more. When we finally made that decision, it really hit home. You have seen it. You and I text each other when we have events coming up and it is like, yeah, take them down. Again, starting back in March, I would have never thought we would be in this position.
Daloisio: Traditionally over the last decade or so, The PAS season opener has been the first Saturday in March. That is just a little over four months away. How confident are you that the 2021 season will begin in early March as usual?
Kazarian: I did talk to USAC last week and they asked me if I had my 2021 schedule done. My first comment was, “when do you think we can start?” We went back and forth. After talking about all of the issues we finally said we have to post a schedule that represents that we are back to normal. We don’t know when that is going to happen. So, we will be posting our 2021 schedule in the next couple weeks that is going to be very similar to our schedules in the past. People (drivers, fans, officials, sponsors) need to plan and know. I sincerely hope that in February or March we are not in the position that we are currently sitting in now. But I think a lot of things are going to have to happen for us to be open with some capacity of fans. Like I have told you all along, I cannot come up with a business model to make the facility operate without fans in the stands. Guys have tried to do it and some guys did well with a few pay per views once some of the tracks had reopened. It kills me to see the tracks in Indiana. Those promoters are getting record crowds. And we are out here under a whole different set of rules. It is very difficult to swallow.
Daloisio: When you are allowed to open the gates again, do you anticipate the crowds to come in, in large numbers?
Kazarian: I certainly hope so. It is a wildcard. It depends on where we are in the pandemic. Will there be a vaccine? If the level of infected people is cut way down and the deaths are down to about zero. People are going to have to make a choice. I think our fans will support the facility. I do not know how many fans have been impacted by this virus. My oldest brother spent eight days in the hospital in Oklahoma. His cancer doctor told him when this virus hit that if he caught it, he had probably a 90% chance of dying based on the damage to his lungs from the cancer. Thank God he made it through. He is home still recovering. There are just so many variables. We are going to be designated by Riverside County health. Hopefully, they are going to maybe jump out of the state guidelines. I think the governor just released some guidelines today or yesterday (this interview was conducted on October 21st). I have not seen the color we need to get too that allows stadiums to reopen with the fans. I heard some reports on the news this morning, but I have kind of had a busy day today and have not had enough time to research that out. To answer your previous question, I would say we have a 50-50 shot at opening in March.
Daloisio: Little change of direction here for the next few questions. You already mentioned this earlier, but just to clarify. You had an anonymous person come in last offseason who put a lot of money up for the PASSCAR and IMCA purses for 2020. Obviously, we never got one race in. Is that money rolling over into 2021?
Kazarian: Yes, absolutely. That is still going to happen!
Daloisio: On to sprint cars for a moment. You are introducing a new class in 2021. What is it and when can people see the rules?
Kazarian: With the help of Cory Kruseman, it has been almost a year and a half of development. It is a crate engine that is carbureted and runs on methanol. We were working with one engine manufacturer and the third time we were testing the car we had an engine failure. So, Cory and I put our heads together. We have not finalized all of the details yet, but Cory will end up being the dealership that will supply all of the engines. You look at the success of the GM602 Sprint Car Crate Motor that has been running now for three years. It has mainly been running on the east coast and a little bit in the Midwest. It has a tremendous record on it. They have not had any engine failures. They have three ways you can purchase the engine. You can buy the short block and bolt everything else on. Or you can take the medium level and basically put your own carburetor on it and a couple of other items. Or you buy it straight complete from the carburetor down to the headers. But, about the most you are going to spend is $8,600.00. This engine will probably last you two to three years before you have to do some minor maintenance. It is going to appeal to younger kids to get into it (sprint car racing). We will have an age limit of 14-years-old to get into this class. Jimmy Naylor is going to run the class at Ventura as well. Originally, we were in talks to have Barona run the class and we were going to have three tracks and one overall points champion at the end of the year. Those talks (with Barona) have broken down a little bit, but they will heat up again within the next couple of weeks. I would expect to have rules out hopefully by the end of this month (October).
Daloisio: To end a rumor that has been floating around, this class is not going to replace 410 Sprint Car racing, correct?
Kazarian: Absolutely not. No! This is a series that will be designed to hopefully get driver development and younger kids involved. And, hopefully to develop new car owners. And hopefully some of those owners will step up to the USAC/CRA level. It does not take a genius to see what is going on with CRA. We have not had a lot of new car owners in the last five years. And, we have lost car owners. My plan is to basically develop new car owners to keep the series thriving and hopefully get back to the levels where we saw 40 or 45 CRA cars a night.
