SCD: How many full-time staff do you have?
CV: For our Portland race, we have basically three people full-time who concentrate on Portland and help with Coronado. We just brought Tiffany Koss on board who is going to help us with marketing, and basically business development, new venues. There is some stuff coming online that she is going to help with.
SCD: Can you talk about new venues? Are you going East?
CV: Far East is that way (Cris points West across the Pacific). We’re not going to the Far East. We’ve have had some discussions with Ray Holland (Hardcore Performance, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada). It’s an interesting company. He’s going to some great venues. Barber Motorsports Park is the finest motor park in the country. I look at it and say our HMSA members should be exposed to that facility, it’s phenomenal. St. Jovite Mont Tremblant is my favorite spot in the world—unbelievable racetrack, great city, great area, great people. One of the venues that we had been trying to develop, but that has had a stutter step, is Reno Fernley Raceway. It fell into some really drastic times this past year and closed. The lenders have taken it over and committed to spend money on it, and to finish the racetrack. Reno Fernley Raceway has potential to be a really great racetrack. I’m really high on Reno. It’s a great car town, you have Hot August Nights, with like a million people. Reno Fernley Raceway is a new venue that we want to continue to develop. We were on a great roll with it doing the historic races, involved with the city and having a parade in downtown. The mayor loved it. Were involved with the National Automobile Museum, what’s left of the Harrah’s collection. That’s huge, and I think the National Automobile Museum needs to have a presence within our little world.
SCD: How do you extend the demographics with these ticket prices into a younger crowd?
CV: Bless you. That’s probably the million-dollar question. This year having the stock cars will help that somewhat. Because this is a fairly expensive spectator ticket, you’re not going to get a 16-year-old coming to this event by himself. We hope that he is going to come with his family or his father, and hope his Dad will turn him on to a great car and expand it that way. As far as participants, really push the idea of mentoring. For our April club event we had 10 participants who were mentoring 10 young drivers, which I was excited about. Several of them were family members, and there were several of them friends and neighbors who liked the cars and wanted to come along. I’ve encouraged our participants, if they’re getting to a certain age, that if they don’t want to drive anymore, to put it in a different perspective, put someone in it to drive it and you can still come along to the races. That way they remain the entrant, and they can enjoy watching the car and watch someone else drive it. The biggest, toughest part is lowering the spectator demographic age.
SCD: To draw the younger spectator, what about a current or even “vintage” NASCAR driver who will show up and drive?
CV: Show up and drive. I’m not necessarily a big fan of either current drivers or period drivers participating in our events. Several years ago HMSA put on an event in conjunction with Long Beach Grand Prix where we had a group of vintage Formula One cars come and one of the drivers had a health issue and couldn’t drive. They asked for Alex Gurney to drive the car. Alex was in between rides, it was after his Atlantic stint and before the Grand-Am drive came about, and I said no, I don’t want Alex to drive the car. It’s a little bit arrogant of me, and I didn’t want to play God. The participant didn’t think about it the way I had approached it. I said, “Look, Alex is a professional racecar driver, he is a young driver and he deserves a great ride. He is going to have to get into a car and go as fast as he can and just decimate the rest of the field, which is not what we want.” If he doesn’t do that, just goes and drives and plays in the middle of the pack, then he runs the risk of people saying his career is history that he is washed up. That would have been really bad for him, and nobody had thought of it from that perspective. When I told the owner my thoughts on it, he agreed with me. Likewise, the next candidate was Al Unser Jr. and I said, “No, the same thing applies.” Everybody is going to say that Al Unser Jr. has to be at the front of the grid. If he is not at the front of the grid then people are going to look at him and say he is really washed up. So that’s one aspect of it, the idea of putting a current driver into a car. I look at it like our events are for our participants to share their cars with other people. Not necessarily for Jeff Gordon to come here and jump into a car and race it during the event. Dario Franchitti is going to be here this weekend driving some cars. He’s a huge Jimmy Clark fanatic and fan, as you would expect being from Scotland. He’s going to do some demonstrational laps, and that’s what I like to see. I love for our events to be welcoming to period drivers and to current drivers. But for the fans to see those guys outside of the car shaking hands, getting an autograph, versus them being in a race car. They can see that almost every Sunday on television.
SCD: What is the biggest problem facing historic/vintage racing in America right now?
CV: Vintage racing or historic racing? Our company is called Historic Motor Sports Association, and we hope to attract cars with history, cars that ran in period, versus vintage being an old car that has been turned into a racecar, that’s the difference. The biggest difference in going along with that is the cars are prepared as they were in period, not as they could have been. It’s not our philosophy to do that. The development of the cars for us, with production-based cars, stops in 1966. Lots of technology exists today to make the cars run a lot faster than they did. We have no interest in that. We are preserving history. I always say, “The Mona Lisa is not a very attractive woman. I could probably make her, with a couple of brush strokes, more attractive, for me.” That’s sacrilege. People would go nuts if I even suggest that, but often people don’t even think about the idea of putting non-period brakes on their Shelby. You just took the paint brush out and started fixing the Mona Lisa. People say this car’s scary to drive; well it was scary to drive in period. That’s why people sold them. It’s my philosophy not to allow modern updates. They’re lots of other organizations in this county that allow that and that’s OK, but that’s not what I want to do. It just makes it easier for us, for HMSA, when they want to do that because the real period cars, period-correct cars gravitate toward us.
SCD: Can you compare the Pre-Reunion and the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion to the Goodwood Revival?
CV: I’m not a good person to ask that question because I‘ve never been there. From the outside, number one, it’s a phenomenal facility, great history. Beautiful facility. It’s always great when you go to a facility and it’s all green, but that means it rains a lot. They get phenomenal cars. Lord March has done a phenomenal job on the marketing of that event. Racing in Europe is so different than it is in the United States. That is serious racing. They throw away a lot of cars. Lord March has said in the past that he wishes he could adopt the philosophy that we have here so they’re not hurting cars, and that current picture of the driver, I can’t remember who it is, flying through the air as his car flipped. Thank God the Lord was looking down on us that day and we did not lose him. Even though these cars are so dangerous, it’s pretty rare that we have an ugly incident. I think they’re two different events, two different mentalities, I think we get just as great a grid as Goodwood does. Yeah, it’s easy to say we’ve got Lord March sitting there with his entire machine. I think he has like 25 marketing people on that event, and the European philosophy has been so different. He’s able to get Ford, GM, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes and all the manufacturers there, and in this country that’s been a struggle. If we have Ford, GM won’t show up. If we have Toyota, then other manufacturers won’t show up. It’s that mentality.
SCD: Anything you want to get across?
CV: Thankful to be here, thankful to God every day that I get to be in this silly business, and be around these cars I grew up with and love. It’s pretty interesting, I started out going to law school and there were lots of history classes that I had to take for law school, and I hated history, absolutely hated it. And now I’m trying really hard to preserve it; and these events, especially this one, the premier event in the United States, and I want everybody to know that. I want this to be on everybody’s bucket list that they need to come. The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. It’s phenomenal, it’s a phenomenal area and a phenomenal facility, phenomenal cars and participants. That’s one of the things I want to make sure we get across.