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Old 08-21-2006
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Lightbulb Improving the National Championship

I've been meaning to post a thread about improving the Skip Barber National Championship for a while, so today's the day.

I love the Skip Barber system, working there, and racing there. I've done and still do both sides of the fence as an instructor and a customer. I will forever be grateful for what the Skip Barber National Championship did for my career and for my friendships. But, I still want your perspectives.

What do you think would make the Skip Barber National Championship better?
I'll give you some starter questions. No need to answer them all, and you can make up your own response.

1. What does it need to sell more seats?
2. What amenities does it have that are good?
3. What amenities does it lack?
4. What is the right price point?
5. What feedback or rumors have you heard others from other series say about the National series, good and bad?
6. If you have raced Nationals, what brought you to the series? How has it helped you?

Please offer POSITIVE and negative feedback. We should know what we are doing well, and what we should improve.

Thanks for your help.
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Old 08-23-2006
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Lightbulb Re: Improving the National Championship

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerardo
I've been meaning to post a thread about improving the Skip Barber National Championship for a while, so today's the day.
I have been meaning to respond to this since you posted it yesterday, so today's the day.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerardo
1. What does it need to sell more seats?
TV coverage, if Speed covered the Nationals it would help tremendously. Get the nationals to run the same schedule as the Mazda Pro series, and have Speed cover them, or pick another series and follow then, but the key is to always run with a televised series, and work out a TV deal with them.

If that is just not possible, then have 2-4 people with Camera shot all the races, pay Doug to edit it up and post the Races for download on the web. You can have 2-4 drivers per race that will get a free helix in car camera, and that can be edited in. I know it's a lot of work per weekend. The series needs that type of exposure, for the kids and their sponsors.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerardo
2. What amenities does it have that are good?
Feedback, feedback, feedback. The best ( the only without your own engineer ) in the industry!
Limited liability
Arrive and Drive, no transported needed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerardo
3. What amenities does it lack?
Pit babes and umbrella girls... seriously
I am really not joking here....

And again, TV coverage.

and again, again, Pit babes and umbrella girls...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerardo
4. What is the right price point?
A full season of around 50K is a great price point. But look at the Mazda Pro series, it costs MUCH more that that and they have ~38-40 cars per event. Why does the Nationals only bring in 15? under half the number of competitors makes no sense. We should have 30+cars per race! We should have so many people wanting to run that we set a max limit and have it so you have to qualify to run.

Whatever price brings in good talent drivers in larger numbers so that the Nationals are recognized as an important step in open wheel racing in the US.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerardo
5. What feedback or rumors have you heard others from other series say about the National series, good and bad?
I have seen at least one other series claim that running Barber is >300K per year. You and I know that they are referring to the old Pro series, but someone else might not, make the prices well known!

All of us who race Skippy KNOW that it's the best value in racing, from the Instructors feedback to the (relatively) equal cars, to the ( from a budget perspective the most important) limited liability.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerardo
6. If you have raced Nationals, what brought you to the series? How has it helped you?
Haven't yet, but probably will run at least 1 next season. ( to learn by fire )
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  #3  
Old 08-23-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

1. A Television package would be great for drivers trying to find sponsorship.. When I tell people about how affordable Skip Barber is for how much the driver gets out of it they always tell me that the cars are no good, but now with the new cars I'm sure that'll change though.

2. The pricing is very affordable, the feedback is great, the tracks are the best in the country, and the shootout definately attracts the best karters in the country (Joel Miller ICA West Champion, Kyle Wiegand ICC East Champion).

3. Television package, if possible it would be great to have everyrace as a support race to a professional series, and a program where the drivers can buy their own bodywork for the season to permanently color in a title sponsors colors.

4. As of right now for some karters it would be cheaper to do Skip Barber than karting so its perfect right where it is.

5. Everyone rates the series very highly, the only negative is the cars and the preparation of the cars. I asked some of my fellow go-karters what they thought about Skip Barber when they did the shootout and most of them said some cars were better than others.

