By KEN BRUCE
Way back after the 2017 season I did a question-and-answer article with Brett Deyo, owner and promoter of the Short Track Super Series and also Georgetown Speedway. At that time the STSS was starting to grow exponentially in stature with the addition of a big season ending bonus courtesy of Insigner Performance if a driver could win both the north and south titles.
Fast forward four years later as we head into the 2022 Modified season and the STSS has exploded to even bigger heights with the addition of the Halmar Elite Series which is a six-race series featuring four races paying at least $25,000 to win and two races paying over $50,000 to win. That amount of money in 2017 for the Modified division was limited to only one race at the time, but in 2022 there are a total of 14 races paying at least $20,000 to win at the time of this writing.
With the new season bearing down on us very quickly, I thought it would be a good time to talk to Brett once again and get his views on how far he has come as a promoter and track owner, the money being offered to the Modifieds these days and some other questions regarding racing and the northeast Modifieds in particular. I hope you enjoy my updated Q & A session with Brett.
DTD: Back in our interview in 2017, I asked you how the STSS came about. Now four years later as we approach the 2022 season, has it worked out as you planned, or has it become even bigger than you could have imagined?
Brett Deyo: “It is a lot busier now than it was back then, I mean it was busy back then and yeah, it has gotten pretty hectic, but we have been able to keep things going pretty smooth. Adding help has been the biggest part, having more people around to do stuff and me being able let things go by having other people do things and that was hard for me because I don’t really like to give things up. It has definitely become bigger. This year we are going to ten states, 26 different tracks this year and that’s kind of mind blowing. We have two $50,000 to win races, which I think is amazing and that was definitely something we weren’t looking at that time. The whole Louisiana and Texas branch is really growing and coming together and that’s been a pleasant surprise and has been really good for our business. It’s definitely bigger and you look at the tracks we have now. We have Utica-Rome, Fonda, Devils Bowl on the schedule, we have the new Bloomsburg track now which I never saw that coming so yeah, it has expanded more than I could ever have imagined. We have become more prominent across the country than I would have ever thought because of FloRacing opening eyes to people all around.”
DTD: One of the questions I asked you in 2017 was do you ever think that both STSS regions would ever be combined? Although that hasn’t quite happened, you now have the Halmar Elite Series which is in theory a combination of the two regions.
BD: “I think we still need to have the two regions to allow more customer base. Some people can only do the north and some people can only do the south whether it is because of equipment or location or help so I think it is important that we maintain the two regions. TV has changed the game for all of us, it has opened up some doors to do stuff and the Elite program has been on my mind now all of last year. I have pretty closely what FloRacing has done with their Castrol Night in America, and I thought it was such a cool way to showcase the late models on their side. I thought if we could put something similar together with some sponsorship support to do that on the modified side with some mega paying races to put the modifieds on the national stage like they should be. That was the whole theory behind it and yeah it will be combined, it will feature the best of the best from everywhere and I think if we can get any semblance of good weather at Cherokee it will be an amazing event from both the grandstand side and the pit side especially with the talent we are going to have. I think with the money so good; you can finish 16th and still do pretty well and I think that is going to keep people coming back, not just from Cherokee but on to the next one and the next one. Each race we hope to do some creative stuff to hopefully get paid well.”
DTD: With the expansion of the STSS, where do you think that your series stands in comparison to some of the other touring series?
BD: “I think we are on the map. I know like the Lucas Oil Late Model Series, when I see those guys at different events, whether it is at PRI or Port Royal when I went up to watch one of their shows, they know who we are. When I called the All-Stars this year to get a date for Utica-Rome they knew who we are. The other national series know that we are big with the stuff we are doing across the country. Florida was a big steppingstone with us getting down into that market so yes I think that the other touring series across the country know who we are. I actually was just emailing with Roger Slack (Eldora Speedway Promoter) yesterday about banners because he has a tie to a big banner place, and he knew what was going on with our series. Randy LaJoie (The Joy of Seating) came over to our booth at Motorsports and he knew what was going on with our series. So, I think we have put ourselves on the map. We have really gotten the reputation as a racer friendly series and I think that is helping us too and I think that is what sets up apart, there is a real connection between us, and the racer and I think that helps us grow.”
