World of Outlaws Lake Ozark 2020 (Brad Plant Photo)
World of Outlaws Lake Ozark 2020 (Brad Plant Photo)

COVID-19 Creates A Roller-Coaster Season

Following a successful return to racing, weekly competition resumed two weeks later for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series. The schedule was announced only three or four weeks at a time through the middle of the summer before the second half of the year was solidified. Dates will continue to be subject to change throughout the remainder of the campaign.

“I’d be lying to think we don’t worry about this day by day,” Carter said. “We’ve been thrown many curveballs and we’ve been able to adapt. Unfortunately, our West Coast fans are the largest losers this fall with us not being able to go to California, but we’re planning for 2021 to get back to California.”

The Northwest and part of the Northeast also lost their races and other select events such as the Kings Royal and Knoxville Nationals were postponed until 2021.

State and local governments played critical roles in which events have been able to be completed during the season. Certain states remained shut down in regard to mass gatherings throughout the summer and into the fall, which prevented many tracks from hosting a World of Outlaws event.

That dynamic along with the revenue stream from marketing partners and DIRTVision helped create an opportunity for World Racing Group to put on certain events, providing the marketing and covering the  purse. While the purse was reduced at many events, it was done so in an effort to keep the integrity of the Outlaws brand strong while providing a way for the race teams to continue to work.

To put it simply, without packed grandstands the money isn’t being generated at the same level as in the past, so World Racing Group needed to find a way to keep the full-time teams busy without going broke.

“Disruption provides opportunities if you’re able to take advantage of those,” Carter said. “It shows you how strong your organization is.

“Our events are adjusted to meet the needs of the track. What World Racing Group and the World of Outlaws can do … we can spend $25,000 or $30,000 to grow it. We can take some of those risks. We’re going to do more of those to raise awareness,” Carter explained. “I think all tracks benefit from that. We are willing to take on a little more risk because we have 60 nights to mitigate it. This is the biggest show a promoter might see, and they may not be able to take a huge loss.”

World Racing Group also invested in television during the pandemic, putting the sport in front of a larger audience with the goal of maximizing the rise in brand awareness versus the cost to attain it.

“We made some significant, deliberant investments in the sport,” Carter said. “The live TV in the summer when sports weren’t on TV, those were investments to raise awareness of the brand, raise awareness of the sport. I think we moved the needle in the right direction.”

The 2020 season has been one to remember and Carter hopes this will be a year known for taking a step forward.

“There’s a learning opportunity every day,” he said. “With this environment, with a disruption, there’s been large opportunities to learn what we can do; but some things we should be doing relative to calendar flexibility, experimenting with event format, with calendar changes. There will be things we learned this year that will be applied next year to make the show better in the grandstands and for the teams as well.”

The year has also been impactful within the office since Carter is the only remaining executive from the start of the year. World Racing Group Chief Operating Officer Tom Deery resigned in late February and Chief Marketing Officer Ben Geisler announced his departure in July.

“You can’t take two of the senior executives out and not feel that burden,” Carter said. “As an opportunity to structure World Racing Group, what it’s been the last 10 years is probably not the structure for the next 10. I’m going to take the opportunity to adjust the structure for that. I haven’t set a timeline to fill any particular spot because it may be redefined.

“The great thing is I have a great group of leaders who have been around a long time. I have a lot of people who have been with World Racing Group for a long time. They are stepping up to the task. They’ve been running the day-to-day operations for years. I’d take them into battle with me any day and I do every day. The beauty of it is it’s fueled by passion within the group for the racing, the competitors and the fans, and the marketing partners.”

The COVID-19 pandemic could have been a knock-out blow. Instead, Carter and Co. have hustled to turn the lemons into lemonade, pushing to find ways to improve racing from the action on the track to the entertainment in the stands and online.

Perhaps history will remember 2020 as a year of triumph for the World of Outlaws.

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