A Visit With Wissota Executive Director Carson Gramm
Wissota executive director Carson Gramm realizes there are plenty of challenges in today’s racing climate — increasing costs, trying to attract and keep fans in the stands and battling the weather being among the biggest.
But the bigger picture in racing is on the minds of Gramm and Wissota. While focusing on the present is important to Gramm and Wissota, there is also a need to make plans for the future — as in 5-10 years down the road.
Gramm was at I-94 Speedway in Fergus Falls on Friday and took time for an interview with the RaceChaser blog.
“The new generation is not going to be a generation that runs four nights a week,” said Gramm, who officially took over as Wissota executive director in January. “They’re going to be (racing) one night, maybe two. That’s what we’re trying to help. The things we are doing now might seem harsh to the guys that are racing now, but what we’re trying to do is plan for is 5-10 years down the road.”
One example is this generation’s constant data usage of cell phones, and being able to access rules, parts and other equipment with a click of a button.
“In the future, our goal is to have a 19-year-old kid go open up their cell phone, and go to whatever parts store they go to and be able to basically build the whole car right there,” Gramm said. “And where a 19-year-old kid can afford to do it.”
Affordability, or lack thereof in many cases, remains a hot topic of conversation in racing, no matter if the sanctioning is IMCA, Wissota, USRA or whatever. That is one reason Gramm and Wissota have their eyes on 5-10 years down the road while also realizing the immediate needs of current races.
“The parts manufacturers, engine builder, or car builders — we can’t control what they charge and how they go about their business,” said Gramm, who formerly raced in the Super Stock division. “All we can do is try to find parts that are within budget, but are also safe and not just out of a junkyard. But it’s also within budget and within reason.”
The sanctioning body has faced challenges in recent years: declining numbers in late models (which isn’t only an issue in Wissota), seeing some prominent tracks switch from Wissota to IMCA in the A modifieds (Princeton, Brainerd, Jamestown, Norman County Raceway in Ada, for example) and
Gramm points to positives for Wissota — it distributes one of the biggest national point funds of any sanctioning body, plus the promoters get a chance to exercise ownership of Wissota; and, “we have really competitive racing right now.”
The social media boom has had its upside for racing, and at times, producing constructive dialogue about racing programs, tracks, etc. There is also a downside — and that is the constant bashing of tracks, drivers and sanctioning bodies that sometimes is unfair.
“The biggest problem making sure everybody stays positive,” Gramm said.
Gramm used this analogy:
“If your favorite restaurant that you always like to go to closes down, and then you’re mad about it….yet every week, you go there to eat, and then you go on Facebook and bad mouth it and say who horrible it is — well your friends, or their friends, or your friends of friends are not going to go to visit that restaurant which is going to cause it to close down,” Gramm said. “There is always something that everybody needs to work on. We’re trying to stay positive throughout it all, and do what we can do to create a positive atmosphere for everyone.”
Gramm also oversees the Wollak Construction Wissota Late Model Challenge Series, which has two races in so far. The goal, he said, is to average 32 late models per night of the series, which averaged 29.8 in 2018.
The Challenge Series resumes with a big doubleheader at Mississippi Thunder Speedway near Fountain City, Wis. on July 4-5.
“I think we’ll have great car counts there,” Gramm said.
The racing season got off to a slow start this year because of a long, snowy winter and a very abbreviated spring. Some tracks only have one show in so far.
“What I’ve noticed is the drives are driving a lot harder because of that slow start,” Gramm said. “They’re driving a lot harder to get those points before they get too much further into the season.”
And how have the first six months on the job going for Gramm?
“Everyday is a new experience; every day is a new challenge,” Gramm said. “When you have 2,500 drivers and about 50 racetracks, there’s always something going on, no matter where you are at.”