The Circle Stays Unbroken

Nov 8, 2012

The tracks are shutting down for the season one by one. The cars will go back to the shops to be rebuilt for next year’s racing. So now is the perfect time to look at the 2012 circle track season and see what we can learn to help us sell during the coming down time.

How strong is the market? What are the trends local speed shops can take advantage of?  And what can shops do now to get a jump on next season?

A group of oval track product suppliers have the answers and more.

Counting Cars

We started with the big money question-how was circle track racing for you this year?

Not too bad, says Jeff Stacy of Fragola Performance/FK Rod Ends.

“Overall, I think the season has been pretty good. We are seeing car counts rising and that is a plus. We are not seeing as many new cars being built as we were a few years ago, but as the economy gets better, so will the racers’ finances,” he notes.

Melissa Blackwell of CV Products – Xceldyne also sees reasons for optimism.

“The beginning of the year was strong, with the summer leveling out and within the last month we are seeing it regain momentum going into the end of the 2012 racing season,” she says.

Jeff Clark of RoushYates describes the season in one word: “solid.”

“RoushYates is very fortunate to have involvement in multiple forms of racing, from grassroots asphalt and dirt to the professional levels of NASCAR,” he explains. “We have earned credibility in these markets based on our knowledge and experience. Our customer base is growing one client at a time. We see, firsthand, the trends that have developed in these different levels of racing. The return has been rewarding in many ways.”

And J.J. Furillo ofJRi Shocks may be the most excited of all.

“Circle track had a huge growth for this year,” he says. “For us, it is a good measure of the economy, because it is grassroots background.”

Fans in the Stands

Along with supplying circle track racers with all of their competition and safety needs, many speed shops also count the fans in the stands as a crucial portion of their customer base. So, does it stand to reason that the better local attendance, the healthier the market is in general?

“Absolutely,” says Clark. “For 2012, car counts and fan attendance has improved in multiple grassroots series such as World of Outlaws, the Lucas Oil Series and others. This is a positive indicator for 2013. Also, crate and spec engine series have stimulated the attendance and participation at these events. We have noticed an increase of attendance at the NASCAR level as well.”

Adds Furillo: “I think the attendance may have been slightly more for the weekly races, and the bigger, higher-paying races seemed to have very high attendance.”

Blackwell agrees.

“Attendance seemed to show some signs of improvement over last year, particularly at some of the larger events,” she says.

Of course, all types of outside factors-from the economy to the weather-can have an impact on crowd sizes.

“It appears that earlier in the year, attendance and participation were very high,” notes Stacy. “With the brutal summer we had in the Midwest, we saw those numbers shrink. Once the heat wave ended, we did see attendance rise, but not participation.”

Trends to Follow

With a general sense of optimism surrounding oval track racing at all levels, what are the positive trends shops can build on?

“Shops can build on support for grassroots asphalt and dirt racing,” Clark recommends. “The spec performance engines (crate engine classes) are making a presence and need attention. The low-cost aspect of this racing generates business on additional performance products needed to race competitively.”

If you’re having difficulty following all of the different classes, events, products and opportunities the circle track market has to offer, talk with the people who buy from you. These days, Furillosays, speed shops are “catering to a better-educated customer.”

And possibly a more patriotic one as well, notes Stacy.

“There seems to be a huge resurgence in buying American and supporting American workers,” he notes. “People are figuring out there are a lot of low-cost products that get put in nice packaging. This does not make them high quality.”

And Blackwell says it’s about the racing.

“The resurgence of Saturday night racing that provides good family entertainment for a good value (is a trend),” she says. “(Take advantage) of the existence of racing series that provide racers with an opportunity to gain experience and grow up in the sport. Great series such as K&N, Whelen, ARCA, WoO, PASS, Lucas Dirt Late Model, CRA and the revival of the Pro Cup series are providing career advancement opportunities.”

The Next Step

If you’re already anticipating the drop of the green flag for 2013, there are things shops can do now to prepare for next year.

One, suggests Furillo of JRi Shocks, is to “attend the end-of-season trade shows to get to know your customers better.”

Fragola’s Stacy agrees.

“Come to the shows and do your research. Ask the manufacturers if they truly do make the parts, or if they buy them and put them in their own packaging. Ask lots of questions on materials and quality. Ask how profitable a line is, and how it compares to their competition.”

While you’re doing your homework, CV Products’ Blackwell recommends brushing up on any changes that could affect product demand, particularly among your strongest core of racers.

“Check with the sanctioning bodies about rule changes or rule additions for the upcoming 2013 race season,” she says. “Take time during the off-season to learn about new products and how they could push you to the front next year.  A great place to do some hands-on research is at the various trade shows that take place in the off-season.”

She also suggests checking with your supplier reps directly on any changes or other information that might help.

It’s an important part of preparing your product lines for the new year, says Clark of RoushYates.

“Shops can prepare by offering a mix of performance products to service the grassroots market,” he says. “The product offerings are key. We work hard to create a one-stop shop that is dedicated to the racer.”

Full Circle

Our last question looks a bit into the future. We asked what factors will dictate a strong year of racing in 2013, and we got a number of different answers.

Furillopushes the basics, saying, “Strong brand recognition and superior customer service.”

Stacy believes politics may come into play.

“I think the election will play a huge role in what we see for 2013. We have to get back to a comfort level that people’s jobs are safe and our country is going in the right direction. We all know that racing is a very expensive sport. People have to be comfortable that their job will still be around in the next five years so they will be confident in spending their money.”

Clark agrees.

“The first factor is based on the economy. Our economy has recovered somewhat, but we need to get past the election campaigns and move in a positive direction. Another factor is the weather. Late winter seasons and wet spring seasons can delay the start of racing schedules at local racing levels. We feel 2013 is set for an exciting and prosperous year. We look forward to supporting all racers next season.”

Blackwell hits all the hot spots.

“Sanctioning bodies introducing new series that create excitement and growth in car counts, such as the PASS series introducing a Pro Late Model Series for the 2013 season,” she says as a major factor. “The payout amounts for the winners will help drive a strong year in racing-for example, the large payouts that you see in dirt racing. Lastly, the state of the economy and the cost of fuel will continue to play a large role with regards to getting racers and spectators to the track.”

The old saying about one door closing and another opening is applicable for this time of the circle track season. Customers are coming and going into shops. Will you be there for them?