Welcome to the 2019 Racing Season!

Notes from the desk of RE, Sam Fouse

The 2019 racing season is upon us and it will be busy!

Registration is already open for our March into Spring SARRC and multi-Enduro event at VIR next weekend, March 9th and 10th.

The first item of business to address is the changes we have to made to the Volunteer Incentive Program, popularly known as worker credits. After serious discussions with our accountant on the tax implications, and polling other regions in SEDIV, we have decided to adopt the same kind of system that other Regions in SEDIV use. No more keeping track of your days worked and sending in receipts at the end of the season. In 2019 and beyond, you will be reimbursed directly at the track that same weekend if you so choose, to the extent possible. Depending on when you register, in some cases your check may have to get mailed on the Monday following, so register early.

The next few items to address are the changes we have to make to our entry fees and schedules due to changes in the VIR contract and the ECR series. VIR has raised our track rental by a few percent points, as to be expected. Also, the 2019 ECR rules passed last fall were expected to discourage more than one ECR per weekend, so when we drew up the March and May schedules, that was the assumption we operated under. That has since been rescinded. For March and May, we are continuing to offer one 45-minute ECR on Saturday together with twin 45-minute Tarheel Cup Series races (one each day), under the umbrella label “Enduro”, for one price. We will also still offer the Atlantic Pro Cup option both days for an add-on prize fund contribution. The Enduro will still require one two-minute pit stop to meet all of the series’ requirements.

However, we’re also adding a new twist, specifically targeted at potential Runoffs drivers. If a driver would like to run in the 45-minute Enduro, and is willing to forego any series points and trophies, they may waive all series participation. This would exempt them from any required pit stop and they can go non-stop.

Yes, SARRC entry fees have gone up $5, but that doesn’t even cover the increase in track rental which is up 6% over last year. And though the initial entry fee has gone up, we have expanded the multi-race discount available for drivers who enter four races.  It’s now possible for drivers in most classes to get as much or more seat time at one of our regional events as they could get at a Majors. And we will have the same pricing in May as we do in March, even though the summer track rental rates go up substantially over the March off-season rate.

By now everyone knows that the SCCA Runoffs will be at VIR in October, and we will lose our traditional Goblins Go event date. But our friends in Washington DC Region still want to partner with us, so they have agreed to host two joint SARRC events at Summit Point, the first being the MARRS/SARRC duel in mid-June, and the second (for 2019 only), will be officially known as Goblin’s Go North and occur on Labor Day weekend.

Our Spring Sprints Super Tour will roll around again in April and under the heading of “careful what you wish for”, we have been told to expect 500 cars or more. That was the result of a drivers’ survey taken by Topeka and presented to us at the National Convention. What that means is that paddock space will be impossibly TIGHT.  There will be parking restrictions even for the participants of VIR’s test day on Thursday before the Super Tour. Spaces will have to be assigned during a Load-In period, ala the Runoffs, and we may have more than a hundred in the infield grass. Drivers who have them, may have to park their RV in a different spot than their race car. Load-In will be a huge challenge, so bring an extra load of patience. It will be a Runoffs atmosphere, complete with traffic headaches, etc. And because getting all these cars in overnight will be such a special challenge, we will be looking for many more volunteers to help us. We’ll have a special workday to help with Load-In beginning on Wednesday, April 10th, and yes, you will be reimbursed just as you would be for a volunteer effort on a race day. Details will be available over the coming weeks.

Then in May, we’re right back with our SARRC/MARRS duel with WDC Region drivers, which should result in another full house, and then some, as drivers visit to get seat time in preparation for the Runoffs. Expect overflow again.

And finally, we will be having a 2-day test day event at VIR August 3rd and 4th. This will be aimed primarily at Runoffs-bound drivers who want a simple shakedown event to test their cars, and improve their lap times, without worrying about points and series finishes.

I hope to see you all at the track. Now, let’s go racing!

Sam Fouse

Looking Back On 2018

January 1, 2019

One of the unofficial tasks of an RE is to communicate to the membership from time to time on the state of the Region. I’m not particularly good at this sort of thing, so maybe it’s just as well that I started this report on the last day of 2018, and am finishing it on the first day of 2019.

