Back when Mickey Thompson first opened his Riverside event he felt all the sport needed was a place to display "the greatest show in the desert" to the general public. His gut feeling was that if fans only had to travel a few miles and have some of the necessary amenities that they wouldn't mind paying a few dollars for the entertainment. Today's events are a far cry from the original concepts where fans mostly brought their lawn chairs and provided their own refreshments. Today's specialty built venues provide fans with grandstand seating and a manufacturer's midway offering ready made off-road products as well as concession stands serving food and drinks. For those not able to attend the events they can take in all the racing action from the comfort of their own living room via professional TV productions.
History shows that Chuchua's Riverside event proved fans would pay to watch this unique form of off-road racing. Like all evolutionary things it has grown from a figure-eight track into a well organized format that thrills fans at major venues, at local events across America, and around the globe. There were many others that contributed to its growth. One might say Chuchua planted the seed that Mickey Thompson watered and nurtured into a unique form of motorsports. And once the sport's roots took hold others like, Vic Wilson, Rolly Yocum, Marty Reid, Jim Baldwin, Forest Lucas, Robby Gordon and many, many more like them were able to see the fruit of this endeavor and nurtured the sport's growth into an international phenomenon. See you at the races.
Here we are in 2021 dealing with the COVID issue. Before it was a financial meltdown that disrupted our sport and now we must deal with COVID. Due to COVID established series have dissolved and new series have stepped in to replace them. Today Championship Off Road, COR, has replaced TORC and the Great American Shortcourse GAS has stepped in for Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, LOORRS. We should not be alarmed as we have seen series promoters go in the past, only to be replaced and continuing short course racing into the future. It is encouraging to our future to look back at the strength of previous series and their future plans, before outside forces derailed them.
Back in 2015, the future of Short Course off-road was looking bright. There were three major series running, all with TV coverage, and reported fan attendance up all around. Both the LOORS and TORC series had firm footing and the SST series was maturing into a force of its own. With their unique traveling show SST hoped to introduce the sport to a worldwide audience. Gordon first introduced Canadians to his form of the sport at the Honda Indy Toronto event in July 2013.
Looking back at the beginning one sees short course racing took a while to identify itself. Things were a bit dim in the beginning as to what this type of racing was but it has matured into a unique cross breed of motorsports. From its humble beginning and powering through its troubled existence Short Course off-road today can be enjoyed from comfortable bleachers or via TV while relaxing in one’s living room. We have chronicled the beginning of Short Course’s main promoters and through their effort others have taken up the call and now promote Short Course racing worldwide.
Short course evolved from closed course off-road events several miles long into a more compact venue where fans could enjoy all the racing action. At the time all three of the major short course series, SST, LOORS and TORC, kept adding to their programs to ensure a bright future for short course fans for years to come. As far back as 2012 LOORS was planning for the future when then newly appointed series director, Ritchie Lewis, announced, “We are going to take a great motorsports property and make it even better.” At the time Lewis also said that LOORS future plans were on building new tracks in San Angelo, TX and at the Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, MO. One of the more recent commitments from LOORS was the addition of the Wild West Motorsports Park in Sparks NV to their schedule. And recently they have added a second event at that facility as drivers and fans like the purpose built facility. The track at 1.3 miles in length is the longest in the series and has elevation changes of more than 100 feet and offers fans great visibility. In 2014 LOORS also made changes in the customary program schedule by returning to a traditional grass-roots concept of Friday and Saturday night racing under the lights at six of their eight events. In December of 2014, LOORS announced their first ever race outside of the U.S. In August 2015 the series throws down south of the border to a purpose-built short course track at Estero Beach Resort in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. At this printing in all, over 80 hours of television coverage of LOORS events are scheduled on three networks – eight shows on CBS, 32 hours on the CBS Sports Network and 41 hours on MAVTV.
Format and new facilities were not the only changes occurring in Short Course. TORC continued to dominate the Midwest portion of the country but ventured out to open their season in Primm, NV. Besides venue changes TORC introduced a new contingency award program leveraging social media. The program was designed to leverage the reach of social media while facilitating management of awards and pay outs in the TORC series. TORC President BJ Birtwell said, “Managing contingency programs has historically been a tedious task involving a significant amount of time for fact-checking and paperwork. Our ‘TORC Tracker’ helps eliminate much of that work while also capitalizing on the exposure and impressions social media can generate for the brand. And it’s all measurable.” The program requires the driver to complete specific social media tasks in order to redeem the contingency award. Once the TORC Tracker recognizes the social media requirement has been completed, it automatically sends an email notifying the designated brand contact that the contingency payout/award should be fulfilled. The system also enables the review and audit of activity related to the account, including photos uploaded by the driver or team representative.
For those not able to attend live events TORC has partnered with NBC to air their 14 rounds of racing as well as some behind the scenes type documentaries to give fans more insight into the racers and crew. To further reach racing fans TORC announced Motor Trend, YouTube’s largest automotive channel, had signed on to stream live broadcasts of the complete 2014 TORC series. The channel has over 2 million subscribers. The partnership represents the first time that the Motor Trend YouTube channel broadcast “live coverage” of a motorsports series. Fans can expect a fully produced web broadcast that brings them all 14 rounds of racing from the 2014 TORC season. And being a web based medium fans can get racing replays 24/7 via Motor Trend YouTube.
TORC President BJ Birtwell said, “Sponsors can rest assured that, whether on a computer or mobile device, fans will be treated to a premium viewing experience that will elevate the awareness of their brands globally, as well as provide an additional messaging opportunity.” Chief Content Officer for Source Interlink Media, Angus MacKenzie, publisher of Motor Trend stated “We are delighted to bring the best in short-course, off-road racing to our viewer ship,” “We’re taking a very serious, best-in-class approach to distribute the most exciting content, and the addition of TORC reinforces that commitment. Their vision for off-road racing, mixed with an innovative digital and social media strategy is a perfect match for where we’re headed with the channel.”
In further expansion plans TORC was scheduled to build two new short course racetracks in 2014. A new track at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip saloon hoped to offer an estimated 600,000 new Sturgis Ralley fans to the sport. The other facility was being built at the St. Louis Gateway Motorsports Park near downtown St Louis, MO but the opening event had to be delayed due to extreme winter weather not allowing for the track construction in time for the May race date. So this date was moved to a second race date at Bark River International Raceway.
Although the new kid, the SST series has made some dramatic changes with their new partnership and their announcement to open their series on the international arena at the Clipsal 500 Adelaide race. Before the ink could dry on the Clipsal 500 announcement Gordon again surprised fans by taking his SST Trucks to the 2014 Race of Champions event in Barbados, introducing short course to the international racing community. The 25-year old ROC pits together the world’s greatest drivers from various disciplines and sets them free to battle head-to-head in identical machinery. Much like Gordon’s SST trucks. The 2015 series will hold events in eight U.S. markets as well as Australia and Canada.
This review shows that the sport is (was) strong. It is outside forces that have caused most of the series changes. We now have COR, Gas and many other series to take short course racing into the future.