6. I did one National race in VIR because it was a support series for the Rolex Series and it was in SunTrust's footprint. I also am doing Skip Barber because it is the most affordable way to learn and become comfortable in a racecar and people rate Skip Barber very highly. It has helped me to understand the basics of a racecar and a lot with race-craft.
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Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stirling
TV coverage...
Oh man, the Skippy cars would look so incredibly slow on tv! Also, buying the airtime is very very expensive, and then there's the cost of producing the programing...
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Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

I have no direct involvement with the National Series nor any knowledge of the aspirations of its drivers nor any particular understanding of the racing world. With that said, I would still hypothesize that the biggest problem of the National Series is the lack of a direct and structural link to the top of a ladder such as existed only a few years ago: National Skippy to Barber Dodge to Champ Car. Would an AJ Allmendinger today choose Skip Barber as his path to the top? The $100,000 prize should obviously play a big part in one's thinking, but apparently for many it has not been sufficient. You net $50,000 but you still need to find some other series to prove yourself.
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Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Quote:
Originally Posted by Duncan
Oh man, the Skippy cars would look so incredibly slow on tv!
All depends on the editing.... lots of incar shots of people battling and it doesn't look so slow, now a fixed camera up at the brat stand at RA that shows the cars going between 6,7, and 8 would make them look very slow. It's all in the production.
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Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Terrific thread, raising issues I've not thought about.

The National Series racing is intense and the series has certainly produced racers for more senior series. For once I'll support the RT-2000s as ample machines for generating a prooving ground for advancement. I'm puzzled that the field seems small given the remarkable value of the opportunity with cars as equal as possible, superb coaching and the best racing venues. Perhaps reestablishing the link with CART would or IRL would help. We can still see the shadow of the CART decals on some trucks and that's a lot more positive for me than the vague new SBR marking on the Vipers.
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Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

I'd say the onboard from anything less than a pro Mazda or Atlantic looks pretty slow, and they need to be on a pretty tight course to really give much impression of the speed, and even then it doesn't really show how fast they're going. The most important tool for an editor trying to make a Skippy car seem quick would be the fast forward button :P

YMMV of course
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Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stirling
Pit babes and umbrella girls
I second that.


And Dom has a good point. Associate yourself with Champ Car again, try to get events at more of thier venues, and make the entire schedule at spectator events. It doesn't make much sense that a professional series competes when a track isn't open to the public.
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Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dom Bastien
Would an AJ Allmendinger today choose Skip Barber as his path to the top?
Dom, this is an excellent question and in some ways defines the debate. On the other hand, there are some really great drivers who have emerged in the past couple of years (i.e., post-Barber Dodge) and who are competitive with the racers who chose other routes. The names who come to my mind are Bonilla, Andretti, and Varsha, but others more knowledgeable will be able to add more names.

My points are two-fold. First, perhaps more recognition needs to be given to the drivers who did go the Nationals route and who have had success. Their backgrounds are rarely mentioned on shows such as the Star Mazda races. Second, someone should find out why someone who is intent on advancing in racing chooses a route other than the Nationals. If there is anyne on the TJR site who is in that position, a reply would be very insightful.
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  #11  
Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

I would agree that a renewed affiliation with a major series would benefit. The new car that will look more like the current generation race car migh help get that affiliation.

I would also suggest for that an affiliation to happen that Skippy would need to present larger fields. That could be accomplished if the 2 national championship were combined as 1; the current national and masters'.

The company needs to get a price that would be reasonable for the masters' who, unlike the kids, would not be competing for $200K in prize money.

A combined series would provide regular 25 to 30 car (or more) fields with some pretty aggressive racing and great entertainmnet at major events.
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  #12  
Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Do they actually pay cash, or is it a credit of some kind
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Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Duncan there was a TV package for the Pro Series 1995.
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Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Not only was there a TV package for the Pro Series, but I remember when it was actually on TV! That series was a whole different kettle of fish than the National series is though, both in terms of the equipment and the costs involved.
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  #15  
Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

The speed of the R/T's doesn't have to be a detriment to TV coverage. If you have a large field, intelligently placed camera angles, enough in-car camera's to showcase wheel to wheel action and intelligent informed announcers who know the series and the participants... you could make Yugo racing exciting. Heck, ESPN used to show big rig truck cab racing from australia and it was a hoot for all the reasons just listed.

