Race Weekend Central

Dirty (Half) Dozen: Brad Sweet Playing High Limits, New Purses in 2023?

1. Brad Sweet Playing High Limits

Anyone seeking answers as to what the High Limits Sprint Car tour that Brad Sweet and Kyle Larson are building for 2023 is going to look like needs to watch an exhaustive interview Sweet gave to DirtTrackr earlier this week.

The series will not be racing on the West Coast, despite Sweet and Larson having taken over promotions at Silver Dollar Speedway this season. The tour will contest 12 races in 2023 for a $120,000 points fund in addition to the $23,000-to-win feature purses. The schedule is being built to avoid all conflicts with both the World of Outlaws and the All-Star Circuit of Champions.

And most importantly, Sweet, the soon-to-be four-time WoO champion, stated that an agreement has not been reached with the World Racing Group that would allow Outlaw teams to race High Limits events; Outlaw teams with platinum status are limited in races they’re allowed to contest outside the WoO schedule.

 

I don’t agree with everything Sweet had to say over the course of his interview and it’s very obvious his is only one side of a multi-side story. But there is no real rationale for sprint car teams not to have the same shot at big money mid-week that super late model drivers get, especially if there’s tracks ready and willing to host said events. 

The entrepreneurial spirit behind High Limits is admirable. And considering that over in NASCAR-land, Tyler Reddick, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick all acting like trolls is what passes for leadership and boldness, to hear Sweet speaking like an adult businessman about how to handle conflicts is very refreshing.

And it must be said, credit to DirtTrackr’s Justin Fiedler for doing a bang-up job conducting this interview. Watch the entire thing; it’s a fascinating look into sprint car racing from Sweet’s perspective as a driver/promoter. Would love to hear a second one of these with a major track owner.

2. High Limits Has to Figure the Streaming Piece Out, Like Everyone Else

Now, if there’s one place this interview fell a little short, it’s diving into the most critical piece of making these mid-week races work long term: streaming revenue.

As much as race fans have embraced Flo Racing Night in America with arms wide open, there’s a harsh reality about these shows. $22,000-to-win with at least $1,000 to start is a huge purse. Keeping the programs timely enough on a work night for most fans means cutting down on support classes, which reduces the number of pit passes sold. And selling tickets to midweek races means fewer traveling fans are going to attend. 

The already-slim margin for making money on a major dirt race gets narrower during the week.

What’s more, dirt streaming has become a major point of contention this year. Multiple DIRTcar Summer Nationals venues publicly stated DirtVision was not paying them a dime for streaming their Hell Tour races. Smoky Mountain Speedway’s promoter was openly critical this fall of streamers failing to share revenue with the racetracks they stream from depending on the touring series. 

And who can forget that Volunteer Speedway shut down (it did re-open later in the summer) one week after Larson’s late model program at the track drew the facility’s biggest crowd in decades and the largest viewing audience in Flo Racing history?

See also
Dirty (Half) Dozen: Volunteer Speedway Goes From Flo to Closed After Kyle Larson Late Model Challenge

Sweet on more than one occasion makes reference to pay-per-view money being a critical part of the High Limits tour without addressing any specifics or figures relating to said revenue sharing. Here’s hoping Sweet and Larson can make it work with Flo Racing. 

3. Disappointing Formats With Heat-Only Nights

It’s a huge weekend for dirt racing in my neck of the woods, with Port Royal Speedway’s Speed Showcase, Lernerville Speedway’s Steel City Stampede and Portsmouth Raceway Park’s Dirt Track World Championship all running multi-day events as the dirt racing season begins to wind down to a close.

Sadly, once again, Port Royal has distinguished itself from the pack with feature racing all three nights of its Showcase event.

Portsmouth and Lernerville? Their opening nights are heat races only. 

There is absolutely no reason for this. The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series has proven time and time again in 2022 that running prelim features on the nights leading up to an A-main provides compelling racing, as well as a full night’s program for race fans that can’t make it for the entirety of a multi-day event.

I only have Friday to be at the track this weekend and will be heading to Lernerville, as I’ve tried twice to go to my first race at this track only to suffer rainouts. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the facility and look forward to seeing dirt fly, but knowing the night’s going to end with heat races only is definitely tempering my expectations. 

4. DWTS Ticketing Policy Absurd

I don’t know that I’ve seen a more ridiculous cash grab at any level of stock car racing, be it dirt or asphalt, than the Dirt Track World Championship’s policy that fans seeking to attend racing either Thursday or Friday night are required to buy a full pass for the remainder of the DWTS programs. Translation: any race fan that wanted to spend Thursday night watching modifieds run their prelims had to fork out $70 to get a general admission ticket.

That’s beyond absurd. NASCAR even at its absolute worst back when I was covering the sport in the early to mid-2000s didn’t tell fans they could only attend the Gatorade Duels if they also bought a Daytona 500 ticket.

I can only imagine this is to make sure that the modified race teams and the fans they bring with them don’t duck out before Saturday, a night that comes with a huge cash outlay for Portsmouth Raceway Park as the late model winner alone is taking home $100,000. 

But if it takes literal hostage taking with ticket and pit pass sales to make the event solvent, the business model is broken.

5. New Approach for WVMS

Let’s get some good news out there. Despite suspending their 2022 season early, the rejuvenated West Virginia Motor Speedway will be opening in 2023, with its opening date announced that includes a super late model program.


The approach, however, is much, much different. Case in point, despite having super late models as the headline class, the purse for said race is coming in at only $2,000 to win, by far the lowest-posted winning headline feature the track has had since reopening in 2021.

Now, to the credit of the track, they’re balancing the purse out so that there’s a decent payday for drivers throughout the top 10, with the super late model purse dealing in $100 increments so that the 10th-place finisher will take home $1,000. 

Whether that’s enough to move the needle to get race teams to contest an event on a racetrack that at 0.625 miles is extremely tough on equipment remains to be seen. It’s good to see the track trying something different as opposed to a big-dollar, big-show approach that didn’t work out in 2022. Here’s hoping race fans still pack the hill on I-77 for said approach. Frontstretch will be there come April next season.

6. XR Debut Without a Figure Attached?

Also returning for the 2023 season will the great disruptor, the XR Super Series late model tour, which also announced its opening date for next season at All-Tech Raceway during Florida Speedweeks.

Now, one item that I was surprised to see not included in this release was a dollar figure. Because XR’s entire branding since the series was announced has been just how much money it’s paying out every time super late models take to the track. 

I’m excited that XR is coming back. For as many feathers as the tour ruffled with its entry into super late model racing, the money it’s paid out in 2022 and the pressure it’s put on other tours to up their game has been a welcome addition to dirt racing. And the fact that the series scheduled races at All-Tech in December to go directly against the WWE-caliber farce that is the Gateway Dirt Nationals will always earn it kudos in my book.

But I did find it surprising that XR didn’t have a purse announced with the return of the tour. It makes me wonder if changes are coming.

About the author

Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.

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Mike Kalasnik

Interesting about the WOO Dirt Finals. Ive been many times, usually just the early night(s) and I was never made to get a 2 or 3 day pass. Not a fan. However, Watkins Glen required this, at least in 2021. You werent allowed to buy a ticket for JUST the Xfinity race. You had to buy a weekend pass.

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