By KEN BRUCE
No racing series has grown more in stature and popularity in less than a five-year period than Brett Deyo’s Short Track Super Series has. Under the guidance and promotion of series owner Brett Deyo the STSS has gone over and above what Mr. Deyo had thought it could have been.
Recognizing a need in the Northeast for a series of Modified races for the “little guys,” Deyo has been not only been able to provide that but has grown the STSS into a series with two separate regions (North & South) with a completely separate point funds. Brett has done this with his exceptional ability to market the STSS which has allowed him to add more and more sponsors each and every year.
For the upcoming 2018 season, if a single driver chooses to run both the North and South regions and is lucky enough to win the point championship in both regions along with the American Racer Cup Point Series that driver and his team could win a grand total of $57,000 thanks to a $25,000 bonus from new series sponsor Sunoco. This makes the STSS one of most lucrative traveling series in the United States especially when you compare it with money won vs the traveling and laps run.
As we approach year number five of the series I thought it would be a good time to ask Brett some questions to see what his thoughts were on the growth and popularity of the STSS. We also touched on some other subjects that have come up over the years. We talked about everything from Modified tech to social media and a lot in between. I caught up with Brett as he was preparing to depart for the PRI show in Indianapolis, IN. I hope you enjoy the interview, I know I did.
Dirt Track Digest: What prompted you to start the STSS in 2014 and has it been all that you thought it could be as we approach year number five?
Brett Deyo: “Basically, what happened was is we started promoting special events in 2006 and in 2009, 2010 and 2011 we would gain a race a year. Mainly at that time we were in the Southern Tier area and then we did Big Diamond in 2011. As we did more of these shows, they were pretty popular and well attended with good car counts and it became evident that if we added a couple more and were able to come up with a point fund we would have something that was a viable series. At that point there was the DIRTcar Series which is still pretty strong and the RoC which you could see was kind of coming unglued a bit. So we came in with something that paid a little bit better then people were used to and offered a really nice point fund and that’s where it started. Now after five years it’s probably bigger and better than I ever expected and we’re coming off a year that financially, artistically and looking at if from the outside in was the most successful year we’ve ever had. So that really gets us excited to go into our fifth year which we will start out with our 50th ever series race which will be our opener at Georgetown Speedway.”
DTD: What is your goal for the STSS in another five years?
BD: “I just want to keep growing and keeping it fresh. Now this year we didn’t particularly add any new races but we’ve moved some stuff around. We’ve added Port Royal Speedway; we’ve brought Outlaw Speedway back on the schedule. We still obviously have our marquee events like our $10,000 to win race at BAPS Motor Speedway (Susquehanna). So, we just want to keep it fresh and manageable. The way we have it now is that there is a lot of money that can be had in our series and we’re not forcing you to do all of it to get it. We have a point fund for the North Region, we have a point fund for the South Region and we have the American Racer Cup home track money. So a guy can run just one American Racer home track and make money or a guy can choose all of our races and really pick up some money with bonuses that are out there with Sunoco. I just want to make sure the series remains accessible to everybody and we do a couple of things different each year to keep it interesting for the fans too.”
DTD: Do you see the STSS expanding even more in the foreseeable future and would you ever consider combining both the North and South Region series into just one big super series?
BD: “I don’t think that is a really viable thing to combine them, just because the rules and the tracks are so different. It’s hard for some of the short track guys from the north, the “bull ring guys” to come down and run on the larger tracks that are in the south region and in the same token the south region “big track guys” aren’t really comfortable running the little smaller bull rings up there. It really is two separate series under one name and yeah you have your guys like (Anthony) Perrego and (Andy) Bachetti and those types of guys who will crossover. You also have (Stewart) Friesen and Jeremy Smith who did that as well this year. On the other hand I want to keep everybody included and I think by forcing people to go out of their comfort zone, it doesn’t do any good for the series. With that said I think our combination race is pretty cool each year when we bring everyone together and it just so happens at this time that Big Diamond is good geographically and the size of the track that we can put everyone together in one spot. So that’s why we keep it different and I think our racers our happy that way. If you do have the resources and the want to go do it like Ryan Godown or Bachetti’s that want to go do it the option is there but if you are a guy who is racing out of Delaware and don’t want to make those long tows or if you are a quarter mile Accord Speedway regular and don’t want to go run on a 5/8’s mile track down south you don’t have to.”
