Andy Belmont is another ARCA vet who is just as savvy working a deal, and his costs fall into a similar vein. "I don't see how you can do it for less than $400,000," says Belmont. "I don't see how you can be right without spending $750,000. And to be up with the Joneses, it's over a million. It depends on what kind of car you put on the racetrack, obviously . . . You've got an engine lease. You've got a $100,000-$110,000 tire bill. You've got $50,000-a dollar a mile-to run the tractor-trailer up and down the highway. You've got salaries for three or four people . . . We do it as efficiently as anybody, and we still spend about $1,200 per race in travel alone."
Belmont points out more than just the obvious: "There's an awful lot of incidentals people don't think about. You spend $10,000-$12,000 a year in decals. You spend $18,000-$19,000 at the start of the year for uniforms. You spend $10,000-$12,000 in licenses . . . I spend 90 percent of my business day working on sponsor money. I don't get to work on the cars anymore, not hardly, anyway."
Are short-track races cheaper? "Hell no, they're not cheaper," says Belmont. "You can't get to the front without tearing the body off the car. I mean, that's insane. If you can get through a speedway race, you've probably got a $6,000 or $8,000 tire bill, but you've got a whole race car-you've still got a motor to freshen up and all that. You run these places [short tracks] and you've got a $7,000 or $8,000 bill to fix the body right, and that doesn't count the components you tore off along the way underneath."
ARCA runs restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega. The speeds aren't the only thing to increase. "A plate race, just because of the specialty, is a whole different animal," says Belmont. "I can't do a plate race for less than 50 grand. I mean, [engine builder] Joe Rhyne gets 25 grand to rent a motor for one race. You don't have any equity in it; you just rented it and you've got to give it back. You can't go to a plate race without testing, so you've got 2,500 miles in travel, two times, we do, anyway. We have to look at it four times-a test for each one and a race for each one. So that's four events the way I see it. You can't go to Daytona and test in December and come back with the same motor in February and expect to run fast because you suck all that sand down through the motor. You've got to freshen it."
Even the tire bill is different for the plate tracks. "Two things happen when we run a superspeedway race," says Belmont. "Your tire bill instantly goes from, say, if you buy three sets of tires here that would be $2,200 for a short-track race. At the dirt tracks, we only buy one set. You go to the superspeedways, you buy four sets. But you're not talking $750 a set; you're talking $1,550 a set. So now my tire bill is usually $6,800 to $7,200 at a speedway race-any race that we have the radial tires on."
Clement's take on a season's expenses is in the same ballpark. "If he's going to run competitively, not counting buying the cars and buying the transporters [because you can rent a transporter], but to run the race team, rebuild or lease engines and all the equipment, and pay for the expenses, I would think it would take $400,000 to $500,000 to be respectable," Clement estimates. "And it takes probably twice that much to consistently run up front or win a championship."
An AlternativeIf you don't have deep pockets to set up shop, there is another option-rentals. Cars can be leased for one or a group of races, saving money over buying all-new hardware. It's also a good way to test a driver, crewchief, and crewmembers on how well they adapt to the bigger cars on bigger tracks. But renting, like outright buying, has its detractions.
"There are people that have rent-a-cars, and there are people that rent race cars," says Venturini. "I've rented race cars to people. I don't have rent-a-cars; I rent race cars, meaning that it's a car that my son Billy races that I just put your number on and your name over the door and you drive it. For a short track, I wouldn't do it for less than $35,000 a race. It has new tires to go racing with. It's got a motor, it's got a crew, and the car's ready to go. Speedway races, I wouldn't do it for less than $50,000."
Belmont has similar prices. "Thirty thousand dollars," he says. "Ten thousand dollar crash clause. They buy the tires. If they tear the car up, a maximum of 10 grand. I get a $10,000 retainer up front. So they give me 30 grand plus the 10 grand retainer. If they don't hurt the car, I give it back to them after the race."
Crash clause? "I have a crash clause," Belmont continues. "And we agree before the race that car is worth $15,000 to $20,000, whatever it is. That's the maximum you will pay to fix it over and above your rental fee . . . You're going to have a $50,000 investment if you wad it up into the corner, because you've got the $30,000 rental fee and $20,000 crash clause. If you don't crash the car, you've just saved yourself 20,000 bucks."
What if a driver or owner wants to put together a program of multiple races? Are there any deals to be had? "If somebody is running multiple races, and they can bring something to the table, I'll work with them," says Belmont. "That's a different deal. If you look at my website (www.andybelmont.com), my rental price is on there and the reason is on there, as well. You go to the second page and it breaks down all the things you get.
"People rent the car and they forget or don't realize that [after] every race, you've got to revalve the shocks or buy pistons for the shocks. They don't realize you've got to buy $400 worth of brake rotors for the front; you've got to put new brake pads in, new brake rotors on just about every race. There's a lot of consumables that people just don't realize . . . If I get prepaid for three or four races up front, I might consider absorbing the crash clause because the costs are fixed. It doesn't change. You go to Hutch and you buy brake pads or lug nuts. You use them every race. It's not like we're getting rich off of this stuff; it's just how we make our living."
The crash clause is where the renter signs an open check for any needed repairs and/or replacement. But what determines how bad a car is wrecked before it's a total write-off? Leading Edge Race Cars of Charlotte, North Carolina, not only rents cars for intermediate tracks, but also repairs cars and hangs bodies. Owner Pat Beattie says, "You can clip both ends of the car [repair a frame section], but when you get into the middle of a car, that's usually when you start throwing it away." His rates are $20,000 if the renter has a crew with all the tools and parts and, as he says, "$30,000 if you want to just show up with a helmet."