DTD: I asked you back in 2017 if you worried the STSS would get too big, and your answer at that time was yes. Do you still think that way after everything you have done to make the series as big as it is now?
BD: “You know, you are constantly evolving and no matter what you do there is always a part that is not going to like what you do. I look at the south region and it is on strong ground with what we have going there. The north region I felt like needed some adjustments, after last year I felt like some of the places we went that it was hard for them to pay the purses that we were paying, especially some of the smaller venues. I think we needed to make a change, there were people that were itching to get in and run the series. People like Rocky Warner, Ronnie Johnson, Peter Britten and those type of drivers that really wanted to get in and run the whole deal, but some of the venues that we went to were not attractive to them, so we did shuffle some things around on the north region. I think it is a really nice mix of tracks now. You have Devils Bowl in Vermont, we have Orange County back for two dates and also for your bullring type of racers we still have Bloomsburg which is a small track, Accord and Outlaw are still on the schedule. Then we have the Fonda and Utica-Rome, I think it is a really nice mix for everybody and I’ve seen a big increase in interest. Peter Britten is going to follow the north series this year, Ronnie Johnson sent in his for the whole year and people like that. I think you are going to see a lot more cars going to every race. I know Marc Johnson wants to do it who I was speaking to the other day and that would be great. We still have the small tracks for guys like Billy Van Pelt and JR Hurlbert that have been loyal to our series, so they still have a chance to shine on the smaller tracks that they like. I just think we needed to balance that out. The whole situation last year at Penn Can really opened eyes to say hey we need to adjust some of our events. Some of these smaller tracks just can’t handle the purse that we have and you see other series don’t go there as well because they can’t afford it with the size of their grandstands.”
DTD: Now that we have rehashed some questions from our 2017 interview, let’s move on with some new questions pertaining to now. The one question I always ask myself is how does he do it? Back in 2017, you had the STSS and Georgetown. Now as we go into 2022, you have the STSS, STSS Elite series, STSS Cajun Series along with running Georgetown, Fonda and Utica-Rome, along with running the American Racer Tire Series. How do you find enough time in the day to do it all?
BD: “I work a lot and I work early in the morning. That is the time of the day I can get things done as far as the paperwork. There is a tremendous amount of paperwork, things that people don’t even think about. Just ordering checks, trophies and stuff like that for everything we have going is a project. I put a lot of time, probably more than most people think. It’s not just opening the gates, there is a lot more to it. During the season, Jamie and Denise Page do a lot for us as far as general management for both tracks and for the concessions at both Utica and Fonda. We have a really good system down now for the New York tracks with track prep. Craig Hanson does everything during the week at Fonda, the grading and stuff like that during the week up until racing starts and then Jamie Friesen comes in and does the watering and touch up work during the night. At Utica, Jamie does it all. Fortunately, he is retired and has all week to work on the racetrack and make sure the equipment is right. Angela Hanson is in the office at Fonda and that deflects a lot of phone calls because Fonda is very busy, and I mean in a good way. Fonda has a lot of cars and a lot of people so that means there is a lot of phone calls, so she handles all of that stuff. Then we brought Chris Moore on last year to go with us on the road with the series stuff as far as doing banners and track stuff, he does some work in the office and a lot of the press releases. He will do a rough draft of the release and I will polish it off and send it out so that helps.
“At Georgetown, Mario Street has really stepped up and has done a lot for us there and it is good to have somebody there in Delaware when we are not there. In the summertime it is a lot, there were times last year where we did a STSS race during the week and we had Fonda, Georgetown, Utica and the Cajun series all going on at one time. Actually, with the cajun program, Chris and Tim Bates stepped up. They wanted to see this thing get going and stepped up as series directors and that was a new challenge to them. I went down during the season when I could for regular events just to see how they were making out and they have done very well. Their independent and do a very good job and if there is a problem, they will call so we can sort it out. Even their banquet and I have done a lot of banquets but cannot think of one where I just walked through the door and didn’t have to do anything. It was all set-up and beautiful and you could tell they put their heart into it. It’s all about the staff you have behind you and there are still some things we have to work on. There is probably more on my plate than there needs to be most of the time but some of that is I don’t want to give it up or sometimes it is just quicker for me to do it myself but that is part of a growing business and we’ve grown much faster than anyone would’ve thought.”
