Turn 2 Blog: Payout Structuring and Improvements in PPV Broadcasts

*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideDirtRacing.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the dirt racing topics of the day from east Tennessee and beyond.

The latest edition of the Turn 2 Blog is presented by the American Crate All-Star Series.

Richard: For the second time this year what was supposed to be a crown jewel weekend at Eldora Speedway was replaced by an invitation-only Pay-Per-View special event with no fans in the grandstands. Of course, this was brought on by the regulations imposed by state and local governments due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event was broadcast by subscription-based FloRacing.com.

While I want to get to the broadcast element of that and other races in a bit, I first want to touch on something that was said afterward. Tim McCreadie addressed the fact that this season has been a difficult one in terms of purse structures in the bigger events. Some of the crown jewel races have either been eliminated or reduced in payouts due to the fact that some tracks cannot have fans.

In his post-race interview on Saturday night, McCreadie addressed what he hopes to see when Eldora gets to host the 50th running of the World 100 next year(hopefully).

“I expect big things out of the 50th,” McCreadie told FloRacing.com with a smile that indicated his comments were, to a degree, in jest. “We lost a lot of purse structures this year. It’s the 50th, right, so maybe a hundred($100,000-to-win) and ninety($90,000) for second would be nice for a change. Really pay us what we’re worth. I know they do a great job, but man, when you have 50/50’s for more than what it pays to win, maybe we can scratch a few more in there once in a while.”

Obviously, the loss of fans cuts into a track’s revenue in every way due to the fact that tickets aren’t sold, concessions are sold, and advertising banners and/or race sponsorships aren’t sold. Of course, that limits the ability to pay out full purses as promoters and track owners have to rely on revenue from the broadcasts, if there are any at all.

I understand McCreadie’s point and I’m certainly not disagreeing with it, but there is a problem. If we are to the point in 2021 that tracks all over the country are allowed to have full grandstands again(and that’s no guarantee), there will not be some magical new flow of revenue that wasn’t there before the pandemic. Promoters in 2019 were not walking away from racing events with their pockets jammed full of money.

So at best, we are looking at a situation where putting everything back like it was before the shutdowns will be a challenge much less adding to the purse structures.

2020 has definitely hurt competitors from a financial standpoint, but it has hurt track owners, promoters, equipment suppliers, and numerous other aspects of the racing industry, hasn’t it?

Michael: The thing that struck me was prior to the Silver Dollar Nationals was when James Essex mentioned the $53,000 winner’s purse for that race was the highest in the country to that point. And it still is as of now. As you mentioned earlier, The Dream was replaced by a $50,000 to win race and there have been a number of other $50,000 to win races as well, including the North/South 100. McCreadie won both the Eldora race in June and the North/South. There have been plenty of big money races. It’s not like they racing for $10,000 to win every weekend.

And yes, the promoters in some parts of the country have been taking it on the chin. We’ve seen promoters cancel races, take a risk and hold races with limited fans, and rework the purse so racers will still have somewhere to race. We’ve been fortunate here in east Tennessee that all the big money races from late May until now have been held. Then we see places like Eldora that can’t have events with fans. It’s frustrating for a lot of people, including the drivers and teams.

It takes a lot of money to run up and down the road to race across the country. I get that. Complaining about money in 2020 when so many people are without work, dealing with health issues or can’t operate their own business comes off as bit self-centered especially when it looked like many of these events wouldn’t even take place 3 months ago.

Richard: McCreadie is correct to point out that there have been numerous races cancelled or restructured. The Knoxville Nationals, the Hillbilly 100, and the Show-me 100 were either lost completely or reduced in payouts on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the Prairie Dirt Classic was lost to the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series. Again, the promoters can’t really be blamed because the restrictions in place would have made it all but impossible for those races to take place.

It has no doubt hurt the race teams to miss out on those opportunities even if substitute events paying lesser than originally planned amounts have been inserted into the schedules.

My big concern going forward revolves around what the long term impact of 2020 is going to be. As we know, crew members are hard to come by for many teams because of low pay, long hours, and never ending travel. If teams were already struggling to find and pay their help, that is only going to be made worse by reduced income.

At the same time, the cost of the equipment being used by racers is not going down. If teams don’t have as much money to spend, they won’t be upgrading their equipment. That, in turn, could put suppliers out of business and employees out of work.

And more, how many tracks will we see that won’t survive a year with little or no revenue coming in? Some of these facilities were barely getting by as it was.

It could actually be a couple of years before we realize exactly how hurtful COVID-19 has been.

Michael: We’re already seeing those things in NASCAR and other forms of racing. There was talk the Indy 500 saw a drastically reduced purse. NASCAR drivers have already been taking pay cuts pre-Covid, there will be more of that before the start of the 2021 season.

As long as some states, cities, or even counties continue to have restrictions going into the 2021 season, I believe some hard decisions will have to be made involving scheduling, purses, etc. Maybe some events in the Midwest could be moved to closer to where the race teams are located. Maybe purses could be increased for the non-major events. Maybe series need to adjust their sanction fees to help out the promoter. These are just some examples of a few things to look at moving forward.

Richard: Changing the subject just a bit, the coverage of the Intercontinental Classic by FloRacing.com, I believe, took a major step forward in how dirt races may be broadcast in the future. In-car cameras and the use of drones during live coverage really added a lot to the show. Further, great pit coverage which included on-the-spot interviews and expert analysis by Randy Weaver made for an even better viewing experience.

NASCAR broadcasts have used some of these ideas for a long time but these types of innovations have just started to make their way into dirt racing. There are always going to be glitches and freezes in these internet-based broadcasts, for that matter, I get them on NBC Sports during NASCAR races. But I believe the media outlets that cover dirt racing have done an excellent job during this difficult time and I commend them for their work.

Would you have ever thought just a few years ago that we would see these types of high quality live broadcasts of dirt races?

Michael: No, I would have not. When Dirt on Dirt started doing a few races on their site, I wasn’t all that impressed with the production or video quality. Granted, it was something new and new things can start off a bit rough. Then the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series started broadcasting a few of their races on their own app and things have taken off from there.

Credit needs to be given to the tracks that have been able to add high speed internet to allow these broadcasts to be sent out. It takes an investment on their part to add something that, frankly, they’re not making a great deal of money on.

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