Arena Racing USA partners with Joe Gibbs Racing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Andrew Giermak

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Rain at a race track?

Not when it has a roof.

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Arena Racing USA, which has been sanctioning indoor stock car races in Virginia since 2003 at the Hampton Coliseum and the Norfolk Scope, has partnered with Joe Gibbs Racing to expand arena racing to Charlotte, and eventually, cities across America.

Arena Racing USA features half-scale stock cars capable of 100 mph, but are confined to a 1/10th mile banked, indoor race track.

The track is portable and fits inside the confines of a hockey rink.

Arena Racing USA’s Charlotte home will be the Cricket Arena on Independence Blvd.

In the Hampton/Norfolk season which wrapped up in March, Chesapeake’s Travis Miller won the season points standings, collecting $10,000.

Two Suffolk drivers, Kerry Gilbert and Scott Prillaman, were also among the top racers in the ’05-’06 series.

Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing and head coach of the Washington Redskins, and Norm Miller, chairman of Interstate Batteries, are backing Arena Racing USA’s Charlotte effort, along with Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley.

&uot;Norm Miller saw this concept and loved it,&uot; said Gibbs.

&uot;He sold his vision of arena racing to me, and I’m a firm believer in it.

It provides great competition at a time of year when motorsports is typically dormant.

Plus, it’s a cost-effective way to get started in racing.&uot;

&uot;Arena racing provides the most exciting, in-your-face motorsports action available,&uot; said Ricky Dennis, founder and CEO of Arena Racing USA.

&uot;It’s affordable too.

While the cost of other sporting and entertainment events continues to increase, tickets for arena racing events are just $12 for adults and $5 for kids.

&uot;The sport is also affordable for competitors.

All of the racing is local, so the travel costs are minimal.

We also use a spec race car that we manufacture.

The only thing a team can adjust is the setup of their race car.

This not only allows for cost containment, but guarantees competitive racing that will produce different winners.

&uot;And best of all, we race indoors, so weather is never a factor.&uot;

Arena Racing USA is managed by The Racing Group LP, a consortium consisting of Joe Gibbs Racing; Tom and Norm Miller of Interstate Batteries; Gary Becker, the former CEO of PACE Motor Sports and part of the Becker family who owned and operated PACE Entertainment before selling it to SFX Sports Group; and Dennis.

&uot;We’ve all seen the growth of the Arena Football League during the past 20 years, and we feel strongly that Arena Racing USA is the next sporting property to take hold in America,&uot; said Becker.

&uot;Half-scale race cars competing in such an intimate environment give the fans a special understanding of what race car drivers see and feel on the race track.&uot;

The Arena Racing USA regular schedule takes place primarily during the racing off-season, from November to March.

&uot;I love any kind of racing, but arena racing struck me as something that could really take off,&uot; said Stewart.

The defending NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion continued, &uot;I’ve raced midgets and sprint cars indoors and there’s definitely an added level of excitement.

When I found out you could do the same thing with a half-scale stock car, but on a banked track with 14 other cars around you while making laps in under 10 seconds, I was in.&uot;

&uot;I drove in the Arena Racing Series a few years ago in Norfolk,&uot; said Hamlin, a Chesterfield, Va. native.

&uot;I won a few features and also met Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., there.

It was awesome.

Fresh off his first ever Nextel Cup Series victory on Sunday in the Pocono 500, Hamlin, a frontrunner for Cup Series Rookie of the Year honors, said Monday in Huntersville, &uot;It’s an ingenious idea and I like it a lot.

It’s not a matter of if arena racing is going to be successful.

It’s a matter of when.

Needless to say, I’m pretty happy to be a part of bringing arena racing to Charlotte.

It’ll give others the opportunity to either begin their racing careers or just have the time of their lives.&uot;

Yeley echoed those sentiments.

&uot;Just like Tony, I raced midgets and sprint cars in arenas during my USAC days.

And he’s right, it’s a cool experience.

Plus, you really hone your skills because there’s not much room for error.&uot;

&uot;Creating local heroes in our sport is also important.

Allowing local drivers to race in their local arena in front of fans, friends, families and co-workers is one of the many positive aspects of arena racing,&uot; said Dennis.

November 2006 is the target month for Arena Racing USA to be functional with its Charlotte operation.