DTD: Speaking of the STSS Cajun Series, this series seems to be starting to take off, what are your thoughts on what direction the series will take in 2022?
BD: “I told the guys at the banquet when I did my speech that this year’s scheduling with the Cajun series was very different than last year and they all kind of looked at me. I said this year when I called tracks, they actually answered the phone. The people down there know about us now and something that really stuck out to me is last August I flew down to Big O Speedway just outside of Dallas on a Saturday after Fonda was shut down and they had seven or eight classes, which is a normal night for a track down there, and the largest class of all the classes was our Northeast Modifieds and that is on a Saturday in the middle of August in Dallas, TX and I like man, this is starting to take off and that night it really sunk into me how cool it was. Two years ago they tried to have a race at Chatham on a Saturday night and they had three cars and last year we never dipped below thirteen, and the last five races of the year were sixteen and up so it is growing. There are more cars going down there, newer cars going down there. This year alone, the Cajun series has fourteen events at 10 different tracks. We have more races in the Dallas market which is big. There is a nice Modified history in Dallas from when Glenn Donnelly went down there in the late 80’s and it is allowing us to merge the Louisiana cars and the cars that had been running in Texas with the wings and put them together. We had a couple of Texas winners in the second half of last year and that opened some eyes, and we are starting to get some of those Dallas guys to come over. We branched off into Arkansas and have our first race there with the Cajun region so now that is a three-state series and as the class builds during the season and the fans know what they are, it will continue to get better when we go down there in November.”
DTD: This season you made the Short Track Supernationals a non-point event. Was that a result of drivers asking you to do so or was it a small olive branch extended to DIRTcar in hopes that they would reciprocate? In turn which they did by making the LOL race a non-points race.
BD: “There are really two reasons I did that. The first reason was that I wanted to give the small guys their race back. That what this race was built for and once we started including it in the north series you started to get the Matt Sheppard’s and those type of teams to come down and run it and it really wasn’t the intent of that event when it started out. Second reason was that I did want to see both series run the whole season without conflict, and I felt like there was no progress being made. I was trying to do what I could do; the racers were doing what they could do, but nothing was happening so I figured if I took action first and said, ‘hey if this is what I am going to do then there might be some reciprocation from the other side.’ It didn’t look like that was going to happen initially when the schedules came out but then the drivers really expressed their opinions to the other side, and they made the right decision to do exactly what we did on their side and that is great for everybody. We’re gaining some cars and they’re gaining some cars and there is nothing wrong with that. I think the Elite series point fund and purses combined with the fact that I pulled the plug by taking the points away from the Afton race really forced the hand so that the other side had to do something, or they would get a lot of negative publicity. In the end, it all worked out for everybody. Like I said, we don’t have to be friends and buddies and I know they are not fans of what I am doing because the Northeast compared to the rest of the country is a pretty small area and we are gaining a lot of territory and I know they don’t like that but we can co-exist and make it better for everybody involved, the sponsors, the tracks, the teams and drivers so I am glad it worked out and hopefully we can stay this way into the future.”
DTD: There still seems to be a major issue with tires and parts shortages. The one common complaint I heard at Motorsports was engines and the scarcity of parts to complete either new or rebuilt motors. One person told me that he has had a motor at a builder since last May. What are your thoughts on how this is impacting modified racing, and do you see it continuing?