ESPN and Speed made hour long shows with legends cars and smaller slower hybrids that looked like go karts with mini stocker bodies on them running in a tiny circle on the front straight at Charlotte Motor Speedway. If they can make that stuff exciting on telelvision the R/T's (or more preferably their replacement) would be a breeze.

The key issue is having a big field. Star Mazda has huge fields that (when they aren't crashing) are always exciting to watch and its not the raw speed that makes it exciting. It's lots of drivers fighting for an advantage in equal cars on challenging courses.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Duncan
I'd say the onboard from anything less than a pro Mazda or Atlantic looks pretty slow, and they need to be on a pretty tight course to really give much impression of the speed, and even then it doesn't really show how fast they're going. The most important tool for an editor trying to make a Skippy car seem quick would be the fast forward button :P

YMMV of course
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Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

exactly what Pat said ^^^.. they used to air the formula mazda races when they were still the tube-framed cars, pretty identical to ours, and with about 170HP.. Because the commentary included Johnny O'Connel, a past FM grad it was interesting and the racing was exciting. And RICKYT, please don't perpetuate the "my car isn't AS equal" whining. NOBODY else does as good as a job equalizing 20-60 cars on any given race weekend. IF you want you car tested ask is what I say.... but if you make a habit of it, the real problem will be readily apparent.

I've driven and raced cars that were SLIGHTLY off, and I say it makes you a better driver. So drop the cleanex and race !!! I feel I speak from well-rounded experience as a race series mechanic, a customer, AND as an instructor. I always thought it was funny to watch time after time, go-karters make 2-3 changes at a time, against instructors recommendations, and then complain about the car. Then when a tester drives it, he puts everything back to baseline and lays down FTD...
and yes TV TV TV... !!!!! But that cost big $$$$$$$ and right now there seems to be higher profitibility in the investment in new programs like the HP programs... BUt hopefully that will follow soon also.. Also back when the Champ car afffiliation disappeared I HEARD that it had something to do with tha fact that Paul G and the rest of CCWS wanted OUTRAGEOUG $$$$$$ from Skip to keep when it was virtually a free mutual beneficial arrangement before.. I could be wrong but, thats what I heard.. anyway...
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Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

I totally agree. Many people watch racing for the close competition... Hence much of the NASCAR oval racing craze. Fast cars are cool, but after awhile, if there isn't any wheel-to-wheel action, many people feel you're no longer watching a race but rather are watching fast cars driving around a track.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dalyduo
The speed of the R/T's doesn't have to be a detriment to TV coverage. If you have a large field, intelligently placed camera angles, enough in-car camera's to showcase wheel to wheel action and intelligent informed announcers who know the series and the participants... you could make Yugo racing exciting. Heck, ESPN used to show big rig truck cab racing from australia and it was a hoot for all the reasons just listed.

ESPN and Speed made hour long shows with legends cars and smaller slower hybrids that looked like go karts with mini stocker bodies on them running in a tiny circle on the front straight at Charlotte Motor Speedway. If they can make that stuff exciting on television the R/T's (or more preferably their replacement) would be a breeze.

The key issue is having a big field. Star Mazda has huge fields that (when they aren't crashing) are always exciting to watch and its not the raw speed that makes it exciting. It's lots of drivers fighting for an advantage in equal cars on challenging courses.
One of the problems we have in American open-wheel racing- as we have discussed before- is the split in the top-level series. This confused many fans and, ultimately, allowed NASCAR to gain strength more quickly than would have otherwise occurred, thus taking potential sponsors/money away from road racing in general.

