Dennis Huth, ASA Have Grassroots Racing On The Brain

IN FORMATION: Drivers form a four-wide salute prior to October’s American Speed Ass’n Kwik Trip Midwest Tour Oktoberfest 100 at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in West Salem, Wis. (Doug Hornickel Photo)
IN FORMATION: Drivers form a four-wide salute prior to October’s American Speed Ass’n Kwik Trip Midwest Tour Oktoberfest 100 at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in West Salem, Wis. (Doug Hornickel Photo)

The American Speed Ass’n has been part of the auto-racing landscape since 1968, but today’s ASA is considerably different than the sanctioning body that rose to national prominence under the guidance of Rex and Becky Robbins during the 1970s and ’80s.

Dennis Huth rescued ASA after its financial collapse in 2004. The longtime promoter and racing executive wanted to help short-track racing grow and he planned to do it under the familiar ASA brand.

Huth has been involved in auto racing for more than five decades. His career started at age 6 selling Portuguese sausage at San Jose (Calif.) Speedway, one of several West Coast race tracks operated by his uncle, Bob Barkhimer.

Huth was just 19 years old when he became a track promoter and he eventually spent 17 years as a NASCAR executive where he was the driving force behind the formation of the NASCAR Northwest Tour and helped build the Truck Series from a clean sheet of paper.

Even though the new ASA started slowly and had to endure a lengthy legal battle over control of the ASA brand, the organization, now based in Daytona Beach, Fla., is having a far-reaching impact on short-track racing.

In fact, Huth takes great pride in noting that 194 drivers won either a track or series championship under the ASA banner during the 2010 season.

Huth recently took time for a few questions and his answers offer insight into how today’s ASA differs from the original version.

NSSN: Many people still think of ASA as a single series, but explain the diverse role ASA plays in today’s racing world.

HUTH: When I purchased ASA in 2005, I really wanted to focus on the ASA Member Track program, which is for the weekly tracks. One of the things I was pretty heavily involved with during the first part of my career with NASCAR was the NASCAR Winston Racing Series program. We were very hands-on with that program and there are a lot of things about that program that have stuck with us over the years because we were creative and we did what we could to help the weekly tracks.

I took all the good things I saw from that program, and added the spin that I saw we could accomplish as an organization that was getting into the program for the first time. We put it all in a blender and developed the best program we could. One thing imperative to the ASA program, and this is not a dig at any other sanctioning body, is that I felt it had to be as cost effective as possible. That’s our mantra, to make sure that element is ever present.

The nice part is that we have evolved within the ASA Member Track program. We started with three tracks the first year and we have more than 30 now, and we had one touring series, the ASA Truck Series in Southern California, and we now have 11 touring series. It has expanded the way it was supposed to, but the main thing that has been our simple business plan from the very beginning is to help short-track racing. To help it grow, and to help our tracks and our series as much as we can.

NSSN: What does ASA bring to a race track or series that is part of its Member Track program?

HUTH: Ironically, it can shift and it is ever shifting. When a track operator has a conversation with us about what ASA can do for them, or even on the other side of it with what they can do for ASA, we really look at it as a partnership from the get-go. The amount of conversation that takes place about what we do for them is really dependent upon what they need.

We are trying to create a family, a network of tracks, series, competitors and sponsors so short-track racing can grow and thrive even during tough economic times like we’re having now. If a track operator is looking for a certain widget and someone else needs that same widget, we can help put those pieces together.

But I believe the most important thing that we bring to the table for a member track is national exposure. We all know motorsports is a very ego-driven society and it’s good to have the names out there. It’s good for the track operators to be part of a larger organization and we can help spread the word a lot easier. We can push a national champion and we can publicize a track that is a star.

Lastly, I think we have the finest participant accident insurance program in the country today with WSIB Motorsports Insurance. They have to-and-from the race track insurance, and to have half-a-million dollars of coverage on the competitors at the race track is very important in today’s society. That’s a very important aspect of what we bring to a track operator, and at a reasonable price.