DTD: How do you compare your series, the STSS to the other major dirt touring series in the country?
BD: “It’s funny you asked that, I had a conversation at Georgetown earlier this year when Ken Schrader came in to do his Federated Auto Parts day and I asked him how many series out there that have 15 races pay a $70,000 point fund out at the end of the year and you know he races across the country and has been around forever and he said, ‘man Brett not many if any.’ So I think that said a lot for our program. We’re definitely one of the richest series in the country particularly for the amount of races that we have and the distance of the race. We really don’t run much over 50 laps when we do race and we only race 15 to 17 times a year. Our point fund alone, not to mention our purse money along with our contingency awards, put us right up there with the big names and the big organizations as far as rewards for the drivers. I think we’re right in the game now and I think dollar per lap run and miles towed we’re probably right at the top.”
DTD: The STSS has always been promoted as a series for the working man’s racer. With all the new money available to run your series, do you think this will change the perception of the STSS?
BD: “I still think our series is run by people that have full-time jobs and are basically one or two night a week racer. We’ve had some bigger names obviously do well; Stewart Friesen has won quite a bit with us over the years and then we’ve had some bigger names come in and just not fit in. I take a look at a guy like Brett Hearn who has won 900 races in his career and he’s failed to qualify with us five times. Our series is different, sometimes those bigger names come in and like it and sometimes they come in and struggle but one thing I can always count on is that my weekend drivers are always there. I think we pay them well enough that they’ll continue to support it and they continue to pull of wins. You see a guy like Rusty Smith do what he did up at Afton in the Short Track Supernationals and you see some of these other drivers over the last couple of years. Wade Hendrickson pops into my mind. That win he had with us was probably the biggest win he’s had over the last five or six years. As long as we can have guys like that come up and continue to win these types of races and have a shot at winning these races. Guys like Jimmy Wells, who is a one night a week racer at Accord with a sportsman motor and a four-barrel carburetor, came within one turn of winning the “Bullring” race at Accord finishing second to Anthony Perrego. So as long as we continue to have those faces and names right in the mix and winning or getting close to winning I think we’re still right on track. If you look at the “Gobbler,” Mike Ricci won the very first race I ever had back in 2006 and here he was in the mix at just our most recent race on November 25th battling for the win so I don’t think too much has changed. Will big names come in? Yes. We’ll some of them like it and stay? Yes. Will some of them get frustrated too? Well, that happens too so yes I think we still in pretty good shape that way.”
DTD: To piggyback the last question, do you worry about the STSS getting too big?
BD: “Yes, I do and that’s why this year I had probably six or seven tracks that I turned down. My phone has been ringing pretty much since our season has ended and I have been very careful about the tracks that I add. I mean I get a phone call every day pretty much from a different track that wants to be part of our series. The thing is I could personally race every day. I would be really tired but I wouldn’t have anyone to come so I try to pick dates and tracks and events that are good for the series. This year I think we really did well with that and we added Port Royal to the south series but we took away one Bridgeport date. And we added Outlaw Speedway back to the north and for a lot of our racers Outlaw is kind of an ideal track because it’s a smaller track, its sail panels and it’s a place where our short track guys can do well so they’re all excited about going there. So yeah, I am worried about it. If I was greedy, and to be very honest with you, I could have probably have a 30 to 35 race series this year but there’s two things I don’t want to do. One of them is make it so our racers can’t do the series and the second thing is I never want to go to a track knowing that I’m going to lose them or me money when I go there and not having enough cars you go in with that and that’s never my intention. A lot of the races I use my own money, some of them I have a sanction agreement, but it doesn’t matter what the arrangement is, if I leave that morning thinking that we’re going to lose money and I’m going to cost the track money that’s something I never really want to do. You can’t cost these tracks money. They’re hoping these special events bail them out of some weaker weekend shows or when they’re battling the rain and if you come in as touring series and cost these places money, you know you’re not going to come back. The other thing is that if you run the racers ragged and they’re going all over the place, they’re going to say the heck with it and stop following so you lose your whole product. You know I don’t ever want to hurt anybody’s feeling when they call me as a track operator and I tell them no that I don’t have a spot for you, but I had to do that a lot this year. I would say at least eight to ten times. That’s how I am keeping it to what it needs to be.”
