Piecing together a racing schedule for a touring series is like walking into a local store, picking a 5,000-piece puzzle, dumping the box on the floor and then assembling it flawlessly.
Don’t forget, people are watching and will voice concerns if it doesn’t work perfectly.
The first handful of pieces — the marquee events that are locked in each year — are easy. Then come the consistent dates from the regular tracks, which is often the first moment pieces begin to be shifted.
“Building the schedule is a little bit like putting a puzzle together,” said Chris Dolack, who is in his first season as the series director for the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series. “You have all the pieces on the table. You need to find the way they fit together so it makes sense for the teams that have to travel to the events, not to mention our staff as well. Each team has their equipment, vehicles, etc., just like we do. You’re trying to put a schedule together that makes sense where you’re not zigzagging and putting on unnecessary miles. At the same time, you have to work with the promoters so that you’re not scheduling on top of each other.”
The first rule of schedule-making is to make sure no one gets dizzy when plotting out the route from track to track, which isn’t easy when a tour like the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series estimates its teams travel approximately 30,000 miles per season.
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“You’re trying to make it travel,” said Carlton Reimers, the series director for the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series. “You can’t be putting dates back to back that are too far apart. We try to hold that to overnight drives that are 300 miles. I even try to hold that to less than that.”
As much as the flow of a schedule is to avoid back-tracking, it’s also important to not oversaturate an area by running too many races in a small region during a short time frame.
“A lot of people will question why are we here and we’re going right by this place only to come back there later in the year,” Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions series director Don Grabey said. “It’s a matter of the dates that we can have for the facility don’t work for that facility. The other part of it that’s a challenge is you don’t want to oversaturate a market. We’re in Ohio so much that you drive by facilities you’re going to later in the year. You have to stay away from them for a certain period of time. If you just went in the way they’re on the map, you’d kill your fan base. If you go to one facility too many times, it becomes a watered down product.”
Most of the premier events stay on the same weekends each year, but there are changes based on holidays.
“Easter moves around all over the map,” Reimers said. “Sometimes Labor Day weekend falls differently. I can make the perfect (schedule) and just travel perfect. I can make a dream schedule. But then something will come up. You deal with fairgrounds, circuses coming in, they have all this different stuff.”
Add in new tracks and the puzzle becomes more complex.
“Location is one of the main things,” Reimers said. “Is there a date available? Everyone wants a Saturday night in the summer. A new track coming at us now won’t get a Saturday night in the summer. The next big thing is the infrastructure of the track. Can it seat enough people? Can its pit area handle our big rigs? Is the parking lot large enough? Do they have the ability to put on a World of Outlaws event where they can handle that with personnel? Of course you have to look at the financial part of it. A lot of different variables go into it before you get in the serious stage of talking to them.”
Grabey claims the biggest part of schedule-making is logistics.
“Can you go there?” he asked. “When can you go there? Does it fit in the schedule? Does the place you have on the schedule match for them?
“It’s extremely difficult when you’re dealing with a working- man’s series. You have to consider where most of your traveling cars are coming from, where you just were. Another part of that is making sure you’re not on top of another major sprint car event in the same area or at the same time or a week before or a week after. Just about the time you have it figured out is when the phone calls come about having to look at a different date. That morphs into needing to change someone else’s date. That’s what we generally face around the time we think we have the schedule finished.”
Reimers says he begins planning the next season’s schedule in early August each summer, while Dolack began preparing the 2018 schedule in the early summer. That’s a similar time frame to the one upon which the Lucas Oil ASCS National Tour operates, according to Terry Mattox, the series’ flagman and national scheduling coordinator.
“There have been a few tracks we go to that when we got done with the race would say book us again the same weekend,” Mattox said. “Other than that I send out an email to all the tracks we have the first of July and then right after the Knoxville Nationals is when we start trying to meet up and schedule dates.”