The cost of racing a 410 or 360 sprint car has escalated at an alarming rate over the last several years. This high cost, and lack of available sponsorship money has driven many drivers and team owners out of sprint car racing altogether. Drivers and team owners may end up racing modifieds, street stocks, or nothing at all when the sprint car money dries up. This has led to shrinking sprint car fields at many tracks, and caused some tracks to drop sprint cars from their programs. However, there is a growing movement to make sprint car racing affordable again, for the masses.
The growth of 305 sprint car racing across the country seems to be gaining some new momentum as racers and promoters alike, see that it can be an affordable and exciting alternative to 410/360 sprint car racing. Sanctioning bodies, such as the RaceSaver Spec 305 Series, MidWest 305 Sprint Cars, ASCS 305 Series, United Rebel Sprint Series, Midsouth 305 Sprint Car Association, and many local tracks are giving drivers a place to hit the dirt in their 305 sprint cars.
Promoters at Jacksonville Speedway in Illinois are launching a 305 sprint car class at their track, and hope to experience the same success that many tracks have had with these budget sprint cars in the past. To get a better idea of why drivers, car owners, and racetracks might want to get into 305 sprint cars, we interviewed someone who is very familiar with sprint cars racing and 305 sprint cars. Ken Dobson is a promoter at Jacksonville Speedway, as well as the Series Director for the Midwest Open Wheel Association, owner of a 410 sprint car, and is also in the process of building a 305 sprint car.
Read our interview with Ken Dobson below.
One Dirt: What makes 305 sprint car racing more affordable than a 410 or 360 sprint car?
Ken Dobson: “The basic cost difference for the owner is the expense and longevity of the engine, the quality of parts needed to be competitive, and the tires,” Dobson explained to us. “A competitive 410 or 360 engine is not only going to cost more to build, or buy than a typical 305, but it has a much smaller window between needing freshened than a 305. Not to mention that with 410s, you are going to have more component failures based on how hard you are pushing the limits of the engine and the technology within them.”
“Another important factor is that a guy can get away with more used, or older parts on a 305, than in a competitive 410 or 360. The cars are heavier with higher minimum weights and the need to spend money on newer, lighter parts is reduced. That doesn’t mean that a guy can’t spend just as much on a 305 roller, as he does on a 410 or 360. It just means that he can generally be competitive without doing so. Finally, the 305 isn’t going to be as hard on tires, due to the lower horsepower, which should result in substantial savings for most racers. All of this holds true for a small bullring type track like Jacksonville. I’m not vouching for the same degree of savings at tracks where horsepower is more of a deciding factor.”
“There are also a large number of older drivers that have gotten out of the sport for various reasons that are now just looking for a way to enjoy the sport. Without the 305 class, we see several of them get into fendered cars or modifieds just to have something affordable to race locally. The 305 gives them another avenue for competition and enjoying the sport, without having to commit to a competitive 410.”
OD: But, how do 305 sprint cars attract new drivers to the sport?
OD: What challenges face 305 sprint car racing as a whole?
Dobson: “Keeping the class affordable so that it can fill its intended niche. We need to be careful about the ‘big fish in small pond’ syndrome, where a guy starts throwing money at a 305 thinking it’s going to make him a star. When a driver has become talented enough to regularly win in the 305 class, and has enough invested in his 305 operation to be a consistent winner, it’s time for him to move up and race with the 410s. At our small track, I want a guy to be able to buy a $5,000 roller, and a $5,000 engine, and with some talent behind the wheel, be competitive. When someone in that situation is no longer competitive, the class will no longer be serving its purpose.”
Dobson’s answers confirmed many things that we believed about the viability of 305 sprint cars, and opened our eyes to several new. It is encouraging to see how 305 sprint cars are actually giving experienced 410 sprint car drivers and team owners the chance to help the future generation of drivers get involved in the sport. It is giving them the chance to “recycle” their slightly outdated sprint car equipment, by putting 305 engines in their old backup cars and getting other family members, friends and even crew members behind the wheel.
We had not realized the huge step that a driver takes from a MICRO sprint to a 410 sprint car. These 305 sprint cars give drivers a great chance to build experience and acquire equipment, before making that step to 410 sprint cars.
It looks like 305 sprint cars are giving promoters a great new way to attract new fans to sprint car racing, as a whole. High purses have led to high ticket prices at 410 sprint car events, and most likely have kept some fans from coming out and enjoying the races. The lower cost of promoting a 305 sprint car show can lead to lower ticket prices for fans to come out and enjoy the great racing, while hopefully making them fans for life.
Here at OneDirt, we wish nothing but the best for Jacksonville Speedway, as they launch their 305 sprint car class for 2013. And, we want to encourage race fans everywhere to get out and enjoy the grassroots 305 sprint cars at their local tracks.