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Contact: Mark Bergfelt, Executive Director

mark@bergfeltracing.com

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This article appeared in the Fall 2008 American Muscle Kart, Volume 1 Number 3. It explains that the UAS was created to provide a marque class that even the general public will be fans of . It is intended to be used to promote the sport at large.

So, Who's Watching?

by Mark Bergfelt

So, just who is watching the Unlimited All-Stars? At this time in the history of UAS, a lot of people, but there needs to be many more to propel the UAS to a new level. At the present time it is pretty safe to say that a typical regional UAS race consists of 8 to 16 entries. In most cases, if presented correctly and the racers conduct themselves appropriately, that, plus a few other support classes, is enough to put on an interesting and entertaining show for the general public. Most UAS "national" events draw around 30 entries and that definitely is a good number to put on a great show. The UAS rules package, that combines a wide variety of engine types, and encourages all sorts of innovations, has produced a division where each machine is a unique custom creation. These are definitely not the 'cookie cutter" karts that fill almost every other division in kart racing. Couple with that the incredible speed of a UAS kart, speed that when mixed with the close competition that is typical of a UAS race, and you have the makings of a great show that a casual race fan, even the general public, will buy a ticket to watch.


Almost a decade ago I wrote an article for National Kart News, "The History of the Unlimited All-Stars". (http://www.unlimitedallstars.org/history.html) that explained my thoughts about where the UAS had been and where it is headed. I can't explain things any better now than the following excerpt from that article.


"In big car racing, i.e., sprint cars, late models, modifieds, street stocks, e-mods and etc., there is a definite difference in costs andperformance. Special shows are often held exclusively for a single division and guaranteed payoffs are advertised to draw the desired entrants. Promoters also advertise these events to the general public and as a result crowds of paying spectators attend these events making it possible to pay a good purse and still make a profit, (with out gouging the racers who are putting on the show in the first place) Unlike their big car counterparts, kart drivers are often not offered an incentive to move out of the stock classes into the faster divisions. Stock classes have become loaded with seasoned experts. New drivers are often frustrated during their first few seasons because they must compete with veterans who remain in the stock classes. As a result, a lot of new racers give up. This slows the growth of the stock classes. It also hurts the open classes. There needs to be an incentive for drivers to move into the faster classes.


Perhaps the biggest reason that karting events do not draw large crowds of spectators is that there are too many classes and the events are not run as a show geared to their entertainment. ... Certainly one class should be promoted and showcased as the focal point of special shows geared toward ticket buying spectators. That division is the Unlimited All-Stars."


There are promoters in karting that have been very successful at making money by holding marathon events that draw a hundreds of participants with 20 plus classes. These events usually begin early in the morning and often are not over until early the next morning. Sometimes those events will include the Unlimited All-Stars. It is true, that when the UAS heads to the track at those events, many in attendance stop what they are doing to line the fence and watch the action. That's good but the down side of that is that those spectators are mostly there because they are participating in another class, and an event like that will not appeal to a casual race fan or the general public. The excessive sameness of the multiple, follow the leader until someone punts someone out of the way stock classes will simply not hold the attention of a ticket buying spectator. At an event like that, the UAS is little more than just another class.


Quite often when racers discuss an event that they attended they will judge the quality of the show based on what happened to them personally. In some instances things did not go their way, so their individual judgment of the quality of the show was low. When things go well for that racer, that racer will tell everyone that it was a great show. The problem is that they are not judging the quality of the show from the standpoint of a casual spectator. A spectator, who wants to see action, may very well have exactly the opposite opinion about the quality of the show.


Racers often wonder why more sponsors don't step up to support their events. Once again, many racers are only viewing their racing activity from their own point of view and fail to see the picture the way a business owner, i.e., potential sponsor, would. Smart business owners are always looking for effective ways of advertising. They want to get their message out to the greatest amount of people for the lowest possible cost. When twelve guys are slated to race at an event where there may be a grand total of 100 or less total entries in all classes and few people just there as spectators, it is hard for a business owner to justify the expense. It's a little easier to entice sponsorship at events that draw more entries but even if there are 400 or more entries, most businesses can still get more bang for their buck running a classified ad in a major newspaper in their area.


A typical NASCAR race my start around 40 cars, 33 start at the Indy 500, 20 something typically start World of Outlaws event and Formula 1 events will have a similar number of qualifiers. Those types of racing have little trouble finding corporations who find value in using those events for effective advertising and promotional purposes. The reason for that is simple. Those events draw the attention of large numbers of people who will buy a ticket to watch those events. Please notice that the promoters of these events do not judge their success or failure by the number of entries. They judge it, in part, by the number of fans that walk through the gates. I really wish more karting promoters would begin to start thinking the same way.


At the present time it certainly is not realistic to expect a UAS race to draw the same interest of the general public as a NASCAR race but we are selling ourselves short if we don't recognize that as it is right now, a typical UAS race is something that most dads would be happy to buy modestly priced tickets to take their kids to see. With the co-operation of the various tracks and promoters on the schedule, and the addition of a little more showmanship, we could draw enough fan interest to get the attention of more advertisers. Actually, with enough ticket buying fans, promoters could really treat the racers right and make a nice profit as well and with enough people all in the same place at the same time, businesses taking advantage of presenting their wares to the crowd would be part of a win-win situation.

Back in the early years of the UAS, the main event was often started with a 4 abreast pace lap. That piece of showmanship was obviously copied from the World of Outlaws. We got away from that practice, some racers thought it was dumb, but it really did add to the show. Some of the other things that already add to a UAS show include the variety of engines. Many of the karts even sound distinctly different. Everyone has their own interpretation of how body work can be used to enhance the performance and that adds visual appeal even at a distance. The biggest surprise to those seeing UAS karts in action is the speed. Couple that with the usually close action, we really do have the makings of a great show for almost anybody.


One season, McDonalds, at the regional corporate level, was the title sponsor of the UAS. Part of the deal involved having karts on display at some of the restaurants as well as signage, decals, coupons and some other promotional items. This entire ordeal was a learning experience and the lessons learned is the subject of an entire article. The bottom line is that we lost the deal the following year because we budgeted too much of the funds to prizes for the racers and did not put enough emphasis on promoting our sponsor, so consequently they did not see anything added to their bottom line as a result of their support of the UAS.


There's at least one more point to be made that relates to the "who's watching?" question. How do you as a racer conduct yourself on the race track? Are you really giving room to other overtaking racers or do you think i's ok to cut off someone who has gotten along side of you. If your kart breaks down do you try to get into the infield or off of the track to avoid a caution flag, or do you sit in a stalled kart on the racing surface and proceed to throw a hissy fit. How each driver conducts him or her self on and off of the track has a lot to do with how people perceive the UAS. Showing good sportsmanship, and putting on a clean and exciting show that people will want to see and tell their friends about is an important goal of the UAS. So, just who is watching you? Actually, quite a few people and I hope many, many more.