I’m not knowledgeable enough to report on much about the Solo program other than I know we have outstanding members, mostly in Cape Fear, doing a terrific job. Unfortunately, the RE job consumes disproportionate amounts of time with board meetings, conventions, VIR, etc. I rarely have time to race myself and I don’t have a proper car for Solo. We did however find a way to come together for one event in 2018. More on that later.

2018 in Review

In hindsight, 2018 was a mixed bag of positives, ending with some significant lows. As always, the circus began early in January with our Annual Banquet, and then was followed quickly in succession by the National Convention, the SEDIV Convention, and then three races in three months. It all goes by in a blur and before you know it, it’s mid-May. It’s a torrid pace that no other region in SEDIV attempts to do… probably for good reason.

The big item at the National Convention for us was that the Runoffs were coming to VIR in 2019. Everyone knew it, but the Region contingency was asked not to tell anyone. We tried to honor the request, then Topeka released the news shortly after the convention without giving us a heads up. Can’t say that we were particularly happy about that.

There was also a discussion with SCCA Club Racing at the Convention about using Virtual Safety Car at the Runoffs at VIR. We spoke vehemently against it and followed it with a letter outlining why it was a bad idea, since we are the only place that’s used it, without any definitive way to implement it, nor enforce it. Weeks later, Topeka came around to our way of thinking. Until such time as there exists a uniform national rule and a device to communicate with drivers in-car, there will be no VSC at the Runoffs, nor at any of our events.

About two weeks after the National Convention, we made our way to the SEDIV Convention. One of the more significant items to come out of that was something that occurred at the Sunday RE breakfast. Heyward Wagner discussed a possible new-format Time Trial event, possibly to be held at CMP and asked if any regions might be interested in co-sponsoring it. I didn’t have a clue about anything called ‘Time Trial’, but I figured if it was new and Heyward was involved, NCR needed to be in on it, so I raised my hand. For a few weeks it was just NCR and SCR. Atlanta eventually joined in and the event was held Memorial Day weekend with a lot of help from our Solo leadership and a contingent of our own workers. The event turned out to be a huge success and I believe we actually got a check for about $500 as our share of the surplus. NC Region has a long history of being a leader, and we want that to continue. We’ll be back in 2019.

In March we held our usual ‘thumb our noses at Mother Nature’ March Into Spring. Despite the intentionally misleading name, it’s actually held in the winter in the second wettest month of the year in Danville. Although the event almost never breaks even, in 2018, it actually broke even … I think… I hope. We did have a special race group for Spec MX-5 cars, a new semi-pro series partially sponsored by Mazda. They put on a good show and they returned with us again in May.

Less than a month later was our Spring Sprints Super Tour Majors. Folks, hands down, this is our biggest, most financially important event of the year, every year. It pays the bills for so much of our annual expenses, that without it, we’d have a hard time breaking even on everything for the year. The only activity from which we can produce income is racing, and this event provides significantly more funding than all of our other racing events combined. We have averaged over 300 cars (the equivalent of 600+ regional entries) each of the past three years, but 2018 was off slightly as were most Majors on the east coast due to the Runoffs being at Sonoma. Expect that to explode in a significant way in 2019.

In May we raced again with our friends from WDC Region and the event was another success. WDC region has always been one of our closest partners in SCCA, and they are the source for much of our own origins as a Region. Little did we know at the time that SARRC/MARRS would be the last race we would hold in 2018.

Unfortunately, since the summer break, we have had several setbacks, but none has been more devastating nor harder to absorb than the loss of Buddy Matthews. His untimely loss was a shock that we will not recover from for quite a while, if ever. Buddy was involved in so much of the Region’s operations from past RE, Chapter Coordinator, Board member, Chief of Tech, co-founder of and ECR committee member, and the list goes on. He was the force behind our building a scales facility at VIR and that was his primary domain. He always attended Board meetings, and was usually one of the first to get there. It was awkward not seeing him at December’s Board meeting.