This leaves drivers with a difficult question: Do they continue to pursue road racing, or do they "go oval," where there seems to be a better chance of "making" it. I myself have this very dilemma- especially since most of my contacts are within the oval ranks, but that's another discussion... Main point I'm getting at is, if the National series can get larger fields with close racing- aspects that many not-so "Hard Core," fans like- and maybe that TV coverage, or at least the downloadable races, the series would gain popularity. CART and IRL ironing out a deal couldn't hurt either.
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  #18  
Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

1. Maybe, instead of a Pro Series, Skip could field a pair of Pro Mazdas. One for the National Series champion and the other for a promising National driver. This way, the champion will have a ride in a bigger series for the next season, rather than money and a job hunt. Skip could also bring in a few instructors to watch and give feedback to their team.

2. ALL National races NEED to be support races. Not just with Champ Car. Run with ALMS, Grand-Am, F1?, maybe even a NASCAR road race. The National drivers should be exposed to team owners in all types of racing.

3. If Skip doesnít open up the checkbook for a big TV deal, thereís no reason we couldnít have a short, little "weekend recap" during Speed News. Plus, I know a guy whose dad works for Speed. Maybe he could pull some strings.

4. Though, Pit babes might be a bigger improvement than all of these things.
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  #19  
Old 08-24-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

This thread is very interesting and Bobo should be given credit for having the forethought to ask some tough questions. Bobo obviously cares enough to solicit opinions from all of us to try make the series survive successfully.

Guys like Gerardo are what the Skippy Series has as its most valuable asset. We need more of this positive energy used in the development of all the levels of the series. As a regional series racer who has seen a large amount of change in the relationships that the series fosters between it's sponsors, customers, suppliers, and track owners over the last five years, it makes me wonder how we continue to prosper at times. It can't be just the money issues that get in the way. Then again perhaps I am just too naive.

Please don't take this the wrong way but the powers that be need to be better at listening to the customer and in fostering long lasting relationships with the vendors and suppliers. Depending on your perspective, the "customer" can be defined in many ways. The customer can be the National driver, the regional driver, the equipment manufacturers, the other series' , track owners etc.

We have a lot of talent in the training, coaching, mechanical and support staff. These individuals are the back bone to the success of this series. In my mind the experience these individuals have provided to people like me is what has made this series a great experience.

They do a great job and understand the issues more than management seems to listen to them at times. The series management has not been the best at nurturing their customer relationships in order to develop loyal customers and suppliers that will survive low points in the economy or when the series needs outside support and understanding.

I know that many of the sideline viewers of our web site are people who I have defined above as "customers" and some are the management that may be pissed at what I am saying. I invite you all to come off the sidelines and talk to each other openly, more importantly to listen to what is being said instead of defending against well intentioned constructive criticisim. This doesn't happen enough.

Perhaps I am naive to think that getting better at listening to the needs of the customer, paying attention to the relationships the series relies on in the equipment manufacturers, track owners etc...is the key to a more successful business model. Some how I don't see how racing and managing a successful series is any different than a lot of other businesses.

Here is my suggestion...SBRS at both the National and Regional levels should develop an advisory council that is made up of customers from all of its different series. There should be periodic meetings to discuss issues and ideas as to how to improve the series and programs that SBR offers. There could be meetings that develop ideas and areas of concern amongst the customers and then joint meetings with management could take place where action plans are developed that focus on customer input. Additionally, suppliers and manufacturers could be involved at some levels. Membership on these councils should take place on a rotating basis so that there is a varierty of perspectives over time.

SBRS has a great history and offers a great product overall. One of my old mentors and bosses once told me.." When you stop getting better, you stop being good". In order for SBRS to survive and succeed we need to get better at what we do.

On the other hand, forget everything I just preached on this soapbox, the umbrella girls will solve everything!