BD: “It will still be a major story this year. I made my schedule with that in mind. We are racing pretty strong in the early part of the season and if you notice there is only one STSS race in the entire month of August. I know when you get to mid-July, it’s going to tough when you get to the part of the season that team’s wanting to freshen engines and they start crashing. I think sheet metal and everything is going to be really tough to get. The tire situation is still going to be a challenge because both manufacturers are having a problem getting nylon which is a big part of building a tire. I think we need to be smart with our tire rules. I know I have gotten a lot of good feedback from the race teams over Cherokee and Florida being one compound per corner and that’s it so you don’t have to go down there three right rear options and two left rear options because that just wears on American Racer. So, I think we all are going need to chip in. I am going to extremely limit and may not do any track rentals at any of my tracks because I don’t think we need to be burning up tires at a practice. Everyone is going to need to be responsible, the promoters, the driver have to take some responsibility and be smart and the scheduling needs to be smart. I thought about this way back in November and that is why our schedule is like it is by going hard early, then regroup in the heat of the summer and then come back with our big races in the fall. I really don’t think it is going to get any better, I mean when you go to the grocery store and there is nothing on the shelves, how can you complain to Behrent’s. If we can get the Wegner’s motor program a little more popular, the last time I talked to Casey Wegner he had enough parts to build around twenty new motors sitting there and I know he has sold a few out of that number to drivers for this season. He is such a large business that he was able to stock up on some of the 427’s so that will be an option. We have a couple of people running them in Florida and if they do well that will be an option if somebody pops an engine during the year and can’t rebuild so that is an affordable option out there for them to continue racing.”
DTD: In a follow-up to that question, we all remember the aluminum block controversy a few years back that you were put in the middle of. With the shortage of steel blocks out there, do you envision your series or Modifieds in general ever allowing aluminum blocks in the future?
BD: “I do, I am looking to put a meeting together with 20, 30 or 35 teams that have supported us the most over the past three or four years and discussing that. I don’t believe there will be any changes in the rules for 2022 because there is no way I would change the rules prior to our richest season ever, I think that would not be a good plan. Based on feedback that I have gathered from the race teams that there is a possibility there will be a way to work the aluminum blocks in without giving them an advantage. Putting weight under the motor plate, having STSS issued weights, so we know that they are what they are supposed to be. I think there is a way to incorporate them and keep people racing, but like I said first, there would have to be a conversation with a group of race teams and second it would be plan for a season later because I don’t want to change that in the middle of the year. I do think it is possible and I think it will probably be healthy to do that at some point. Modifieds have had steel blocks since forever and anytime you make such a big change you are bound to ruffle some feathers, but I am hearing more and more from racers and not necessarily the professional racers, but the Friday and Saturday night racers that they are going on Pro Power’s website for example and seeing a used late model motor for $18,000 and that’s a pretty good deal. I am hearing that more and more from the regular Friday and Saturday racers which tells me that is probably the direction we need to go. If you hear it from the top guys, of course they can afford it, but if you hear it from the regular guys, it is something we really need to consider.”
DTD: Most of all the drivers I have talked to this off season, the one common statement I hear is that this is a good time to be a Modified driver with all the money being offered. Do you see this continuing in the future?
BD: “At this point, the fans and the drivers are going to determine how far this goes. I committed a ton of money to this season and that forced DIRTcar to raise their point fund and do some other things, but I would love to run fewer races and pay more. Like these big $25,000 to win races, I think that would be more of an event, but the fans and the racers are going to vote with their cars in the pit area and their butts in the seats. If the events are supported and we come out ahead financially, there will be more of them. If nobody shows up, then we are probably going to go back to racing for $5,000 or $10,000 to win and that’s how it is going to be. I feel like I have done everything I can as far as the promotions out there and the purses and point fund. I feel like I have done everything I can to raise the bar and now it is up to them to get their butt in a seat or their car in the pits and show that is what they want. I would love to continue with what we are doing; I love the atmosphere of the big events. I think having fewer events that pay more because of the economy and the situation with the shortages in the racing community is what will work and hopefully people will flock to these events. I had a conversation with Scott Childress of Cherokee Speedway yesterday and he said the buzz around our event at the end of February is very strong so that is encouraging because at the end of the day you can’t run these events with $80,000 purses with an empty grandstand even with the TV money, you just cannot. I think the fan side of it will determine how this goes more than the driver side of it. I believe the fans will determine if this will live or die.”
DTD: You mentioned in your interview with Kasea (Bauscher) on his The Four-Wide Podcast that a lot of this money being offered is due in somewhat to live streaming. Can you explain that and how it works?
