It has no drivers, no television contract and no venues, but the new stock car series founded in part by Maxx Motorsports CEO Jon Pritchett has a name – Team Racing Auto Circuit.
The formation of TRAC was announced at a press conference in Charlotte, N.C., in May, and Pritchett said the league plans to begin competition in 2003. Also involved in the venture are Robert Wussler, former executive with CBS and Turner Sports; Michael Kranefuss, former Winston Cup car owner; and Cale Yarborough, three-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion and former car owner himself.
“I guess it’s hard to see [NASCAR] welcoming us with open arms,” Yarborough said. “But I would hope they would understand and recognize there is room for this sport to grow.”
NASCAR officials had no comment about TRAC.
TRAC will race at oval tracks, and plans to start with eight to 12 two-car teams located in major television markets. Teams will represent cities, and be designated by Team Atlanta, Team Charlotte, etc. The season will consist of 16 to 24 races, with a playoff and championship format.
Since there will be two-car teams, the duos of drivers will accumulate points in order to qualify for the postseason.
Other innovations will include multiple manufacturers who might not be involved in NASCAR, revenue sharing, style of cars, and a single-entity structure.
Pritchett said the league has no plans to raid NASCAR for talent, but intends to race at some tracks that feature Winston Cup competition, such as Bruton Smith-owned facilities in Charlotte; Atlanta; Fort Worth, Texas; and Bristol, Tenn.
Don Naman, former president of Talladega Superspeedway, said he was surprised by the news.
“I’ve heard rumors for years, but I never thought anything would ever come of it,” said Naman, who now heads up Don Naman Motorsports Managing and Consulting. “I think it’s going to be a confusing situation. If in fact they aren’t going to try to get NASCAR drivers, I assume they’ll go after ARCA and USAC drivers.”
Don Radebaugh, public relations director for ARCA, said he knows little about TRAC.
“I knew there was going to be a press conference in Charlotte, but that’s really all I know,” Radebaugh said. “Hopefully we’ll find out more details in the coming weeks, but I can’t say how it might affect us or if it will affect us at all. I just know it’s happening and I know we’re going forward with our own program here at ARCA.”
Organizers say they have been in contact with several tracks, as well as ABC, CBS and ESPN. Pritchett said TRAC would try to serve markets that are “underserved” by NASCAR, and create new stock car fans.
“If they’re looking at areas like Iowa and the Dakotas and Seattle – places that don’t have Winston Cup events – then that would be one way for them to make some inroads,” said Naman. “Stock car racing has caught the attention of this country in a big way, and I assume the founders of this league are trying to capitalize
“But NASCAR’s the biggest deal, and it’s hard to try to dislodge any kind of group that’s doing well.”
Talladega Superspeedway is part of the International Speedway Corporation, and it is doubtful any TRAC event would take place at an ISC facility – although the TRAC website lists TSS as a potential venue. And Pritchett adds that TRAC will also try to avoid conflict with Winston Cup dates, which could be a difficult proposition.
NASCAR drivers are considered private contractors and are allowed to race in any other series they choose. However, with expansion of the Winston Cup schedule, TRAC would be hard-pressed to lure established NASCAR stars to its events.
“I’m not going to touch the other thing,” Winston Cup star Mark Martin said. “I definitely don’t want to see Winston Cup racing get torn, and I don’t think anyone is looking to do that.”
Martin added that a new league could be beneficial to younger drivers looking to break into the sport. Naman agrees – to a point.
“On the one hand, you have thousands of drivers out there looking for opportunities, and this new group offers an opportunity,” Naman said. “But if I was involved, I’d start immediately trying to work with NASCAR in a conciliatory manner. As big as NASCAR is, I find it hard to imagine a group breaking out on its own and being successful.”
NASCAR currently has a 36-race schedule and is in the midst of expansion. The circuit is moving into several major markets, such as Chicago and Kansas City, and plans more growth in the future. Due to expansion, some NASCAR venues have lost a date and others, such as North Wilkesboro Speedway, no longer host Winston Cup events at all.
During the organization’s inaugural press conference, Pritchett said TRAC has been in the making for 18 months, with 10 primary investors behind the project and a larger group with motorsports backgrounds acting in an advisory capacity.
Pritchett was quick to point out that TRAC is not out to bleed fan support from stock car racing’s biggest league.
“We are not going to say people should watch this instead of Winston Cup,” he said. “We see our concept as a way to create new fans and give current fans something else.”