It’s the time of year when racers don their fire suits and hit the tracks, slinging dirt and gobbling up pavement.
Spring is in the air and green flags are about to wave. Race cars are ready to roll off the trailer-some with rebuilt power plants, others freshened up and fine-tuned.
If your shop caters to circle trackers, now’s the time to prepare for what those racers will need once the starting grid is set. We asked a group of oval track product manufacturers their thoughts on the upcoming season, and how speed shops and builders can help land their customers a podium finish.
Where to Start
With a new season come new products. So, what parts are available that might offer a competitive advantage?
“Our Q-Series Circle Track carburetors are the most popular ones in our product line, with the Q-750-CT being the number one seller,” notes Bill Wetzel of Quick Fuel Technology. “The Q-Series are available in gas, methanol and E85 versions, and are offered in 650- to 1,050-cfm sizes.”
Key features, he explains, include billet throttle bodies with slabbed, Teflon-coated shafts for smoother operation, billet aluminum metering blocks for more precise fuel metering and specially designed wedge-shaped floats to control fuel slosh in the fuel bowl. The floats are made from Nitrophyl-M material, which is methanol resistant.
“The latest addition to our circle track lineup is the SSR-650-CT 650 cfm, mechanical secondary carburetor,” he adds. “It provides all of the same features, and is designed for traditional crate motor engines.”
From carburetors to lubrication, Lake Speed Jr. of Joe Gibbs Racing notes that oil advancements will also be hitting the track this season.
“Our XP9 delivers the high-temperature shear stability that modern circle track engines demand. As suspension has improved, engines are being worked harder. XP9 provides increased protection for heavily loaded engines,” he says.
A unique base oil formulation lowers oil temperatures in high-rpm engines while maintaining solid idle oil pressure, he explains, and the blend is the first racing oil that uses new synthetic base oils developed for wind turbines that provides greater stability under extreme temperatures.
“In fact, this new Ultra High Viscosity Index base oil is in our KRT karting oil as well as our MX1 wet-clutch racing oil,” he says. “Both of those products are designed for entry-level circle-track racing in karts, Quarter Midgets and mini sprints.”
Speed is important on and off the track, says Ryan Disterheft of Allstar Performance.
“We have a new Rapid Install Quick Change Gear Cover that is really innovative. It is a quick quick-change cover. The unique design holds nuts in place and allows you to remove them quickly and perform the gear change without dropping the nuts into the lube pan or on the ground,” he says. “This feature saves racers valuable time when it really matters. It’s made from billet 6061-T6 aluminum and is offered for Winters and DMI quick-change rear ends.”
And Peterson Fluid Systems’ Wade Moon says, “Our oil filter mount with built-in engine oil primer is by far our hottest product. It is a standard remote filter mount that features a built-in primer that can be operated with a standard cordless drill to make sure the engine is never started without being primed with oil.”
So, with the Daytona 500 having already been raced and local tracks across the country preparing for another year, what’s the business outlook for the 2012 oval track season?
“It appears 2012 has gotten off to a fantastic start,” Speed says. “We are looking forward to a very strong year. We have several new products for circle track racing.”
Disterheft sees positive signs so far as well.
“The 2012 season looks to be a really good one. Speed Weeks is usually a pretty good indicator for the dirt market. Most tracks during Speed Weeks had really good car counts and the stands were full as well. The buzz from Speed Weeks seemed to be really upbeat and positive. Hopefully, this will carry into the start of the season when other tracks open.”
It appears car counts should be strong.
“I think it is going to be a great year,” says Moon. “We are seeing more interest and activity than we have seen in the last three years.”
And that means bigger crowds, too.
“Local tracks will see an increase in attendance due to the increased cost of fuel,” Wetzel predicts. “Traveling will be curtailed to other venues due to this impact.”
Yes, gas prices are expected to be among the outside factors that may affect the circle track market in 2012.
“Fuel prices and weather are going to be the biggest factors,” notes Disterheft. “Last year, most of the Midwest had a very high amount of rainfall early in the year. This caused quite a bit of early season cancellations. For most dealers, it seemed like the selling season started four to six weeks later than normal. High fuel prices could also have an impact on the overall racing market. If fuel prices continue to increase, it will eventually start to strain the racer’s budget.”
“We see gas prices having the greatest influence. Rising fuel costs are hampering racers’ ability to travel and the number of races they can participate in.”
Turning the corner, we asked our sources why speed shops should be optimistic about serving circle trackers this season.
“Speed shops should be optimistic as car counts are rising and there are many new racers coming into the sport,” says Moon of Peterson Fluid Systems.
And that means more racers will need the knowledge and expertise their local speed shop can provide.
“Racers will depend on speed shops for more advice, and the ones that carry the right parts will benefit the most,” notes QFT’s Wetzel. “The speed shops that keep up with the latest technology have a leg-up on competitors. It is important to know your market, your local demographic and cater your products to meet this target market.”
Do your homework and understand the changing needs of local racers.
“New products that provide greater value to the racer give speed shops something new and positive to talk about,” says Speed of Joe Gibbs Racing. “People like to race, and products that make things work better are good for the market. Oils that last longer mean fewer oil changes, and that leads to fewer trips to dump waste oil, etc. In the end, you have more time to do the fun stuff with your race car.”
And be prepared to work within their budgets to help them get to the track and compete.
“With the economy still being in limbo, a lot of circle-track customers are not buying new race cars. This means they will be spending money to update or refurbish their existing cars and equipment,” says Allstar’s Disterheft. “This is a great opportunity for local dealers to sell parts that may have been purchased directly from the chassis manufacturers. Even though the chassis manufacturers may not be selling as many new cars as they usually do, they can also see a benefit in the area of service work from customers wanting to update or repair their existing chassis throughout the year.”
Best for Last
Lastly, we asked for ideas dealers could use for success in the 2012 circle track season. Many of the suggestions should make a real difference for speed shops.
“Have seminars and open house days,” says Speed. “Education is the key to keeping guys racing. People do better when they know better. Education days and open house days provide a great way to build excitement for the upcoming season and show off all the new products.”
It’s all about putting the racers first, says Disterheft.
“Customer service is one of the most important factors in success. With customers having to stretch their dollar, it may take a little more time and thought to see what is going to provide them with the best results on a smaller budget,” he says. “Successful dealers have a good understanding of what circle track racers need on a weekly basis. It’s important to have these items in stock. If you don’t, they will be forced to get them elsewhere. These parts normally include items that are maintenance-related or parts susceptible to damage during wrecks and other wear items.”
Having the products in stock is a key point, Wetzel believes.
“It is important to have an adequate supply of small parts available for racers and to service local tracks. This can represent a significant revenue source for dealers,” he explains. “Dealers not only have to carry sufficient quantities of small parts, but also the right parts. The racer has the alternative of buying parts directly from parts trailers at the track.”
With competition from the Internet and elsewhere, having what they need, when they need it will help keep racers coming back for more.
“The most important thing dealers can do is have stock on the shelf,” says Moon. “It is hard to sell what you don’t have. Doing some research and having the knowledge of what kind of racing is predominant in your area can make sure you have the parts people need, and you’re not filling your shelves with stuff that won’t move.”
And moving fast is what the circle track market is all about.