DTD: Race car tech seems to be a big thing in the Modified division lately. Are you satisfied with your tech process in the STSS?
BD: “Yeah, I think we’ve made a lot of gains on it. We’ve been doing pre-tech on door heights and bodies and then we’ve been pumping the engines for cubic inches for the south region after every race which has been pretty well received. The north region really polices itself because of the smaller tracks we have one weight for all the different engine combinations so it’s a little easier on the north region side of things. You can always do better with tech. I would like to next year at my own racetrack have a tech area where we can tech the cars in front of everybody but that’s always a challenge at these mid-week shows. The Modified feature may be over at 9:30 but the Sportsman race is still on the track so we have to be very careful where we are opening these peoples engines up because there is dirt flying around in the air. So if anything it would be nicer to be a little more of a transparent area where people can watch, but the other thing is that when you are messing around with $50,000 engines sometimes it’s a lot safer to push them back in the trailer and check them that way so we don’t ruin somebody’s season. But other than that, I think our tech has been on a steady improvement since I got the series. I have some good people now and I think we have a nice little set of rules. We might do a few tweaks over the winter but nothing major. I don’t really hear as much now as I used to years ago so that tells me we are doing a good job.”
DTD: Do you plan on staying with the same rules package you have now for the foreseeable future?
BD: “I don’t really see many changes and anybody that knows me and talks to me knows that I a big fan of the open small-block engine. I like that you can take that engine and run our whole series and be competitive. If you have a big-block engine, it’s hard to be competitive on the short tracks in upstate New York. If you have a spec engine that may run really well up there it’s harder when you come down here to the Delaware, Georgetown, Bridgeport type tracks where there’s more straightaway. So yeah I like it. People have made the investment to get the engine that works for them and a lot of time when you go changing the rules to save the racers money, you end up costing them money.”
DTD: As witnessed last spring when you were unceremoniously thrown into the aluminum engine block ordeal. You seem to be the person that the teams and/or tracks look towards to set the rules for the NJ/PA/Del modified scene. Do you feel comfortable being that person and being put in that position?
BD: “Yeah, it was a lot of pressure and probably one of the worst weeks I’ve ever had just because I was actually really sick that week and I had to make a decision. Was it a fun process? No, but I think it says a lot about where our series has become that the tracks and the racers all look to us to make a decision. I am lucky that I have a phone filled with numbers and when I have a question and I am not real certain I will try to sample everybody and see where everybody is at and then make a decision. If anything, I really look at as a compliment and it is something I take very seriously and hopefully down the line if there is more controversies we can make the right decision for everybody.”
DTD: Draw vs time trials, there are negatives and positives to both. Some drivers like Billy Pauch (Sr) who you know doesn’t like the draw system at all has told me that if he is slow in time trials and doesn’t make the show that he can always go back to his shop and try to make his car better, but with draw it is all about luck. What are your thoughts and do you ever see yourself changing from the draw system in the future?
