Championship Stock Car Racing

ASA Profile

Stock car fans have long recognized ASA as one of the most competitive series in all forms of racing. From its humble beginnings to its current form, ASA has been consistently seen as a premier entity. Not only have some of the best drivers in stock car racing come from ASA, but so also have some of today’s top crew members and car owners. Additionally, the series is seen as a place where stock car fans throughout the country can see some of the most talented individuals in the sport. From its infancy, ASA was making a mark and others were taking notice. Rules centered around competitor safety, competitive racing and spectator enjoyment, a trend which continues 32 years later. Due to its rules and long-range thinking, ASA quickly developed into a trend-setting sanctioning body. Among those early regulations were two rules which remain in place today. The first of those rules is all races end with the last five laps under green. That rule has since been adopted or modified by other sanctioning bodies, but from 1968 to current, it has been a mainstay in ASA racing. The second rule involved pit procedure and mandated pit lane to always be closed until the pace car picks up the field. But the birth, development and growth of ASA wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t as simple as announcing there would be a race and opening the gates to allow the flood of fans and cars pour in. Like any business, there were struggles in the company’s infancy.

Sprint cars were big in Indiana in the late 1960s and Robbins began promoting races for the big open wheel cars on Wednesday nights at the .25-mile, banked oval known as Sun Valley Speedway. In that inaugural season, Robbins promoted 12 sprint car races and two races for stock cars. The results were mixed, but Robbins tried again in 1969. The first race conducted by ASA, was a 30-lap sprint race, held May 8, 1968. The event was won by Bobby Black, with Todd Gibson earning the pole position. The first ASA stock car race was held July 31, 1968 and was won by Dave Sorg. ASA’s second season saw seven sprint car races and 15 stock car races, all at Sun Valley Speedway, which is now known as Anderson Speedway. In 1970, Robbins was considering giving up on the struggling series, but stayed with it for another year. In addition to 13 stock car and three sprint races at Sun Valley, Robbins promoted three stock car and three sprint races at nearby Winchester Speedway in Winchester, Indiana. The fact the sanctioning body was visiting multiple tracks and providing exciting racing, proved pivotal for the series. The company began to show signs of growth and strength and was developing a reputation with racers and race fans. With the thought of a touring season, Robbins launched a successful regional series and in 1973 took a huge leap of faith by making the stock car series a nationally-touring entity.

The first event of ASA’s National Circuit of Champions Series was actually held in November of 1972 at Salem Speedway. A young, upstart driver named Darrell Waltrip won the Midwest 300, which was run in three 100-lap segments. "When I first came down to Indiana to race in ASA, I was coming because it was the only place to run long races," seven-time ASA National Champion Mike Eddy said. "I was driving down from Michigan to race at places like Anderson and Winchester to get experience with the long races against really good drivers." Eddy, like so many others, found the touring series appealing and as the ASA schedule grew over the next six seasons, he was among the "regular" drivers competing in the series and, today, remains a marquee name in ASA. ASA branched out of Indiana in the early 1970s, adding tracks in Arkansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin and Canada to its schedule, which continued to include races at tracks in Kentucky and ASA’s home state of Indiana. By the late 1970s, ASA had established a strong foothold in the Midwest and was being looked upon as a collection of the best short track drivers in the Midwest region. ASA was also beginning to gain a reputation throughout the motorsports industry as the leader in technology and innovation. Rex Robbins made an important discovery during the second decade in the life of ASA. That discovery was drivers would travel to American Speed Association races rather than staying at home to compete at their local tracks.

From 1978 through 1987, ASA’s horizons began to further expand, a trend which continues today. That expansion witnessed two things. Increasing car counts and the development of annual events. Race fans in cities like Grand Rapids, MI, Minneapolis, MN, and Milwaukee, WI, grew accustomed to getting to see the stars of the ASA circuit on tracks close to home at least once every 12 months. Although ASA’s presence in its home state stayed strong, the number of races in Indiana began to drop off during the second decade of sanctioning body’s life. Visits to Anderson Speedway, Salem Speedway, Winchester Speedway and Indianapolis Raceway Park remained common through the 1980s, but the fan base for the series began to extend and prosper in the upper Midwest. Suddenly, the series was experiencing great popularity in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Other tracks were visited during the decade of the 1980s, including proof that a stock car series known primarily for its great racing on short tracks could also compete on a superspeedway. On September 20, 1981, ASA made its inaugural visit to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, MI. Bob Senneker earned the pole for the 150-mile race, which he also won. Rusty Wallace finished second in the event and rookie driver, the late Pat Schauer placed third. Mechanically, the ASA car became unique to racing during the late 1970s and the 1980s. In 1978, three major changes were made to the cars. First was the requirement of mufflers on all cars. Additionally, the series allowed the use of Lexan windshields and coil over suspensions. One season later, fiberglass and aluminum body panels were introduced to the series, as were the mandatory use of headlight decals and in 1980, the vee-six (V-6) engine debuted in racing, when Darrell Waltrip drove a car powered by a Buick V-6 motor developed by Ray Baker of Baker Engineering.

