When news was released on the final sale of Tony Stewart’s All Star Circuit of Champions to the High Limit Sprint Car Series, it led to more questions than answers.
It’s nobody’s fault, really. For months, fans and industry types assumed Brad Sweet and Kyle Larson were going to make the move, which allowed for plenty of time for speculation around the water cooler and on message boards.
And boy, did they light up. People wanted answers on a variety of topics including the number of races that will be run in 2024, purses, the future of Ohio Speedweek, and, of course, what is the schedule going to look like, just to name a few.
To say Larson, Sweet, and High Limit have been the lead story throughout the second half of the season would be an understatement. And now, the information fans have been clamoring for is being released.
SprintCarUnlimited.com sat down with Sweet and new High Limit Chief Marketing and Events Officer Kendra Jacobs last week and got the particulars on a series that currently has 58 races on the schedule. The number could get to 62 with a goal of running at least 50 nights, which takes into account events that could be lost to weather.
The number of races is similar to the All Star slate that has been in place for years under the Stewart regime. As for the name, the new series will be called, “High Limit Racing.”
“Obviously, we thought long and hard about it,” Sweet said of the All Star name and brand. “We don’t want to discredit the history of the All Stars, but whenever you are trying to grow something bigger, we had to really look at what the best opportunity for growth was.
“We had a lot of momentum with the High Limit Series. So, we felt like changing the banner of it, making it fresh, and going national with it was the best way to do it.”
BUILDING A TOUR
High Limit was an ideal manufactured in early 2022 and made public that same year during Kings Royal weekend, when Sweet and Larson held a press conference announcing their new series. The first event — a teaser — took place one month later at Lincoln Park Speedway.
The 2023 schedule featured 12 midweek events, with 11 of them determining a champion. There were a couple of hiccups, but the series was a success, which led to talk of expansion and purchasing the All Stars.
Despite the desire to have a larger slate of events, Sweet and Co. wanted to keep the staple midweek shows in place. It led to the decision to have a series within a series, which will feature an overall national champion and a point fund for the eight to 10 midweek events that will be on the schedule.
The total point fund payout between the two series will be exceed $1 million. Teams can run the entire national tour, which includes weekend and midweek shows, or can just commit to the shortened slate.
“We, obviously, started out with 12 races this year and really liked being the midweek series, but chasing around the Outlaw races without the Outlaws being able to race them really wasn’t a great business model for all of the race teams,” Sweet said. “So, buying the All Stars allows us to put on our own big weekend events and still have our midweek series involved in that.
“The [midweek shows] will have its own point fund, and it will probably be eight to 10 races. Obviously, Kyle, and teams who want to just sign up for those races, can just contend for that championship. If you are going to run for the full national championship, those races will be included in the full schedule.”
Expansion to this degree wasn’t in the original High Limit plan. It wasn’t until the 12-race series took off that Sweet and Larson started to look at putting something bigger together.
Purchasing the All Stars was only part of the equation. FloRacing, the streaming partner for High Limit, came on as a minor stakeholder, and things started to fall into place for what should be an interesting offseason.
“The 12-race thing was something that we thought would be really cool with Kyle,” Sweet said. “Then, I started to feel like I had a ceiling on me with not being able to race these events and just watching them. There were a lot of drivers watching these events who could compete for the money, and they weren’t allowed to race.
“Then, the opportunity started to present itself with the All Stars, and we loved the midweek thing, but it would be nice not to be chasing other series events. It was like, ‘We can build our own events, this midweek thing really works, and me and Kyle really like doing it.’ It just compounded, and one opportunity created another opportunity.”
Continued Sweet, “It was kind of like, we are entrepreneurs, and we thought, ‘OK, this is a good opportunity for us to take what we are trying to do for the sport to the next level.’”
The midweek shows in 2023 featured paydays ranging from $23,023 in standard events to just over $32,000 and included a couple of $50,000-to win events at Kansas’ Lakeside Speedway and Pennsylvania’s Lernerville Speedway.
Things will change a bit for next season, but the successful midweek shows will remain intact from a purse standpoint. They will all pay over $20,000, and there is a possibility some will up the ante for 2024.
With the expanded schedule, High Limit has put together weekend races. The goal was to book as many two-day events at the same venue in an effort to limit costs for teams while maximizing earning potential.
A one-day, stand-alone show will be $12,000 to win and $1,200 to start. The second race of a two-day show will pay a minimum of $15,000 to win and $1,500 to start, with many shows exceeding that number.