Last edited by LimeRockRacer; 08-25-2006 at 07:12 AM.
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Old 08-25-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

LimeRockRacer, you make too much sense. All excellent points.
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  #21  
Old 08-25-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Thanks John. I wonder what the reaction will be from others. I know there are many drivers that feel the same and want to see this series prosper. Many just remain silent and hopeful.
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Old 08-25-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Chris, VERY well said. Personally I will be one of those that remains silent on the issue, but I too am extremely interested in hearing what others think. If this particular discussion develops further, I think it should be moved into it's own thread.
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Old 08-25-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Back to the Nationals... I think the biggest problem is the R/T 2000 itself - it's ancient and has no sex appeal, and anyone who's looking for a proper ladder series or a step up from the regionals knows it.

I think the kids who do the Skippy Nationals are there primarily because of the low cost and the prize fund. While Skippy provides incredible coaching (which is an attraction for many Nationals kids) others provide it now as well - Formula BMW has grown very quickly (average fields of 24 cars or more, in only 2 years) with a very sexy car, a strong driver coaching/development program, and without any TV deal. And the cost is twice as much as Skippy. Star Mazda, which regularly fields 38 or more cars on each weekend for only one race, costs FIVE times as much as a two race Skippy weekend. And the prize fund is... zero. (edit:sorry, I was wrong - see JP's post below)

Skippy is also losing the fast older guys to series like Star Mazda. The reason behind that is clearly stated - it's all about the car. So much so that these guys are willing to pay the huge price difference. They don't need or want a prize fund, either. Plus, the kids and the Masters are increasingly separate on the schedule, so there is a social separation and limiting factor now as well.

If Skippy actually pulls the trigger on the new car, they have an incredible opportunity to transform the series. Blend the Master's Nationals in with the kids (with different pricing & no prize fund for the Masters - how hard can that be? Previously stated arguments to the contrary make no sense to me) and you'll have huge fields that are highly marketable.

If there is no new car, IMHO the series will slowly (or quickly..) shrink away, with only price (and cost) cuts being able to retain customers and keep the series going. And that's not a good thing...

S

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PS - Bobo, you are awesome... thanks for all that you do, and for how much you care.

Last edited by sydude; 08-25-2006 at 01:35 PM.
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  #24  
Old 08-25-2006
Jeff Rodrigues Jeff Rodrigues is offline
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Re: Improving the National Championship

If the car counts are that low and there is no new car or new series association on the horizon then a "televised" National Champion Race might be an alternative.

Disolve the National Championship as we know it now. Continue to run your regional series with so many of your top finishing drivers being able to advance to the National Championship Race. Also there would be a couple of "at large" picks that could be thrown in. Select a track (hopefully during a pro weekend with television cameras already there) and run a single or double race that would deterrmine your Skip Barber National Champion.

If you then had another rung up the ladder beyond this it would only go to help further the cause. Money, rides, testing, etc...

I see the Skip Barber system best utilized as providing the needed race experience and if we can throw in the "exposure" that is a great perk. Trying however to guarantee a direct path into professional racing isn't realistic, there are just too many uncontrollable factors to face.

Have fun,

Jeff
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  #25  
Old 08-25-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Sy, in the the Pro Mazda Series there is a prize fund that pays at the end of the year. $100,000 plus a Mazda RX8 for the winner down to $15,000 for 15th place in overall points. There is no seperate prize money for Masters or Experts. No prize money per race like IPS does or the old Barber Dodge Pro Series did.
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Old 08-25-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Quote:
Originally Posted by jp56
Sy, in the the Pro Mazda Series there is a prize fund that pays at the end of the year. $100,000 plus a Mazda RX8 for the winner down to $15,000 for 15th place in overall points. There is no seperate prize money for Masters or Experts. No prize money per race like IPS does or the old Barber Dodge Pro Series did.
whoops... I did look carefully (not carefully enough..) at their website before I wrote that, and couldn't find anything. But I stand corrected. Thanks, JP.
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  #27  
Old 08-25-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

They don't advertise it, but it's in the rules. You have to look hard to find it. Most of the kids sign their winnings over to the team owners as part of their deals.
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  #28  
Old 08-25-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

It would be interesting to see what would happen on the economics (largely dependent on field size) if Skippy were to combine Masters' & kids and split the difference between the current prices for each series while retaining the same prize pay out. The lower cost might attract more kids and everyone would be eligible for the prize money just like in Pro Mazda where prize money appears to be wholly dependent on one's overall (class independent) finishing position.