BD: “That’s a really good question because it’s something I am looking at right now. I feel like what we talked about earlier that both of our series, even though we are under one name, but we have two very different groups of racers. Our north region racers are more of a hobby type racer in that they do it for fun and they all pretty much have regular jobs. It’s a way for them to travel a little bit on our series without spending a whole lot of money and for the most part I don’t hear to much from the about the draw on the north region side of things. They all pretty much accept it and take the good with the bad. Now the south region is a little different, we don’t have the volume of cars. We don’t have the 45 to 60 cars we get every time we open a north region race just because there aren’t that many cars down this way. So, we are looking at 30 to 35 cars most of the time. But of those 30 to 35 cars they are all the cream of the crop, highest dollar and highest and most successful teams in the area. You look at a lot of nights and a guy like Craig Von Dohren, Jeff Strunk or whoever will finish tenth in our series races so it’s a little bit different. So, for the south region I have been looking at doing the timed warm-up type deal. It’s something I’ve considered because the vast majority of the south region teams seem like that’s what they want. The only thing that concerns me a little bit about it is that if I make a big change in my business plan for the race teams are they still going to go and draw at races that don’t offer the type of purse that we have. That’s the thing, I have no problem compromising for our teams and changing things to make it better so that they enjoy themselves, but it does concern me if there is a draw race the week before ours that pays half the purse. If it’s that terrible that they don’t want and come draw with me why would they go and draw for a race with less money. So that’s kind of my concern. I have been talking to drivers. We have our banquet coming up and I am really weighing it all out right now. I am willing to work with these guys but they have to be willing to work with me as well.”
DTD: Your reputation with the racers, the teams and the fans is a very positive for the most part. Why do you think that is and is it important for you to keep yourself in good standing with all the parties mentioned?
BD: I think that I am pretty honest with everybody and I think people know that when they get in touch with me that I listen. Whether it’s a fan sending me an email or if it’s a racer calling me. I can’t always do what everybody wants because you have a lot of different people you have to answer to. But I think people understand that I want to do what’s best for racing in our area and racing at our race track. I think that’s good and believe me when everyone’s on your side and the wheels are going in the same direction it only helps. When I see all the great stuff on social media by the fans after one of our races, that’s one of the best forms of advertising we can have. Or if one of our racers goes on Facebook or Twitter and says he finished ninth and got paid so well and had a good time as such and such race that is the type of PR that I can’t recreate. That’s something I would call organic when it’s coming right from the people who are paying to get in so I do take it really seriously about keeping people happy. A lot of it is that people don’t see me sitting around in an office, I could be at Georgetown painting a wall at ten o’clock in the morning and picking up trash then back home working on press releases. People see that I pretty much put my whole life into racing and that goes a long way with our customers too.”
DTD: Your shows always seem to move along quickly so the teams and the fans can get on their way home a reasonable hour. Is this something you take pride in and do you think other tracks and promoters can do a better job with this?
BD: “Absolutely! Once we start and once we’re there and I’ve got the race promoted, the most important thing to me is getting done. It’s 100% what I want to do. The people that work for me and with me know how crazy I get about it and I take it very seriously because I know how much I hate waiting in line. Whether it’s at a store or waiting to get into a restaurant or waiting for anything. Me personally, I don’t like to wait, so I wouldn’t want to wait if I was a person paying $20 to come watch one of my races. I want to see the main event and I want to go home. If I’m a racer and I have to work the next day, getting done at 9:30 is a huge thing. Billy Pauch (Sr) called me after the “Blast at the Beach” at Georgetown to tell me with the feature done at 9:30 that he was home by midnight and that makes it a lot easier for him to get crew guys to come with him to these races because they are home at a decent hour so they can go to work the next day. So that’s really important and is a huge thing to me. I think that’s why some of the racers that follow us from far away do. Frank Cozze came up to me at the show up at Syracuse a few weeks ago and said that probably one of the best things that you have going for you is that you get done. Frank is a guy who has to get up early for work at his business and he said it’s refreshing. So I hear it from fans and from the racers that they want to be done. Especially at these midweek shows. It is something that I consider the number one thing! Once we get the event set-up, the purse and the sponsors set there is nothing more important than an efficient show.”
DTD: If not the best, you are definitely one of the best at using social media to promote Georgetown Speedway and the STSS. Do you think other tracks can do better at using the social media platform to promote their races to the fans?
