Editor’s Note: Robby Gordon has had success racing all types of cars and trucks, but now his role has changed as he promotes Stadium Truck Series racing. The April issue of SPEED SPORT Magazine featured this unique racing series that is finding its own niche with in the motorsports industry. Here’s an excerpt from that story.
Rather than joining an existing off-road series, Robby Gordon drew up plans for his own series during the summer of 2012. The blueprint from which Gordon based his idea was the Mickey Thompson Stadium Off-Road Racing Series of the 1980s and 1990s, which confined off-road racing to small courses within sports stadiums and graduated drivers such as Gordon, six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and Casey Mears. The series survived six years following the shooting deaths of founder Mickey Thompson and his wife in 1988, but ended shortly before the sanctioning body went bankrupt in 1996.
Despite wheeling a diverse array of race cars, Gordon “felt the most fun he ever had racing” came when he was a teenager in Thompson’s series. Gordon’s original goal for his series was to bring that exact concept — and culture — back, but he hit a few roadblocks along the way.
“The reality is that Mickey Thompson’s been gone for 20 years,” Gordon said. “As many people as we’d like to think know about off-road racing, don’t know about off-road racing. It needed to be re-marketed and re-promoted again.”
With a need to promote stadium racing in his own way, Gordon put the new series together in about a year. But when Stadium Super Trucks ran its first season at several high-cost stadium venues in 2013, Gordon realized his plans didn’t make business sense.
Out went the money. In came the doubts.
“We went to the point when, I would say, we were spending too much money to run races inside of the stadiums,” Gordon said. “People thought we would fail and disappear — be a series that was just around for a season.”
It’s not that the series wasn’t doing well, either. Gordon said attendance hovered around 30,000 fans for the series debut at University of Phoenix Stadium, but a crowd of that size doesn’t show well at a venue large enough to host the Super Bowl. The venues were just too big and course construction was too costly.
But with a few tweaks to the system, Gordon made Stadium Super Trucks more audience — and checkbook — friendly. The series began running more events at racing venues alongside the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Australian V8 Supercars, while maintaining a few stadium dates.
During an early exhibition race with IndyCar, Gordon saw that constructing courses with less dirt and more asphalt led to quicker in-race cleanups. The trucks, he said, were “just as impressive, if not more impressive, on pavement with metal jumps than they were in the dirt.”
Laying a thin layer of asphalt took out the need for extensive track maintenance and fixing of ruts in the dirt, leading the series to stray slightly from the off-road feel and turn toward pavement racing — further associating it with the stadium environment.
“When people are in that stadium environment, they want to see nonstop action all the time — like a football game or something else,” Gordon said. “They don’t really care to see tractors moving around and rebuilding race tracks like off-road cars take at most venues.”