Q: One of the biggest unsung heroes at World Racing Group, Chris Dolack, battled a life-threatening non-Hodgkin Lymphoma diagnosis last year. He has been the glue to so many parts within the company for many years, so how big of an impact did that have on the company?
CARTER: It was very scary. It was a gut shot to the organization. We felt helpless in our ability to help Chris other than to take the load off him. We definitely missed him. The organization’s response to that made me very proud, everybody lifting him up. It’s a testament to the man he is. For us everybody stepped up, but it was easy to step up because it was for Chris. Chris can’t be replaced. You do what you can to fill the void while he was out. Fortunately, we got Chris back and he’s back at it. The organization learned a lot while he was gone.
Q: DIRTVision has provided World Racing Group with a valuable revenue stream the last couple of years. What was the process like to decide to invest so heavily in that branch of the company?
CARTER: DIRTVision was part of the acquisition in 2004. We’ve been nurturing it along the way, really way ahead of the technology. It’s been a long-time development for us. You think you understand it and then it moves on you. The cycle of technology and streaming is happening at a fast pace. In 2006 or ’07 there wasn’t much. When you got to 2013 and ’14, we had 20 shows where you had reliable wired internet. By 2016 and ’17, we think we’re close to doing all the shows, but it could be spotty. It wasn’t until 2018 and ’19 that the technology became available to commit to have all the shows. Not all the internet in all these people’s homes is high speed. You may have some buffering, but it wasn’t from our end. Now with owning four satellites and a TV studio at any point you could have 11 or 12 broadcasts going on.
The mission for DIRTVision is to have the premium content led by the World of Outlaws brands and then the marquee venues across the country whether it be Williams Grove, Attica, Knoxville, Huset’s. Now by adding Jacksonville and Millbridge, you want to bring the premier racing programs (to the viewers). We’re not going to try to accumulate every broadcast we can. We’ll be adding some more, but wanting to focus on the premium content and where the progression is good for the long-term of the sport.
Q: How much confidence does it give tracks and series to see the fans packing the grandstands this year?
CARTER: It’s definitely a big relief. Last year, through DIRTVision we were able to expose a lot of people to our racing; entertainment while they had no other choice. I think we did a marvelous job of that, creating awareness and engagement. This year, we have a lot of new fans that have never been to a race before. It’s one of those times you have one chance to make a first impression. We started the investment with the increase in our fan engagement, our video boards. 2021 has shown that it is working pretty well right now. They are hooked and that’s how you create a long-term fan. The guys and gals have been racing hard and entertaining people. It’s the greatest show on dirt. It bodes well for 2022 and beyond.
Q: Do you see the future as owning tracks and/or running more events in-house, or will World Racing Group be focused on the traditional model of a sanctioning body as well as DIRTVision?
CARTER: It’s going to be a balance of the historical model of you go in, get paid an event fee and go on down the road. We’ve been doing joint venturing because we wanted to have the relationship with the customer and mitigate some of the risk to the track. It’s a bit of a balancing act. We’re renting race tracks where we need to. We can bring a significant investment to the table. I don’t see any particular model becoming the one way.
The fans have been as adaptive as we have been. DIRTVision as its core mission of increasing awareness and creating content to allow us to do that and drive people to attend has been critical to the success. With that you’re bringing in new fans, new sponsors, new teams. Life is pretty good right now.