Curley: ''We Refuse To Just Roll Over and Let That Happen''
Posted By Tj Ingerson On October 29, 2012
PHOTO: Tom Curley may be facing the biggest challenge of his racing career, but will promote the biggest race of his career next year in July at Airborne. (Eric LaFleche/VLFPhotos.com photo)
BARRE -- There is an old belief that Irish men won’t back down from a fight. And maybe it’s the Irish in American-Canadian Tour President Tom Curley coming out, but he is not backing down in his latest fight.
It’s been a tumultuous two months for the forefront figure of the American-Canadian Tour. First, Autodrome Chaudiere, a favorite stop among for competitors in the Quebec based ACT Castrol Series, was purchased by Dany Lagace and Kevin Roberge, both who were suspended from ACT in 2011.
Then, one of Curley’s crowning achievements, the 50th Annual Milk Bowl, was hampered by rain that forced the postponement of the race twice, and a miserable qualifying day that took nearly eight hours to complete due to rain.
But, maybe, the biggest blow came on Sunday, October 14, when Pro All Stars Series President Tom Mayberry announced he has purchased Oxford Plains Speedway from Bill Ryan and reverted the Oxford 250 back to the Super Late Model type cars.
In response, the American-Canadian Tour has announced the International 500 to be held on Saturday and Sunday, July 20 and 21, 2013, the same weekend as the Oxford 250.
“We’ve been up in Quebec for six years and have brought a series, at the request of some race teams, from 14 to 16 cars to a pretty solid 22 to 26 cars,” Curley said Sunday morning during his International 500 announcement. “Chaudiere was a big part of that; it was a very successful race track. The problem we had, a couple of years ago, Tom Mayberry from PASS decided he wanted to go in and race at Chaudiere, which I didn’t have any problem with, at all. In fact, I thought that was a good move for him. But, what I didn’t buy was the fact, that in that process, they also wanted to come after our race teams.”
The American-Canadian Tour took over the Castrol Series prior to the 2007 season and have developed the series into its current, successful state. During that time, however, all five tracks that the series has visited was sold, leaving ACT as the only solid, stable piece during that time frame.
“When people come up and want to disrupt, it is then, as a business person, you either have to compete with that or simply close your tent up and go back to whatever you’re doing,” Curley explained. “We’ve chosen to compete with it. The reason we’ve chosen to compete with it is the next step was one race was not enough -- they wanted to go in the same market. Within an hour (of Quebec City), you got three major tracks competing for the same fan base and for the same race cars. We’ve had the fan base, fortunately, for six years and we’ve had the cars. Tom Mayberry looked at that, along with his friend Mr. Lagace, to go ahead and say ‘we’re going to break this down and we’re going to start taking the cars.’ And you don’t go after the guy who finishes tenth or 12th, you go after the top. You go after the top teams and you try to convert them to your program versus the program they’ve been doing. That’s business on their part. Business on my part is to say ‘we’re not going to allow that.’
“It’s a business failure for one of us. If nine races are taking place for ACT between Chaudiere, Montmagny, and Riverside, and somebody comes up and wants to put eight more races in, which is what Chaudiere wants to do, if you do that math, it’s a failure waiting to happen. You can’t possibly make money on special events sixteen times a year in the same market. Someone is going to say I don’t have 35 dollars every single week to go to the races, 70 with a couple. They just don’t have it. They’re going to finally sit there and say ‘I like to watch PASS, and they’re only going to Montmagny once, so I’m going to go to that PASS race and I’m going to skip the ACT race, because I can go to Montmagny twice more to see that ACT race.’ That’s what’s going to happen. You don’t have to be smart to know that as a business person.