Daloisio: And, just to expand on the last question. A press release came out a few weeks ago regarding officials changing positions in the USAC West Coast Sprint Cars and USAC Western Midgets. There was no mention of USAC/CRA in the release and people started jumping to conclusions and questioned the future of that series. Will USAC/CRA still be the main sprint car sanctioning body at The PAS?
Kazarian: Yes. I talked to Chris (Kearns) the day after that release came out. He was actually the one that requested my schedule as he has done the scheduling (USAC on the west coast) the last five or seven years. He asks for my dates first and then goes to all of the other promoters to fill in the other dates. He has done a great job to minimize nights that we have midgets running somewhere and CRA or the 360s (USAC West Coast Series) running somewhere else. Chris is still involved. He is actually moving out of the Arizona area down the road. Bottom line, CRA is not going anywhere, period!
Promoter Don Kazarian and his entire staff urge everyone to do all they can to stay safe and healthy. They look forward to seeing all the fans back at the track as soon as it is possible.
Fans can stay up to date on track and driver news on The PAS social media efforts at the links below.
Twitter: Perris Auto Speedway on Twitter.
Perris Auto Speedway is conveniently located on the SoCal Fair and Event Center (home of October’s Southern California Fair), approximately one-hour east of Los Angeles and one-hour North of San Diego. To get to the track, take the 215 freeway, on the Ramona Expressway and go three miles east to the fairgrounds. For directions on MapQuest, the address to enter is: 18700 Lake Perris Drive and the zip code is 92571.
Perris Auto Speedway wants to thank its corporate partners for the 2019 season. Ahern Equipment Rentals, All Coast Construction, Battery Systems, Budweiser, Bud’s Tire Pro, Chris’ Hauling, City of Perris, Communication Innovations, Daytona Boat & RV Storage, Ed Moore Bullet Proof Driveshaft, Flowdynamics, HD Industries, Hoosier Tires, Inland Rigging, Living Water’s Hospice, LKQ Pick Your Part, Luke’s Transmission, Moose Racing, Pepsi-Cola, Pole Position, PrintItNow.com, Rainbow Bolt & Supply, Rugged Radios, Shaver Specialties, Square H, Sunoco Race Fuels, Trench Shoring, Upland Rock, Varner Construction and Vista Paint.
DVD’s of all the PASSCAR/IMCA racing and Nights of Destruction at The PAS are available from Fourvideos. For more information call (714) 225-9500.
Preparations for the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge will accelerate during an NTT INDYCAR SERIES oval test on Wednesday, Oct. 28 and Thursday, Oct. 29 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Drivers testing include six-time and 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing, two-time and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, two-time series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske, one-time series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport, three-time Indianapolis 500 polesitter Ed Carpenter of Ed Carpenter Racing and 2020 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP.
Newgarden and Sato will test Wednesday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (ET). All six drivers are scheduled to test Thursday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. The only media availability with the drivers will be Thursday at the conclusion of the session.
Also, Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske is expected to receive time Wednesday to complete the Rookie Orientation Program.
Fans are welcome to watch testing for free both days from the Turn 2 viewing mounds. Face coverings must be worn at all times and proper social distancing must be adhered to. No food or drinks will be allowed on the mounds. The Turn 2 viewing mounds will be the only part of the facility open to spectators.
All visitors to IMS must enter via Gate 2 off 16th Street and will be subject to temperature screening. Fans are encouraged to follow the IMS social media accounts for weather updates on Wednesday and Thursday.
NTT IndyCar Series PR
“My partnership with Unilever has grown so much over the years, and I’m proud to say they’ve been a huge part of what we’ve built at JRM,” said Earnhardt Jr. “Unilever’s commitment to our team and the series has been unwavering, and we’re prepared to take that success even further.”
As it has done since the beginning, Unilever will use its racing partnership to market multiple consumer brands across several JRM teams. Details on schedule, track locations and featured brands will be announced at a later date, including details on Earnhardt Jr.’s return to the driver’s seat for one race. Earnhardt Jr. has raced at least one NXS race with Unilever every year since 2009, most recently in the Hellmann’s No. 8 Chevrolet at Homestead-Miami Speedway this year. He has 24 career NXS victories, his last coming in 2016 at Richmond International Raceway in a Hellmann’s-branded car.
“We’re immensely appreciative of the relationship we’ve cultivated with Unilever,” said Kelley Earnhardt Miller, general manager of JR Motorsports. “Together, we’ve had the opportunity to do great things on and off the track, most recently focusing efforts toward Unilever’s United for America initiative.”
