RaceChaser Notes: Sanctioning Bodies, Sheyenne Adding Late Models, Women in Racing
Wissota is in search of a new executive director with Carson Gramm’s resignation. His resignation is effective on Monday, Feb. 7 according to the Wissota website.
For the record I met Carson once at I-94 Sure Step Speedway a few years ago and had a good interview with him but don’t know him otherwise, and this blog post isn’t really about him anyway.
This blog is 100 percent my opinion by the way.
I’m curious who steps into that executive director role next, and exactly what that role will entail. Is the executive director a puppet for the board/promoters and the sponsors as several drivers believe? Or is it a person that can help Wissota adapt to a fast-changing racing landscape in terms of fans and technology? Two good questions I think. And no, I don’t want the job. You probably wouldn’t want me in a role like that because I’m not afraid to rock the boat which sometimes ticks off people.
This situation brings me to sanctioning bodies as a whole – IMCA, Wissota, USRA, UMP or whatever. They remind me of our federal government in some ways – inefficient, bureaucratic and slow to operate/change. The politicians are bought and paid for by special interest groups (too many to mention), and I’d argue sanctioning bodies are that way too – loyal to the sponsors who write big checks (tire companies, engine builders, shock companies, etc.). In either case, that isn’t good for the citizens of the country – or in the sanctioning body case, good for racers, especially in the pocketbook
I have nothing against IMCA, Wissota or USRA – I think they all have quality racing and plenty of great drivers. But I hear frustration with IMCA and Wissota from time to time at the tracks I cover, and some of that is the nature of sanctioning bodies, and having rules drivers don’t like. I’m sure not every driver likes everything other sanctioning bodies (UMP, USRA or the dozens of others around the country).
Sanctioning bodies are probably necessary terms of having some rules structure and points systems, but they also frustrate tracks and drivers alike with their decisions – or sometimes lacking the ability to make a decision. Some are owned by individuals or families – the Root family with IMCA, Todd and Janet Staley with USRA for example. Wissota states on its website track promoters “in essence part owners of the racing organization and are expected to contribute to its overall success.” Wissota’s annual meeting sees the promoters vote on rules, etc, although I’d argue the board of directors is pretty involved in oversight.
In any case, I’d love to see sanctioning bodies seek ways to keep racing and affordable for the budget-racer, and not turn classes into spending contests. That would mean more driver input and less catering to series/sanctioning body sponsors. Keeping the budget racer on the track in today’s world should be a priority.
Sheyenne Goes “All In”
Sheyenne Speedway is going “all in” for the 2022 season.
The 1/4-mile track in Lisbon has announced 10 Wissota late model shows for 2022 – including three NLRA shows.
There are 10 late model shows scheduled, which means the track will crown a late model track champion for the first time ever.
Co-promoter Benji Froemke isn’t afraid to try new things, and this is a big one. The perception of Lisbon, for some fans, is there is no weekly “big” class, like the late models or A modifieds. The track ran some IMCA Mod shows a few years ago and had decent car counts. But the late models is a big step up financially, and I admire the track for doing this.
Froemke told me he’s working on sponsors to have a competitive weekly purse, and the NLRA shows have a minimum of $1,200 to win, $250 to start purse which has been good for late model racing locally.
The track is aiming for an April 17 opener – which is the earliest it will have ever opened – and will need nice weather to reach that date. But the late model addition is a big step for a track which has grown substantially the past four years.
Female Racers Have Positive Impact
Feb. 2 was National Women in Sports Day, and let’s mention the several women who race in the RaceChaser area who are good drivers. I am a huge advocate for more female drivers getting behind the wheel as I think it is a great thing for racing.
I’ll list the ones in the RaceChaser area who raced this past year.
Kelsi Pederson, East Grand Forks (#93 Lightning Sprint)
Skyla Miller, Harwood (#9 IMCA Hobby Stock)
Kate Taves, Detroit Lakes (#72 Lightning Sprint)
Torey Fischer, West Fargo (#9 IMCA Sport Mod)
Haley Lee, Starbuck (#50H Wissota Midwest Modified)
Michelle Hutt, Brandon (#97 Wissota Midwest Modified)
Alyssa White, West Fargo (#14 IMCA Hobby Stock)
Andrea Jacobson, West Fargo (#15 IMCA Hobby Stock)
Madison Schreiber, Dalton (#7Z Short Tracker)
Danielle Jennen, Fergus Falls (#45 Short Tracker)
Aside of my coverage area, there are talented drivers like Morgan Ward Grosz, Ashley Mehrwerth, Kennedy Swan, Abby Garin and Maria Broksieck, to name a few.
--Speaking of female drivers, McKenzie (Gerdes) Mikkelson of Alexandria will be back behind the wheel of her #13X Wissota Modified this summer. Mikkelson took last summer off as she and her husband, late model driver Ryan Mikkelson, welcomed their son, Leo to the world last June. McKenzie’s brother is Brady Gerdes, who is a multi-time track champion at both I-94 and Viking.
--Jason Thoennes of Garfield is making his return in his familiar #52 Wissota Modified after a two-year absence, which is great news for Viking Speedway and I-94 Sure Step Speedways. He’s won several track championships in his career and knows the Viking 1/2-mile as well as anyone. Good to see both Jason Thoennes and McKenzie Mikkelson behind the wheel this year.
--Fairmont Raceway, for years an IMCA-sanctioned stalwart along I-90 in southern Minnesota, has announced it will sanction USRA in 2022.