Owning a professional sprint car team is about as lucrative as owning a gym membership.
Sure, there’s always the exception, like when you have Donny Schatz driving or you’re that dude whose calves are like bricks because he eats, breathes and sleeps at the gym.
However, for the average person, it would likely be a better use of money to light it on fire, as at least that way it can keep you warm.
The thing is that, as humans, we aren’t scared away by dumping buckets of money into projects. Thankfully for the sprint car world, there are still car owners willing to spend.
Mikey Kuemper, who took co-ownership of the Steve Kinser Racing No. 11k along with veteran World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series driver Kraig Kinser prior to the start of the 2018 season, estimates the average expenses for a team running the World of Outlaws tour is several hundred-thousand dollars per season.
“A full year, if you had three (crew) guys plus the driver, you’d be probably close to $300,000 to $400,000,” he said. “Last year, we spent $120,000 or $150,000. I can’t remember off the top of my head. That’s with us doing it the cheap way.
“The tire bill alone is $80,000 to $100,000. Hotels would be $20,000 to $25,000. Another big thing is diesel, which is $50,000 to $60,000 a year. Then you have the crew. Most teams have two guys in addition to the crew chief.”
Kuemper noted that a World of Outlaws crew chief makes roughly $800 to $1,200 per week. A car chief is in the $600-to-$800 range weekly, he said, and the tire person makes between $400 and $600 per week.
Those are a few of the costs — and it doesn’t include arguably the biggest expense of engine repairs and maintenance — associated with running a World of Outlaws-caliber race team.
While sponsorship money and race winnings vary from team to team, two of the key selling points of running full time with a traveling series are tow money and point fund money.
The World of Outlaws boasts a point fund of $650,000 spread throughout the top 20. The money is split 50-50 between car owner and driver, and a team has to be platinum members in good status — essentially show up to every race during the season — to be eligible.
Theoretically, the top 10 in the standings receive $500 tow money per race. Full-time competitors outside the top 10 receive $400 in tow money per race. There is a champion’s bonus, as well.
However, for multi-day shows, the team receives 50 percent on each day after the first.
“The way we have it worked up is five spots are guaranteed from the previous year’s points,” World Racing Group President Tom Deery said. “The top five are guaranteed $500. The next five in points get $500. The next 10 are eligible for $400. Whenever there is a second or third day, it’s 50 percent of that amount.
“I don’t know if there is a science or a formula (in determining those figures). We did a little map to figure out how many miles the teams traveled in the year and what that type of platinum benefit would represent against that.”
Additionally, platinum teams receive up to seven free pit passes for each race.
“It’s a pretty good benefit package right now,” Deery said. “When you figure it on a 90-event schedule, that’s $750 (for tow money and in free pit passes) an event off the top of your head. That’s close to $65,000 a year and then you add the point fund on top of it.”
Let’s crunch some numbers. Take the high end of what Kuemper said his team spent last year —$150,000. The World of Outlaws website has $87,725 listed as the team’s race winnings. If they had maintained a top-10 position in the points throughout the season, that equates to approximately $30,000 in tow money. Kuemper noted that the team’s point fund money for finishing 10th in the standings was $30,000.
Therefore, for a team that cuts costs by only having a crew chief — Kuemper — and a driver — Kinser — while avoiding hotels on most nights, they came out approximately $2,000 in the red, not counting sponsorship money.
“The tow money is what helps us get up and down the road,” Kuemper said. “The point fund money is what you use to help buy new stuff during the offseason so you head into the next year fresh. Paying more per race to start and to win is the biggest (reason for running with the World of Outlaws). You can offset the cost. You’re racing more and traveling more, but you’re still making more in the long run.”