Hailie Deegan, Sheldon Creed, and Mitchell DeJong all began racing at the grassroots level. After starting her career with two Trophy Kart championships in a regional off-road series, Deegan rose to become NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series most popular driver today. Creed, who raced against Deegan in the amateur series over a decade ago, has since won championships in ARCA, NASCAR Gander Outdoors, and Stadium Super Trucks, including an X Games gold. And, DeJong has progressed from racing go karts as a child to becoming the most winning track and SIM racer in the world with championships in karting, off road, short course, rally (including an X Games gold), Best in the Desert, Legends, and now also online iRacing.
All three rising stars began their off-road racing careers as youth in the Lucas Oil Regional Off Road Racing Series. Pros in all sports start young and progress from a feeder series. MLB has Little League. NFL has Pop Warner. Every sport needs to farm talent to grow, and racing is no exception. To keep motorsports healthy, the industry must train, feed, and groom future racers. If youth don’t compete, motorsports will lose competitors who are needed to create events and attract spectators. No events and no spectators mean no customers and no business, an unfortunate and unforeseen shift accelerated by Covid.
Covid ended many businesses and closed events, some permanently. When the flow of cash stops and the sponsorship well dries, only deep-rooted self-sustaining ventures survive. In 2020, the Lucas Oil Regional Off Road Racing Series was cancelled, but the community of enthusiasts rallied and supported the former series director, Lee Perfect, as he kept the feeder series alive under a new name. Despite withdrawal of funding from its corporate sponsor, the races continued as Great American Short Course series emerged from the passion of the grassroots community and amateur teams that fuel the industry’s growth. Dave Cole, who founded King of the Hammers, was quick to support GAS with media. Most teams that race KOH also race desert and regional off-road.
GAS fuels and feeds many types of racing, including Champ Off Road. COR’s popularity was evident during Labor Day Weekend, when over 60,000 fans congregated at the world-famous Crandon International Off Road Raceway. Crandon is legendary for its aggressive, action-packed, high-horsepower dirt racing. The non-stop weekend of racing progresses from amateurs in stock trucks to off road icons, like RJ Anderson, CJ Greaves, and Ryan Beat in Pro trucks. It’s not a coincidence that Anderson, Greaves, and Beat all competed in the regional series that Lee Perfect once directed and now has become GAS.
Companies and brands that want to market through off road racing, can’t go wrong partnering with King of the Hammers, Champ Off Road, and the Mint 400. But for these series to grow, they need talent with as much seat time as possible. During the worst year in history for racing—while the world was on lockdown—GAS had 210 competitors throughout the season, some as young as 6 years old. By the time these young competitors turn 21, they will have 15 years of experience—over two-thirds of their lives! DeJong, for example, who started at 5 is now 24 and has been racing for over 80% of his life.
As athletes stay fit by exercising, racers stay competitive by racing. Practice makes perfect and Lee Perfect gives them a place to practice—the new Great American Short Course Series. If you want motorsports to grow, please support local grassroots series. There are hundreds of great venues across the country. Find one that supports your business or customers and invest in it. With 2022 already here (I still can’t believe it), KOH starts in Johnson Valley in a few weeks, then the Mint 400 in Las Vegas, and the GAS season opener a week later in Phoenix on March 19. Tracks and grassroots events around the country are going green. It’s our duty as a united industry to keep them fed and growing.
To help motorsports grow, you must get involved today—before the first green flag drops. If you don’t know where to start, contact me and I’ll point you in the right direction based on the market you are trying to reach. Whatever market or series that is, PLEASE HELP MOTORSPORTS GROW BY SUPPORTING GRASSROOTS RACING AND RACERS. The industry and those who earn a living from it—like myself, my colleagues, and teams around the world—need your help now more than ever before. Covid changed a lot, but not the passion to compete and the will to win!
Thank-you for sharing this message with others who can make a difference.