He was viewed by some who didn’t know him as a bit abrupt at times in Tech or in the Scales Room. More than once I had to smooth some ruffled feathers of a driver in impound, but I knew that it was just Buddy’s nature to be direct and no-nonsense in that environment. One on one he was soft-spoken and polite, with a sense of humor. He was always thinking ahead and was already planning for the Runoffs. His knowledge base went back decades, including as a driver and car owner. We all knew that eventually he would have to retire from the front lines, but were content to let it be on his terms, and not like this. He will be sincerely missed.

By now, everyone knows that we had to cancel our Goblins GO event, not just once, but twice due to the most inclement weather imaginable. I was at VIR on Thursday night in October when the hurricane deprived VIR of power, and I was there on Friday morning when they pulled the plug due to inevitable rising of the Dan River, which eventually flooded portions of the track. It was the right call. The hurricane flooded Highway 58 into Danville. Parts of Danville and Roxboro were without power for most of the weekend, which would have made travel and lodging for most of our participants uncomfortable if not impossible. Kerrigan Smith, the CEO of VIR, was kind enough to offer us a make-up date in early December, the first weekend that VIR was not already rented. He gave us the most favorable rental terms imaginable and agreed we could cancel up to the weekend before without penalty.  This turned out to be unfortunate in the extreme, because the worst winter storm of the season hit the weekend of our make-up race and we would not have been able to use the facility at all on Sunday. Our heartfelt thanks go to VIR for their understanding and generosity on this occasion.

In the meantime, we used paper ballots to vote for the last time. A record number of respondents voted to update our Bylaws to permit electronic voting, and we held the first-ever electronic vote to elect our officers for 2019. And then it was on to the Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner, in Wilmington this year, to put the cap on 2018 and kick off 2019 with a bang. Many thanks to the Cape Fear Chapter for hosting that event, and to Elizabeth Severt for chairing it for us.

Look for future updates from me on the 2019 season. It will be dynamite, with exciting racing, awesome solos, and perhaps even a time trial event of our own.

— Sam Fouse

My First RE Report

by Sam Fouse, NCR Regional Executive

Date: 17 Feb 2016

I’ve been reading these things for almost forty years and now it’s my turn to write one.
Okay, here goes.

After becoming RE at the Annual Banquet on Jan. 9th, it suddenly hit me that from this point forward – everything’s my fault. I also quickly realized that I was about to embark on a crash schedule for the next three months. Here’s just the first 30 days:

  • January 9: Annual Banquet, Wilmington.
  • January 17: Comp Board Meeting, Greensboro
  • January 19: Board Meeting, back to Greensboro
  • January 21-24: Fly to Las Vegas for SCCA National Convention
  • Feb. 3: Triangle Chapter Meeting, Raleigh
  • Feb. 5-7: SEDIV Meetings, St. Simons
  • Feb. 9: Breathe. It’s only been 30 days. Alright, get back to work!
  • Feb. 17: Board Meeting, Durham

And the above schedule doesn’t include the phone calls, endless hours behind the computer, the e-mails, spreadsheets, etc., etc. Still haven’t cashed my first paycheck (TIC) – haven’t had time. I think this is where I’m supposed to insert an emogi.

By the way, before I go any further, let me give a shout out to our Office Manager and Newsletter Editor, Bruce Dover. On more than one occasion I’ve sent him an e-mail at 2AM, and got a response in minutes! This man is 24/7, literally, and we could not function if it were not for Bruce. So give him a thank you the next time you see him. And tell him I said duh-huh.

So here’s my report on the National Convention. Damned good thing I took notes.
It all went by in a blur.

SCCA National Convention, Las Vegas Jan. 22-23, 2016

Four Board Members represented the Region and split up to attend various sessions in order to maximize the takeaway: Myself as RE, Mike Spencer as Asst. RE, Rex Deffenbaugh as past RE, and Mark Senior, also as past RE and Triangle Chapter Coordinator.

I tried to focus on Marketing-related sessions and I can tell you that SCCA National appears to have finally gotten the message. There were multiple sessions on marketing and promotion, social media, and even the keynote speaker topic was hospitality. Looks like they finally get it.

The most impressive of the presenters for me was Heyward Wagner, who now has a title I can’t fully grasp, but it has something to do with ‘experiential’ which I think means he’s into anything and everything you can interact with via SCCA. I learned lots of tips and tricks regarding e-mail advertising and social media, and have passed most of it on to our Marketing Committee. It gave me an insight into how important social media is and how big of an asset Facebook can be for very few dollars. Blair Deffenbaugh is our social media guru and to him this is not news, but all of us need to understand and become a part of his social media campaign.