BD: “I think a lot about using social media is to understand it. I’m fortunate that I went to school for communications and that was my major. I’ve taken the time to take some classes on Facebook and different social media avenues and I think understanding it is a big part of it because you need to know when to post, to make sure it reaches the biggest amount of people. I try and post at least once a day for both Georgetown and the series because if you look around in society everybody has a phone in their hand. So that’s the easiest way to reach people. Now is it the only way to reach people? Absolutely not. I am still a big believer in advertising on TV and on radio, trade papers. One of the biggest responses I got this year at Georgetown was a publication in the area that is free but everybody reads it called “The Guide.” I had more first-time fans when I ran a full-page ad in their paper than I’ve had in a long time. So, is social media a very important? Yes, because it’s a way to reach a lot of people but I still don’t believe it’s the only way to reach people. I think we need to use all the avenues to reach as many people as we can because there’s still people out there like my dad who doesn’t know how to turn a computer on, but he’s a big race fan. Then you have your younger people that want the video, want the graphics so you have to appeal to the all. I am still learning. I just signed up for a promoter’s workshop two days from today. I am going to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the RPM workshop. Part of the reason is there is a seminar there on social media. I think we all need to stay up on it as it changes because technology keeps changing. We now have an Instagram account for the series that we never had before to keep evolving with what people are using. But the best part of using social media is it’s free!”
DTD: Last but certainly not least. With you being the face of Georgetown Speedway and the STSS you obviously get most of the credit for the success but you know as well as I do that none of this is possible without a good support staff. Your wife Heather has always been your biggest supporter so what would you like to say about your staff and Heather and how they all make it happen for you?
BD: “There a lot of moving parts and a lot of time being on the road, so obviously my wife puts up with that and she does a lot of the behind the scenes things at the race track as far as making sure the dollars and cents go where they’re supposed to go and that’s very important. As for our staff, we have a really nice group now. Angela Hanson came on a couple of years ago and she has been absolutely awesome, she travels from right around Fonda, N.Y., to almost every race we have. Angela deals with all the lineups and the people that are maybe disappointed when they don’t draw so well and the people that are happy when they do so she’s been great for us. Eric Kormann does a lot for me when it comes to running around the pits making sure that everything is moving and that if people get a flat tire he makes sure we know so they can get back on the track. Eric takes a lot of the grief at Georgetown because he’s the quickest guy to find in the pit area and he’s done really well for us and his wife Jenna comes along and chips in for us when she can. Dave Pace is another one who has been really awesome. We’ve got lucky as he used to help out a lot with the NASCAR Whelen Modified series but the travel got to be too much for him so we got lucky and got a great employee out of him. The racers really like Dave a lot. It’s a really good group that travels with us. Obviously, George McKelvey has done a lot with us over the last couple of years to get out tech program going and Warren Alston comes in when he can to flag our races. It’s all a big family and it’s a lot of travel and it’s not easy to find someone to work our series. It’s hard to find someone that can be at Woodhull Speedway one Tuesday and at Delaware International the next. That’s a pretty big spread, but we’ve got a good group and that makes it work. Not everybody makes every race but we make sure we have coverage all the time that we need and I think for the most part the racers respect the people that we have. I don’t want to leave out Jeff Alhum (announcer) because Jeff has the stats on every class at every track and he pretty much makes every series race. So, it’s all those people who make us look good. I get a lot of the positives and the negatives because I am the guy everyone goes to but we wouldn’t be able to do it without all of those people. I am hoping we can continue to grow our team and keep getting better as we go forward. Right now is definitely the best year we’ve had and there is a lot of enthusiasm about our series and there’s been a lot more positive than negative and that’s a hard thing to come by especially when you are five years in because we aren’t the newlyweds anymore. I think we’ve done a pretty good job to be this popular this far along.”
Thank you for taking the time to read along and as always, I can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dirtracefan25 for any questions or comments.