The break even would be a 30+ car field. For the Masters', the fewer race schedule would offset the increased cost. Granted, there is less seat time, but one can always elect to run regional races too.

The alternative is separate pricing, but no prize money Except maybe some Skippy $) for the Masters' - I don't think anyone really cares about prze money anyway.
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Old 08-25-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

I made a mistake on the Star Mazda rules. This is it here;

Based on year end overall points. 1st- $100,000 plus a new Mazda RX8, 2nd-$70,000, 3rd-$50,000, 4th-$40,000, 5th-$35,000, 6th-$30,000, 7th-$27,000, 8th-$25,000,9th-$22,500, 10th- $20,000, 11th $18,000, 12th- $16,000, 13th-$14,000. 14th- $12,000, 15th- $10,000. The highest placing roookie gets an additional $10,000
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Old 08-25-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Personally, in the Mazda series I liked the prize money although I was in the last money paying position last year. I gave it to my mechanic, engineer, and coach anyway. It was a team effort
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  #31  
Old 08-25-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Interesting idea, Dick
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  #32  
Old 08-25-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Here is my suggestion...SBRS at both the National and Regional levels should develop an advisory council that is made up of customers from all of its different series. There should be periodic meetings to discuss issues and ideas as to how to improve the series and programs that SBR offers. There could be meetings that develop ideas and areas of concern amongst the customers and then joint meetings with management could take place where action plans are developed that focus on customer input. Additionally, suppliers and manufacturers could be involved at some levels. Membership on these councils should take place on a rotating basis so that there is a varierty of perspectives over time.

I think we've got the forum right here on TEAMJUICYRACING.COM. Thanks to all who started, nurtured and now sustain it. Much of value on TJR already comes from SBR staff. Senior management participation would be welcome!
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  #33  
Old 08-25-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

We've been pushing the specific idea of a customer advisory council for several years now. We have talked to sr. management about it on multiple occasions.
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  #34  
Old 08-26-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Quote:
Originally Posted by dlippert
We've been pushing the specific idea of a customer advisory council for several years now. We have talked to sr. management about it on multiple occasions.
and???????
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  #35  
Old 08-26-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Well, it would appear to remain a topic of less than wholly enthusiastic discussion.
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  #36  
Old 08-26-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

If we want an advisory council we should organize an agenda and discuss it with Aaron, George and Todd. Keep it simple.
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  #37  
Old 08-26-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Making it formal stifles sponteneity and select invitation limits participation. An open forum is obviously riskier - but more robust in first amendment-like openess - and also more likely to have energy and greater honesty.

Communications that are somewhat indirect (e.g., in the old days letters, now email, voice mail, or phone) are less fettered by heirarchys. We get more discloser regarding sexual functioning, alcohol and other drug use, and suicidal thoughts with direct patient-computer interviews than with face-to-face human interviews.

I'm impressed by the value of many contributions by TJR participants and hope senior management at SBR use them to advantage.
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  #38  
Old 08-27-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

If we could get the national on TV and promote it as a highly competitive alteranative to Champ Car or F1 (but not IndyCar), we'd achieve success. Passing is the key, no matter how quick the cars.

OK, I guess drivers also are important. Who wouldn't want to see Schumcher v. Tracy (v. Duerson) is equal cars? I know I would (and I'd put my money on Craig).
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  #39  
Old 08-27-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Quote:
Originally Posted by rgreist
OK, I guess drivers also are important. Who wouldn't want to see Schumcher v. Tracy (v. Duerson) is equal cars? I know I would (and I'd put my money on Craig).
Add Roland, an unknown to RSC and Tracy. After he takes them out, Craig could cruise.
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  #40  
Old 08-27-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

John, your comments on an advisory council are almost identical to my suggestion. Dick says this has fallen on deaf ears many times prior. I wonder what the reluctance is? Fear of what the customer is thinking has got to be overcome for the series to get to the next level...National and Regional.
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  #41  
Old 08-27-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

John & Chris,

I agree that this forum allows a healthy exchange of ideas from every corner of the customer base and I’m all for it continuing.