The keynote speaker was Chris Robbins (not to be confused with our Chris Robbins), Senior Program Lead for Southwest Airlines and the topic was Hospitality. He gave two definitions that were the core of his message.

  • Customer Service: the minimum expectation. You just did what you were supposed to do.
  • Hospitality: exceeding expectations to the point that customers will spread positive opinions of you and/or your organization.

He suggested we view our Region as a business: Our customers are our drivers, both within and outside of the Region; our employees are our volunteers; and our shareholders are the general membership of the Region (all 750 NCR members). Our volunteers are the face of our Region. They are the ones who are responsible for the opinions others form about NC Region. Both we and they have to remember that.

I attended a session titled Building Your Region for Success. There were several presenters, but for me the one that resonated was Jim Weidenbaum, Oregon Region and Area 13 Director. His entire presentation was one page but it was core stuff, complete with an acronym, SWOT to help us focus on what’s important:

Strengths
Weaknesses
Opportunities
Threats

Think about how that acronym relates to your own area of contribution to the Region’s success.
There were lots of other gems on that page and I will share it in another newsletter article.

I also attended a session titled Planning for Majors Success. There were some takeaways from this session that we can and should put some of them in place immediately for our upcoming Spring Sprints. They include:

  • Put a paddock map in the drivers’ packet and on the backside have the track-related facts such as camping, electric, jack stand pads, fuel restrictions, etc. In other words, the VIR-specific rules.
  • Have two helpers available at the victory stand to assist national
  • Have a race car at the Saturday night social (or a sponsor’s car)
  • Have a radio show or local radio station broadcast from the event.
  • Also, Majors–branded SCCA merchandise is available from SCCAGear.com (Rick Poore) at cost for Regions to mark up and sell. I talked with Rick and we may be able to do this via consignment.

By the way, we are required to provide a photographer and a victory circle announcer for this event.

It was also suggested that we not encumber the 90% who ‘get it’ trying to legislate for the 10% who don’t. This is a suggestion we could apply to all our events.

The RE Breakfast was on Saturday hosted by Rick Myers. Some tidbits to share:

  • New members can get a weekend membership for $15, or $45 for a year (first year only).
  • New method for buying a weekend membership is via mm.scca.com, and can be used on smartphone or tablet.
  • Demographics: We are now 47,000 members and growing at a 4.2 % rate. Our average age is 45. Solo adds more new members than club racing, but the retention level is lower, so our composition is currently 55% racers, 38% solo, 7% other.
  • Easiest way to change by-laws to allow e-voting is to simply change wording to specify that ballots will be delivered by a specific date and not specify the method.
  • Live Saturday support from National during race weekends is being discontinued. If we you don’t like it, let your voice be heard!

On Friday I attended a session on the Greenpower program www.greenpowerusa.net, an interesting educational tie-in with STEM. It deserves an article of its own.

On Saturday I attended a session on New Programs including Track Night, Bracket Enduro, etc. It too deserves its own article.

Lastly, I attended sessions on Conflict Management (Stewards) and Risk Management.

The highlight of Saturday evening was the banquet. It was MC’ed by Greg Creamer. He does an incredible job. Two of the several inducted into the Hall of Fame were names you’ll all recognize: Randy Pobst and Roger Penske. Roger especially impressed me.

Roger started out as a racer in college and enjoyed sponsorship from a Chevy dealer in Philadelphia. After winning four SCCA National Championships, and while working as an employee of the dealership, he was faced with a choice many of us have had to make: career or racing. He was offered the chance to buy the dealership and with money he borrowed from his dad’s retirement nest egg, he started what later became the Penske empire. The catch was that GM told him he had to stop racing because it was disallowed as a dealer/owner, so it was either business or racing. The rest is history.

I also had opportunities all weekend to meet other RE’s and SCCA people from all over the country. I cannot put into words the value of the knowledge and future worth that those connections could mean. Those are things you can’t get from an e-meeting.

That’s it for now. Hope to see you all at VIR.