United for America is an expansive, Unilever-led movement that aims to unite with retail partners and nonprofits to help communities recover, rebuild, and reimagine their futures, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. Unilever has collaborated with frontline relief organizations like Feeding America and Direct Relief to provide critical support to Americans where it’s needed most, at a time when it’s needed most. The program provides essential products and supplies for millions of Americans, and Unilever is a purpose-driven company engaged in promoting cleanliness and sustainable living to help Americans thrive now and in the future.
“Unilever is so proud to work with Dale and all the folks at JR Motorsports; a relationship founded on bringing together some of America’s most loved brands with one of America’s most popular sports and one of its most admired and respected personalities,” said Head of Channel & Customer Development for Unilever, George Hamilton. “But it is our collective charitable efforts that truly cements a relationship of shared values.”
Unilever offers products in multiple categories, including mayonnaise, dijonnaise, and white spoonable dressings products, ketchup, ice cream, frozen yogurt, and frozen confectionery dessert; personal care products, including men’s hair shampoo, men’s hair conditioner, men’s hair styling products, men’s body wash and men’s deodorant.
The “Race to Freedom” truck is back. Jordan Anderson Racing and A.E. Engine are thrilled to reveal the No. 3 “Race to Freedom II” Chevrolet Silverado that Anderson will drive in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series’ NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 on Friday, Oct. 30, at Martinsville Speedway.
Anderson, one of NASCAR’s most dynamic personalities and a rising star in the sport, will have U.S. LawShield, the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s #GUNVOTE voter registration project and GAT Marketing adorning Anderson’s vibrant black, white and red Chevrolet Silverado.
“Martinsville is a place where anyone can win if they make the right moves,” Anderson said. “You’ve got to be good at defending your position on the track. U.S. LawShield specializes in defending the rights of responsible gun owners across the country, so it’s a perfect fit to bring the ‘Gun Truck’ back this weekend. With the race being so close to election time, it’s going to be cool to drive a truck with #GUNVOTE on the hood. We are proud to partner with hard-working companies like GAT Marketing. Like me, they are in the fight to support our rights and protect our freedoms. They like to work hard and win big.”
With more than 80,000 fans across his engaging social media platforms, Anderson provides a fascinating level of access and delivers his sponsors millions of impressions every month from compelling social media content.
The “Race to Freedom II” truck allows all three partners to leverage their social media to expand the program’s online footprint. Each sponsor will be included in a comprehensive A.E. Engine content activation program including print, digital, YouTube and social media.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s #GUNVOTE project will adorn the No. 3 Chevrolet Silverado’s hood, while the U.S. LawShield logo will appear on the truck’s rear quarter panels. GAT Marketing can be found on the truck’s tailgate.
Live coverage of the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 will be on Fox Sports 1(FS1), and on the radio at Motor Racing Network, and SiriusXM Channel 90 at 8 p.m. ET.
“U.S. LawShield® is very pleased to continue our partnership with Jordan Anderson Racing as part of a sponsorship package and support for the NASCAR Truck Series. We have great respect for what Jordan Anderson Racing has accomplished building a team from the ground up, pursuing excellence, never giving up, and of course, driving the ‘Race to Freedom Truck’. We look forward to celebrating his success on the track.”
Larry Keane, Senior V.P. and General Counsel, National Shooting Sports Foundation:
“With the 2020 election right around the corner, the resources provided by GUNVOTE and promoted on Jordan’s #3 hood during the Martinsville race are more important than ever. Anyone who supports our constitutional freedoms should follow Jordan’s lead and visit GUNVOTE.org, then cast an informed GUNVOTE on or before Election Day.
“GUNVOTE is a comprehensive voter registration program that we are excited to have prominently featured on Jordan Anderson’s #3 hood at the Martinsville Raceway. Anderson is a longtime advocate for our right to keep and bear arms, and the GUNVOTE logo on his hood sends a strong message to NASCAR fans to make sure they are informed voters who are ready to GUNVOTE on or before Election Day.”
Charles Anderson, CEO and Founder, GAT Marketing:
“We are excited for the opportunity to co-sponsor Jordan and the 2nd amendment truck alongside industry icons like US LawShield and the NSSF. At GAT Marketing, we have seen firsthand how our conservative pro-gun message will be affected in the future if we don’t take action now. We need to bring greater awareness to the significance of each and every vote within this election cycle. #gunvote
I’ve been a longtime fan of NASCAR and have learned to appreciate the hard work that goes into their daily grind. Like Jordan, I too have a team that backs me and supports our shared goals for success. Part of our strength stems from our belief in this country and the American dream. It’s an honor to be a part of this Freedom truck and to work with organizations that support our rights. We are proud to be part of this effort to raise awareness and encourage everyone to VOTE on Election Day. #gunvote.”