“Add to that, ‘we’re also going to go after all the big shots that race ACT Quebec. We’re going to go after Theetge and Laperle and Dery, and all these guys, and we’re going to get them to go to PASS races’. All of a sudden we have a race at Ste-Eustache, and the Ste-Eustache race pays $3,000-to-win, but there is a $10,000-to-win in Beech Ridge. And if you’re out of the point race or your pick-and-choose, it’s a simple play. The Quebec teams that you need to support your series, the big shots that sell the tickets, are going to go to Beech Ridge. They’re not going to go to Ste-Eustache. So when the fans show up at Ste-Eustache, the deserve to see the best that we have. They said ‘wait a minute, where’s Theetge, where’s Allard, where’s Laperle, where’s Dery? There’s only 14 or 16 cars here today.’ We’re going to fail! And we refuse to just roll over and let that happen.
“The promoters have a lot at stake with the tracks we’re dealing with. We simply have said, Chaudiere, do whatever you want to do. We’re going to compete against you. So we’ve spent the last month negotiating with promoters to put together a program that we feel in our best interest. Just like they think what they’re doing in their best interest. And one of us is going to win it and one of us is not going to win it. It’s that simple. I wish I couldn’t make it more complicated than that. It’s not. There’s not enough of the pie, and it’s not a big enough pie, for everybody to get a slice and enjoy it. The pie is going to shrink up real quick on cars, dates, and events.
“My deal is very simple: let PASS come up and run three races at Chaudiere. I’m fine with that. I don’t have any issues with that. But when they start going in and taking the Late Model teams and saying in their press conference they want to get rid of ACT and they want to run the Late Model division themselves, I’ve spent six years of my life up there, 18 hours a day driving back and forth on weekends, 12 times, to support them and I’m not just going to say all that was for not. I’m going to say, we developed that and we’re not going to just give it to you. We’re going to fight it. And that’s what we’ve been doing.”
The promoters of the three race tracks, Autodrome Montmagny, Autodrome Ste-Eustache, and Riverside Speedway, have put together a bonus program for competitors that support every ACT Castrol race in 2013.
“The promoters, I think, we ridiculously gracious to put together a fabulous program up there," Curley said. "These are our purses, the same as we’ve been running for the last five years. But we’re going to put bonuses in. And we’re putting bonuses in for your support. We want you to support us so we’re going to give you bonuses. You’re certainly welcome to come race with us. But if you don’t support us and you support our competition, we’re going to pay you the bonuses. Who in the world would not run their business that way?
“Not once in the last 15 years have I made a call to one single PASS driver and said ‘why don’t you come join us, I can get you a ride with Richard Green.’ Never. I don’t think it’s ethical, I don’t think it’s morally right, and I think bad way to business. I want to compete with what we got. We’re going to compete with this new PASS deal. Twenty four hours after (Mayberry) bought Oxford, I knew what he was going to do next. He’s going to go to Quebec and screw up those rules.
“A carburetor out of the box for a four barrel costs $850. That $850 carburetor would be put on a bunch of cars and that’s it. There are others that will send that to Alabama, will send that to Georgia, send it to Carolina and that’ll become a $5,000 carburetor. That’s whats going to happen when you do those rule changes. And if you think after a decade and a half of work to build this, we’re simply going to say ‘oh, okay’, you’re wrong. We’re going to compete. We preach every weekend that I admire them and I have great respect because they’re competitors. They love to come out and compete. And I’m the same way. We’re going to compete
“Why I’m fighting so hard in Quebec is because they are important to us. They’re important to that race track across the lake (Airborne) and they important, really, to the whole structure of what we do. When you combine that, we feel very positive about our position. We’re going to fight as hard as we can to maintain what we got. And the wars are going to go on for the next few weeks.
“The fact is I never had an issue with Mayberry until he came after these cars. My problem is when they start messing with the cars and then they want to take us and knock us out of Quebec. And they’re very verbal about it.
“I like a good fight, and I’ve never backed away from it. And this is going to be a battle. Maybe I’ll lose this one. If I do, it’ll be another chapter in the book. I think I’m going to get a lot of support from a lot of good teams.
“That’s how I look at this whole thing: out of all this adversity, look for opportunity; all the negativity, you look for opportunity. Now, we get back to being positive and we take these opportunities and we build from them. I think we’re better than we’ve ever been.”
The International 500 at Airborne Speedway will be held on Saturday and Sunday, July 20 and 21, 2013.