BD: “A lot of that depends on your agreement. Every agreement is different, some people get paid by event, some people get paid rights fees. Every agreement and every group are different. But the fact is that there becomes a third gate now. Before it was just pit gate and a grandstand gate for a promoter and you had to pay all of your bills and expenses with those plus whatever you sold in the concessions. Well now you have what I call the TV gate which gives you some extra revenue to open it up for you to do some different things. I am not saying every promoter should do some of the crazy that I do, but it does open up some possibilities for a little of bit of extra revenue for the tracks. Look at what is happening at Atlantic City this weekend, at least for Lenny Sammons that is dealing with this forecast he has that avenue with DirtTrackDigest TV broadcast to bring something in. TV does two things; it brings in some extra capital for the promoters to use and that’s why you see a lot of purses going up and secondly it gives you exposure. We have people from all over the country watching our events. I am blown away when we get tweets from someone in Maine or from across the county watching a Saturday night from Fonda because they can now. So, the exposure has to help with the sponsorship, and I think one that TV helped us get was Penske. We now have Penske on board now as a presenting sponsor on the series and the title sponsor of qualifying night at Cherokee and I heard from their group that when they watched Louisiana and saw how much coverage they got by giving the drivers certificates and how many times they hear their name, it made them want to be a part of our series. So, if we are smart, we can turn some of this exposure into sponsorship as the next step. You know 55,000 people watched the Port Royal 200 online, that is an amazing number and it’s honestly incredible. Now we have to turn that viewership and exposure into sponsorship dollars and keep growing it.”
DTD: Where do you see Brett Deyo and the STSS in another four or five years?
BD: “I think we will be solidified here in the Northeast. I think we will probably be what people consider the premier series for the Modifieds in the northeast as we continue to go in that direction. I see us with a strong future in Delaware now which is great, I think there was a lot of uncertainty with Georgetown. In the next few years, you are going to see some major changes at Georgetown Speedway to make it a showplace with the people I have around me there. I think we are going to see the Texas and Louisiana side grow to where we’re almost a national series. I think we are heading that way. That’s the way I feel, and we are going in the right direction. We will need to adjust with the times with what we just talked about with the aluminum blocks and shortages. You will need to stay on top of your game to do it, but I think we can continue to go in that direction.”
DTD: Last question, I know you had talked about taking the Modifieds to the areas like Indiana and such. Is that still a possibility?
BD: “I would love to take our Modifieds out to Fairbury. That is something Michael Rigsby and I have talked about, but dates are at a premium for the Modified racing and that’s very clear and I wouldn’t want to go out there with 18 cars. I would want to do it right. I would love to have a shot at the dome, that would be huge exposure for us. Those are things that I would like to do and keep growing and like I said, if the fans show up and these elite races are a success, I think there is a potential for more major events and fewer of these $5,000 to win grind events in the summer when everybody is burnt out but has to go for points. Look at the way the Super Late Models schedule is now between the World of Outlaws and the Lucas Oil Late Models, XR and FloRacing’s deal, the Late Model guys almost don’t have to unload their cars for less than $20,000 if they don’t want to and it could be that way in the Modifieds. You just need the crowds to support it and that’s going to be the factor that determines it. One of the things we have going for Cherokee is the amount of northeast people that live in the Charlotte, Mooresville and Concord areas. So many of the fabricators that work on those cup teams moved from the northeast and a lot of people retire there. Harry Behrent, Larry Brolsma and Ed Zachary all live down there, and Ed sent me a message on Facebook saying how cool Cherokee is going to be. Randy LaJoie came over to me at the motorsport show and told me how many people in his shop were talking about the Cherokee event so there is a lot of hype with that group, so I think that is going to help us. Last time we went to Cherokee in 2020 we did it on a few days’ notice and we had a very good crowd so I am hoping as long as the weather is decent, we can replicate that.”
The future of the Northeast Modifieds looks bright with Brett Deyo and his BD Motorsports brand taking the necessary risks to raise the notoriety of the Modified class along with the purses being offered to keep it growing.
Thank you for taking the time to read along and as always, I can be reached via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @dirtracefan25 for any questions or comments.