The disconnect between NASCAR and Grassroots Racing, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart comment

Kevin Harvick: “When I look at our hardcore fans, they’re all sitting at those short tracks and they’re mad.”

Kevin Harvick is a major spokesperson for grassroots racing. Yesterday, he picked up his latest NASCAR win. However, Harvick’s main discussion point after the victory wasn’t NASCAR but the short track racing side of the sport.

Harvick feels a disconnect between NASCAR and grassroots racing and he wants to fix it. He couldn’t be more correct about the disconnect.

“If we can shed some light on those particular series and build them to where they need to be. Building everything from the grassroots up. I love the grassroots part of our sport.”

“I’ve been mad at Sperber here for a couple years now. He won’t have the K&N cars come race here because it doesn’t help his budget. In the end, without those grassroots fans and those grassroots people coming and being able to race here.”

Bryan R. Sperber is the Track President of ISM Raceway. Sperber has been the president of the Phoenix facility for 15 years.

Kevin Harvick at ISM Raceway
Kevin Harvick at ISM Raceway (Photo: Stewart-Haas Racing)

“Whether it fits your budget or not, 10 years from now, you better hope you have your ass — people that will sit in the stand up here and wanting to watch these races that are at these short tracks.”

“Those are your hardcore fans. Those are your grassroots fans. One of the best things that happened for racing, it’s not just about NASCAR — One of the best things that used to happen for racing was when we had the ‘Copper Classic’ here.”

“We had midgets, we had sprint cars. It didn’t matter how many people sat in the grandstands. But as competitors, those guys, this was their Daytona. On the west coast, this is what we thought our Daytona 500 was. This is where everybody wanted to race.”

“It’s kicking those guys low on the K&N West Series that they don’t get to race at this particular race track. Because of the fact that there’s a little bit of a pissing contest between a budget and what is right and what is wrong from a sanctioning fee side on trucks and Xfinity. So, they cut the K&N guys out.”

For years, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West schedule opened at Phoenix Raceway. In 2015, it was moved to the finale on the schedule. For 2016, the track was removed from the tour.

“Cutting the grassroots side of things out is not the right way to do things. Those guys, they just want to race. This is a crown jewel race for those guys.”

“The thought process for me, is broken. When I look at our hardcore fans, they’re all sitting at those short tracks and they’re mad.”

“They’re mad because they don’t have a Winston who is supporting these short tracks, like they used to. Winston used to infuse so much money into all these short tracks around the country. And that’s what kept it going. That’s what kept people showing up to these race tracks because there was point funds.”

Before that, NASCAR in itself used to be short track racing at one time. However, as the sport grew, so did that tracks. One by one the short tracks were replaced with the 1.5-mile tracks. The very tracks the grassroots fans love to hate.

“When we had the Copper Classic you had TV out here. Everybody could get sponsors and they’d show up to race and they’d come from all over the country. There’d be 70-80 Southwest Tour cars and a truck race to lead off the year.”

Kevin Harvick has won the last 3 NASCAR Cup Series events, in a row. He’s also currently holds a seat at the table in the NASCAR Drivers’ Council. In those meetings, Harvick’s primary focus in those meetings is the discussion of grassroots racing. It’s something that was applauded by Steve O’Donnell a few weeks back.

In June 2017, Kevin Harvick ran the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma Raceway. He drove to victory lane.

In 2018, Kevin Harvick win run the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Kern Country Raceway. That track is near Harvick’s hometown and the race will run be run two days from now on March 15th.

Kevin Harvick wins at ISM Raceway
Kevin Harvick wins at ISM Raceway (Photo: Stewart-Haas Racing)

Tony Stewart

Tony Stewart is deeply embedded in the short track side of the sport. For Tony, it’s the dirt.

He runs about 50-70 dirt track races per year in his dirt sprint car. He also fields a full-time car driven by Donny Schatz, who won the 2014, 2015, 2016 and now 2017 World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series titles.

In addition, Tony Stewart is a dirt track owner. He is the proud owner of Eldora Speedway, a track that has attempted to merge the NASCAR world with the grassroots world via the ‘Dirt Derby’, a NASCAR truck series dirt racing event.

“Bob Bahre was probably the best at that. Bob Bahre used to bring in series that I promise you, he lost his butt on. He probably paid more guys tow money to come race at his race track than he ever brought back in revenue,” Tony Stewart, the car owner of the #4 joins the conversation.

Bob Bahre was the former owner of the then named New Hampshire International Speedway. In 2008, he sold his track to Speedway Motorsports Inc. Bahre moved on from racing to purchase the largest home in the state of New Hampshire at 29,000 sq feet.

NASCAR K&N Pro Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
LOUDON, NH – JULY 11: Ben Rhodes, driver of the #41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet, races during the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Granite State 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 11, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ben Rhodes

“But, he realized how important it was to the region. And how important it was to the teams and drivers. Like Kevin said, the Copper Classic, I ran 2nd to Mike Bliss here. That one race got me a huge opportunity to drive for some really big teams.”

“Now, you don’t have things like that. But, we can afford to spend $170-million to move the front stretch from there over to there for — I still have no idea what and the hell the reason for that is.”

“So yeah, I guess we probably can’t afford to run any support races here that cost the track some money.”

Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Rodney Childers at the ISM Raceway start-finish line in 2018
Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Rodney Childers at the ISM Raceway start-finish line in 2018 (Photo: Stewart-Haas Racing)

Kevin harvick picked up the win at ISM Raceway on Sunday. After the race, it was Tony Stewart’s idea to take the photo above at the start finish line of the Phoenix NASCAR track. When NASCAR returns, the start finish line will be moved to the dogleg portion of the track.


Related: Dirt Racing is a growing threat to NASCAR

Related: Kevin Harvick set to return to short track racing

Related: Steve O’Donnell discusses Harvick’s passion for the grassroots level

Related: Kevin Harvick wins the NASCAR Pro Series race at Sonoma


Kevin Harvick | Tony Stewart | Stewart-Haas Racing | ISM Raceway | NASCAR