As is the case with any series, High Limit has also put together a tow package for teams following the entire national circuit. The top five in points will receive $600, with sixth through 10th banking $500. The rest will receive a $400 stipend for towing to events.
“I think initially, no, I probably didn’t think that it would grow, especially this quickly,” Larson said during a Monday phone interview with SprintCarUnlimited.com. “I think once we actually got it started and started building what we had this season, I saw potential to continue to grow it to where we’re at today.
“I think it’s been a fun adventure and fun to learn more about the promotion side of the business, because everything I’ve always done is just race. Just getting to understand things a little better and learn has been fun, and then getting to see how dedicated and driven Brad is has been neat, as well.”
Continued Larson, “So, yeah, it’s pretty amazing to see where we’ve come from just talking about this a couple of years ago to get it to where it is now.”
MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT
Sweet maintains that the goal of High Limit Racing isn’t to take away from other series. There is no desire to splinter or fracture the sport. Instead, the hope is to provide more opportunity for growth.
It’s not limited to drivers and teams. Larson, Sweet, and FloRacing are offering a different model … one they believe will take Sprint Car racing to new heights.
“There are business decisions being made, but they are not based on trying to put the Outlaws out of business,” Sweet said. “It’s simply trying to grow our brand and business. FloRacing is our partner, and it’s no secret FloRacing and DIRTVision are competitors, so obviously, we want to provide good content for FloRacing and put on really good events for fans.
“If that’s deemed competitive, I think the All Stars or any outdoor form of entertainment is competitive toward the Outlaws. So, I think the Outlaws are going to be just fine. Brian Carter and his group have been around for a long time, and I think they will adapt and do whatever they need to do to keep their teams and their fans happy, and we’re going to do whatever we need to do the same. I think there is room for both series. You see that with the Late Models.
“I think this is going to provide more opportunity for race teams. I think it’s going to give the teams who might be on the fringe of running national a chance to grow their race teams and get bigger sponsors. That’s what we are trying to provide … more opportunity for race teams, more sustainability for race teams, and more sponsorship value and transparency. All of those things are important for the health of Sprint Car racing.”
Sure, Sweet and his staff made some mistakes the first year. They acknowledge that this is a work in progress, and it will take time to get to the finished product.
In the meantime, High Limit is putting some things in place to make the series a little different. They have signed a strategic alliance with the Lucas Oil Late Model Series, which is also a FloRacing product. That means you will see the two series on the same stage headlining a few events next season.
High Limit is also committed to safety and has hired Med Star to staff each event on the schedule. As for a driver roster, that announcement is yet to come. But Sweet did indicate that he will be running all the races.
Freedom is also a priority. Sweet, as well as any other driver who signs up for High Limit Racing, will be able to run events outside of the series with no restrictions.
“I lived in a world of restrictions, and my ceiling was always set every year on what we can and can’t do,” Sweet said. “Every weekend was filled from February through November, and you see a lot of burnout and guys racing through concussions and broken ribs.
“This is an opportunity for us to create something different for the drivers. From all of my experiences, I thought this was something that might be a little bit better with more quality races, and you can make the same amount of money or more.
“But, you can also have more of a life outside of racing, which I think is important. I think it’s important to not set a ceiling on your drivers. I really think they should be able to go do what they want to do and make as much more as they can make. I listen to the drivers, I listen to the owners, and they all want that.”
Larson and Sweet understand this venture is going to take time. It’s by no means perfect, and they are going to make mistakes along the way.
For Sweet, it’s all about transparency and working toward the end goal. There is a long-term plan in place, and as long as he takes care of the drivers and teams while trying to press for growth in the sport, he believes High Limit will be a success.
“I think the fact that Flo believes in us, and they are a minority stakeholder, I think it says a lot about me and Kyle, and there is longevity to this,” Sweet said. “I don’t think this is something where we feel we are going to go out the first year and everything is going to be perfect and we are going to set the world on fire.
“We are trying to build big events, and this is the bottom for us. This is the very beginning. We have big goals and big aspirations to do a lot of things for Sprint Car racing on the safety side, the purse side, on the fan experience side, creating more value for the team side, and that’s not going to happen year one.
“We have three, five, seven-year goals to get to. Everything takes time. I didn’t become a World of Outlaws champion overnight. I went out there and grinded it out. I battled, I studied, I learned, and I adapted. Now, I want to take everything I learned in my racing career and put it into making the best possible series and try to help the overall growth of Sprint Car racing.”