Jordan Anderson Racing PR
The excitement is building as it is now officially race week for the 36th running of the All American 400 presented by Freeman Webb, Big Machine Vodka, Sunoco Race Fuels and a great number of others. It all begins on Friday, October 30 with three straight action packed days at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, culminating with the 36th All American 400 on Sunday, November 1. Preliminary estimates show over 200 drivers heading toward the Music City, representing over 20 different states.
The weekend features a mix of local classes and traveling series, bringing in top notch drivers from all across the country. Friday’s festivities begin with Super Late Model and Pro Late Model practice at 12 noon, followed by a night of local division racing on the ¼-mile. Bandoleros, Street Stocks, Front Runners, Pure Stocks, Legends, and Limited Late Models will all race their final event of the season, crowning the champions for 2020.
Team Construction’s Halloween Saturday of racing and family fun, will see Late Model competitors take center stage at 5:30 for All American 400 qualifying. Following the all important single car qualifying runs, a racing program of Van Hoy Oil CRA Street Stocks, Vores Compact Touring Series, and All American Showdowns for the Supers and the Pros will take to the 5/8-mile oval.
Sunday’s running of the All American 400 will bring together four top tier Super Late Model Series in addition to the JEGS/CRA All Stars Tour for the Pro Late Model portion of the event. At last glance, well over 30 drivers are set to compete for starting spots in each race. Green will drop at 1:00 on one of the biggest days in motorsports.
Adding to the fun of the weekend, will be all the great activities for families and kids, as part of the Team Construction Halloween Extravanganza. A pair of trunk or treats will be held with drivers giving out candy at 6:00 Friday night and 4:45 Saturday afternoon. Bikes will be given away in addition to a free TV giveaway. Race fans, kids and adults alike, are asked to wear their Halloween costumes to join in on the fun.
Plenty of tickets are available for each night of the race weekend. Fans can purchase them online at www.nashvillefairgroundsspeedway.racing or at the gates on raceday. A three day ticket is also available, saving fans $10 to see all of this weekend’s entertainment.
Track Enterprises PR
Hendrick Motorsports has named Rudy Fugle as the crew chief for William Byron and the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE team for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season. He will join the organization in mid-November.
The 36-year-old Fugle is one of the most successful crew chiefs at the NASCAR national series level. He has won two driver championships and five owner titles in the Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series. As a crew chief for Kyle Busch Motorsports since 2013, he has recorded 28 truck victories, which tie him for the second-most in series history.
Fugle will replace current No. 24 crew chief Chad Knaus, who was recently named Hendrick Motorsports’ vice president of competition effective at the completion of the 2020 racing season.
“We’re pleased to welcome Rudy,” said Jeff Andrews, general manager of Hendrick Motorsports. “His teams have consistently performed at a championship level for many years. We believe he’s an excellent fit for our culture and will mesh extremely well with our other crew chiefs and competition personnel. In addition, Rudy and William have proven to be a successful combination with a high level of communication and trust in one another.”
A native of Livonia, New York, Fugle holds a mechanical engineering degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In 2006, he began his NASCAR career with Robert Yates Racing before joining Germain Racing in 2008. With KBM, he has won truck races with six different drivers: Byron, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell, Erik Jones, Greg Biffle, and Noah Gragson.
“The opportunity to join Hendrick Motorsports is incredible for me and my family,” Fugle said. “The No. 24 has always been one of the premier teams in racing. We have the owner, the driver, the people and the resources to continue that tradition. William is a great talent, and we have a very strong working relationship. I’m confident in what this team can accomplish and look forward to the challenge of competing at the Cup level.”
In 2016, Fugle and then-rookie Byron won seven truck races in 23 starts. That season, the pair led 21% of all possible laps and earned the NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series owner championship. Byron, 22, is closing out a 2020 season in which he won his first career NASCAR Cup Series race (Daytona) and made his second consecutive playoff appearance.
“I’m excited to work with Rudy again,” Byron said. “We have a great team in place, and I know he will be the right leader to keep moving us forward. I’ve seen first-hand what he’s capable of, his competitive nature and the high standards he has. With Rudy, I believe we’ll have a chance to win every single time we go to the racetrack, which is what both of us expect.”
Hendrick Motorsports PR