On the other hand, Aaron & George don’t publicly acknowledge or support this site and if they do check it for the pulse of their client base we don’t know about it or what they think.

No matter what we come up with here there is no assurance that decision makers at the other end will actually see or respond to it. I find that frustrating and dispiriting. Some straight up face-to-face meetings with a positive agenda would go a long way to promoting communication and supportive understanding for both sides.

An advisory council's only authority is to advise and facilitate the flow of positive ideas between those selling the race series and those buying it. I doubt the world’s highest priced consultants with exhaustive focus groups would produce better feedback and good will (at virtually no cost) than the head decision makers having occasional meetings with thoughtful loyal customers.

If picking the brains of some of the intelligent business and creative talent currently using the product isn't perceived as a worthy endeavor to further help the race series grow and prosper what is?

Keep TJR cooking but have a few sit downs as well. My 2 cents.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Greist
Making it formal stifles sponteneity and select invitation limits participation. An open forum is obviously riskier - but more robust in first amendment-like openess - and also more likely to have energy and greater honesty.

Communications that are somewhat indirect (e.g., in the old days letters, now email, voice mail, or phone) are less fettered by heirarchys. We get more discloser regarding sexual functioning, alcohol and other drug use, and suicidal thoughts with direct patient-computer interviews than with face-to-face human interviews.

I'm impressed by the value of many contributions by TJR participants and hope senior management at SBR use them to advantage.
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Last edited by dalyduo; 08-27-2006 at 03:48 PM.
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  #42  
Old 08-27-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Pat,

Organizing sit downs is like getting a critical mass together for a nuclear reaction. Seldom the optimal mix or timing and at race weekends, thoughts are often focused in the moment.

As you note, "Aaron & George donít publicly acknowledge or support this site and if they do check it for the pulse of their client base we donít know about it or what they think. No matter what we come up with here there is no assurance that decision makers at the other end will actually see or respond to it. I find that frustrating and dispiriting."

TJR is a grand opportunity for senior management to communicate effectively and iteratively, with their customers. Most of us are traveling less for business because of the hassles involved, but doing more business because of wonderful information technologies. Several staff of SBR have used TJR website to communicate very effectively with customers, to everyones' benefit - but not senior management.

Oh well.
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  #43  
Old 08-27-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

John, Pat, and Others,
Sometime this summer, Aaron told me that he prints out all (and he emphasized ALL) of the survey responses that Skippy receives from customers, and he goes through them en masse so that he can see trends, patterns, particular issues, etc. These surveys are the ones that each driver receives a few days after participating in a race weekend. If people are not filling these out to pass along comments, that is a missed opportunity.
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  #44  
Old 08-27-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Quote:
Originally Posted by WatertownNewbie
John, Pat, and Others,
Sometime this summer, Aaron told me that he prints out all (and he emphasized ALL) of the survey responses that Skippy receives from customers, and he goes through them en masse so that he can see trends, patterns, particular issues, etc. These surveys are the ones that each driver receives a few days after participating in a race weekend. If people are not filling these out to pass along comments, that is a missed opportunity.
I competed in several weekends last year and never once received a survey to fill out. Plus, in my opinion, I don't think that surveys will help all that much in this case. A verbal discusssion about what the customers like/don't like and want/don't want is what is needed. Survey questions can't get the answers that Skip Barber needs. What do I know though, I'm probably wrong.
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  #45  
Old 08-27-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Surveys are one-way.

Iterations via TJR website are multilateral and permit refinements - not to say all TJR discussion is refined.
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  #46  
Old 08-27-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

One has to be careful what they wish for. I imagine, SB management wants to know what we think. But engaging in a free form discussion, on our turf, with no rules, is a recipe for disaster.