Innovation continued as the theme of ASA through the 1980s, as the sanctioning body incorporated 9:1 compression ratio motors in 1981 and the first V-6 powered car won in 1981. The first V-6 victory came on September 6 when Butch Lindley drove a Cavalier to victory at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds Speedway in the AMS/OIL 300. The next major development for racing came in 1983, when ASA mandated the use of aluminum racing seats in all cars, in the interest of safety. Another safety requirement for all cars in that season was the use of an 18-gauge fuel cell. Also in 1983, ASA provided the seed money of $5,000 to develop an engine compression gauge. That gauge has become the device named the "Whistler," because of its resonance theory technology. Whistlers are still used to determine compression in racing engines throughout the world. Three other developments came about in ASA’s second decade. The first was the requirement of 9:1 compression ratio V-8 motors in ASA competition for the 1984 season. The second also occurred in 1984, as ASA introduced the first all V-6 series, known as the Gran Marque series. That series competed for four seasons and was highly regarded by both competitors and those inside the motorsports industry. In hindsight, the Gran Marque Series in some ways was the predecessor of the current ACDelco Challenge Series. The final major development in ASA’s second decade was the mandated perimeter chassis in 1987. This was done in an attempt to control the appearance of the ASA cars and to make the cars more visually appealing to the fans. Once again, this was a change which alluded to big things on the horizon for the nationally-touring stock car series.

ASA’s second decade saw the series flourish and reside on the cutting edge of safety and technology. Additionally, the series was gaining the reputation of being the home of best racers from around the country and particularly in the Midwest. Motorsports exploded onto the national scene during the 1990s and one of the groups which benefited greatly from that explosion was ASA. Much of the steep growth in motorsports interest revolves around the sport being televised. In the early 1980s, only a handful of races were televised. Today, the five biggest sanctioning bodies, ASA, NASCAR, Indy Racing League, CART and NHRA, have a large number of their events televised to a national audience. For ASA, the introduction to live television racing came in 1991, when a national television audience joined The Nashville Network (TNN) for the Music City 250 at Nashville Motor Raceway in Nashville, TN, on June 30. In all, there were five ASA races carried by TNN during that season, as ASA made its initial visit to live, televised racing. Television has played a major role in ASA’s growth during the past 10 years, as the sanctioning body’s reach continues to expand throughout the country. Coincidentally, the introduction to television came just as ASA was entering what is thought of as its modern era. ASA’s "modern era" is thought of 1992 to the present. The reasoning behind the thought, is in 1992, the sanctioning body introduced a series-specific car. A newly-developed, common center section race car was introduced and raced on April 26, 1992 in the opening race for the third season of the ACDelco Challenge Series.

Bob Senneker earned the pole and the victory in the 250-lap race, with Mike Eddy second, Johnny Benson Jr. third, Jay Sauter fourth and Jeff Neal fifth. Senneker was in a Ford, Eddy and Neal were driving Pontiacs and Benson and Sauter both drove Chevrolets. Part of what led ASA to appearing on national television was an association with Group Five Sales out of Charlotte (NC). Group Five and its president Dan DuVall also brought ACDelco to ASA in 1989, which led to the formation of the ACDelco Challenge Series for the 1990 racing season. The combination of ACDelco’s involvement, television becoming a regular facet of ASA racing and the introduction of the "new" car in 1992 has led the sanctioning body to a great growth spurt through 1990s. Late in the third decade of ASA’s existence, there was the introduction of few safety and procedural rules to continue with the sanctioning body’s continued interest in providing fans with safe, competitive racing. In 1993, ASA introduced the "competition yellow" rule. This procedural rule calls for 100 consecutive green flag laps on a track shorter than one mile to be run and then officials call for the competition yellow. The reasoning behind the rule was to eliminate the need for green flag pit stops and to allow races to be decided on the track and not completely in the pits. Though pit strategy still plays a crucial role in ASA racing, the competition yellow goes a long way toward eliminating drivers losing multiple laps in the pits while making a routine pit stop.

There have been some minor modifications to the center sections since their introduction in 1992, but all the center pieces of the chassis are still being built by Howe Racing Enterprises and the design has not undergone any major renovation. The minor modifications have revolved around the adding of some bars to the chassis in an effort to continue to the effort to make the ASA cars one of the safest in racing. The car introduced in 1992 and the introduction of one exclusive body manufacturer, have allowed the cars competing in ASA to retain remarkably similar appearances to the their street version brethren. Add to that the mandatory use of mufflers, the required use of headlight and grill decals, strict appearance rules and the use of 9-to-1 compression ratio Vee-Six (V-6) motors and the ASA cars have even more in common with the Pontiac Grand Prixs, Chevrolet Monte Carlos and Ford Thunderbirds being driven on the streets. Popular opinion is that street-looking appearance is part of the appeal the ASA stock cars have to the fans. The series has seen many of its drivers go on to experience great success in the upper echelon of stock car racing, but the series has also been viewed as a high level of competition where a driver can make racing a career. Among the drivers who have made a career of ASA racing are seven-time ASA National Champion Mike Eddy and all-time victory list and money-won leader Bob Senneker. As ASA moves into its fourth decade of racing, it continues to conduct great championship stock car racing and its growth appears to be continuing as the "Great American Dream Series" keeps moving ahead.