How many of you would want all of your customers to get together in such a forum and tell you how to fix your business?? No company would ever do that. You can't win.

There are better venues for customer interaction with management.
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  #47  
Old 08-28-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

MIKE hitting the nail SQUARE on the head
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  #48  
Old 08-28-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

Surveys don't do it. They are one sided and only get answers ( sometimes) to the questions asked.

We are not suggesting a free for all meeting here. In my industry we actually have these councils with the companies we represent and they work real well. Where they work best is where management and customers exchange ideas and concerns in a regularly scheduled meeting off-site and out of the pressures of the normal workday.
We have also been members of advisory councils for our various computer systems vendors. These vendors develop their systems and improve them around what the customer tells them. This is how they stay the leader and fend off competition.

We are not suggesting unionizing nor a threatening format here. This is a positive suggestion to make the series more customer focused and to get a forum to get some open and honest feedback going to and from the customer and the series so that we all win.

Having guys grumble during a race weekend or walkaway and not come back due to frustration is detrimental to everyone involved. As Sid so eloquently reminds people..." Guys don't leave by themselves....they take their friends with them...."

If guys as committed and tenured to our series as Sy is, are reluctant to speak up on concerns then how much feedback is really making it to the people who can make us better?
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  #49  
Old 08-28-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

If I may interject. There are two separate issues.

1. Customer Satisfaction with the SBRS products and services. Surveys, if they are properly conducted [e.g., provide statistically reliable and projectable results] are the only way to go. No one wants a few vocal customers to drown out the majority of customers. Surveys can be supplemented with follow-up interviews to flesh out any issues. However, these surveys are quite expensive to run. My view is that SBRS has done a good job with surveys which are conducted after each and every race week-end. The SBRS surveys are not statistically reliable, since the respondents are self-selecting and the responses self-administered but if the response rate is in the 60 to 80% range and comprehensive, they will provide over time a pretty good answer as to customer satisfaction.
2. Then, there are focus groups, ideation sessions, customer advisory councils, whatever. This is a useful tool for management. But one has to remember that only management has the full picture, starting with all the financial metrics of the business, and its desired objectives for the business. Therefore, often a customer’s opinion is nice but not necessarily well informed nor relevant to the realities of the business. And speaking of customers’ with not necessarily well informed nor relevant views, my personal opinion is that the core target market for Skip Barber is the racing hobbyist—someone who enjoys the whole Skip Barber scene; who is looking to develop skills, enjoy the competition, and have fun. The aspiring professionals in the Nationals are just passing through on their way to something else [e.g. no repeat business], and they bring very little profits if any to Skip Barber [costs must be very, very high]. But they are an absolutely essential component to the whole Skip Barber image, a loss leader if you will. Without the Nationals, long term there is no real “racing” in Skip Barber Racing. Skip Barber [the man] went the whole way [with Barber Dodge] to establish Skip Barber company racing credentials [and apparently losing his shirt doing so]; my sense is that the current owners are trying to figure how little they can get away with. The new car is going to give us a pretty good answer as to what that is.
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  #50  
Old 08-28-2006
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Re: Improving the National Championship

We're dealing with different models of doing "business." In medicine, arguably the most conservative line of business, we gather every datum we can as the stakes are so high, even though we "bury our mistakes." This detailed approach is reflected in the aphorism, easily spread to other businesses: When all else fails, ask the patient.

Other models are often advocated and applied. The military does things its way in combat for good reasons - though we all rankle at the carry over to military chicken-shit in non combat settings. Most buggy whip manufacturers and railroaders never saw changes coming with their heads in dark places. Sid's ways work wonderfully for the Mechanic's fund, but I don't think he's claiming success with senior management.

As I reflect on this thread, started by Gerardo, containing a full range of good and other advice and wishes, offered by concerned and caring customers, I'm struck that only John Pew among the racing owners has joined in. Others plenty wise in the ways of business haven't. I'm going to decathect hope for a paradigm shift in management style.
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