(TOLEDO, Ohio – March 23, 2015) – Track Enterprises CEO/President Bob Sargent usually hustles through the ARCA garage with two or three radios in his hand, talking on one, listening on the other. ARCA officials could be in one ear with his track prep guys in the other…possibly safety crews on another channel. His cell phone is usually ringing. He probably didn’t get much sleep the night before.
Such is the life of a race event/track promoter with a lot on his plate. Case in point: the weekend of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
“It’s all about preparation and getting ahead of it,” Sargent said. “On Friday night, weekend of Springfield, we put on the POWRi Midget race in Lincoln (Ill.). Saturday, it’s at the track (Illinois State Fairgrounds) at 5:00 a.m. for the Silver Crown race. We leave Springfield at approximately 5:00 (p.m.) and hustle over to Macon (Speedway) for the POWRi Midget show Saturday night. Back to Springfield at 4:00 a.m. Sunday for the ARCA race.”
Reading between the lines, there’s not a lot of sleep in the aforementioned equation…sometimes, none.
“That part (sleep) doesn’t really bother me. I don’t think about it. I have the attitude of whatever it takes to put on a great event, and take a lot of satisfaction when it all comes together like it should. It’s my competitiveness, similar to a driver’s. I want to win, and winning for me means a full grandstands and putting on good races for the spectators…it drives me more than money. I know people may have a hard time believing that, but putting on a good show for the people who buy the tickets is what drives me.”
For Sargent, the drive goes way back to his high school and college football days. Born and raised in Macon, Illinois – he still lives there – Sargent played football all the way through high school, and well enough to get a full scholarship to Southeast Missouri State where he was a first-string outside linebacker, ready and willing to mow down any poor soul who breached his territory.
“During my senior year, I was trying to decide if I was going to pursue a pro NFL football career or head in some other direction. I went to the owner of Macon Speedway – I had already been working there in the summers since I was 14 – to see if I could work out a deal to lease out the beer sales for the summer; then go play football. He said, ‘No…why don’t you take the whole thing?’ I was 20 years old. I did a lease-deal with him the first year; then I went and bought it. I’ve had it since I was 20…I’ve been in this business for over 30 years now. That’s a long time in this industry.”
Despite taking on Macon Speedway barely beyond his teenage years, he also returned to Southeast Missouri State to finish his education, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Management.
In addition to promoting races at Macon Speedway and Paducah Int’l Raceway for decades, Sargent, on this particular day, had his hands full with track preparations at the Terre Haute Action Track, which he also manages. This year alone, he will also promote both ARCA races at the Illinois State Fairgrounds and the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, the race at Lucas Oil Raceway, and the next event on tour – the Nashville ARCA 200 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville Saturday, April 11.
“I’m extremely excited about the ARCA race at Nashville. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with ARCA at several great venues (Sargent has promoted the ARCA races at Springfield and DuQuoin for 21 years), and this one coming up in Nashville is just going to add to that. This has all the ingredients for an annual, successful event…the history of the track…the facility is beautifully laid out…everything about this event is right. It’s a great venue for the race teams. Nashville is a growing, booming community…I’m really excited about this one.”
Looking into the crystal ball, Sargent feels like he’s got a lot to be excited about.
“I see a lot of bright spots in this industry that we weren’t seeing so much over the last five years…through the tough times. But I’m looking forward to the future. I believe we’re heading into a growth period for a very long time.”
Looking back, Sargent has no regrets regarding the direction he ultimately took.
“I don’t regret it at all. If I would have stayed with football, I think I could have given them a run for their money. I might have been an inch too short and a step too slow, but I believe I could have made it had I chosen that route. A good buddy of mine, who played at my level…I’d say we were equal in ability…he went on to play for the Jets for years, but, at the time, I had my reasons for going the direction I took.”
No matter the direction Sargent went, or goes, success is sure to follow. The 2015 season will mark his 22nd second year promoting State Fair race events at Springfield and DuQuoin.
“I actually went to the State Fair board to see about promoting races there. I had already brought a late model show on my own, and Bill Oldani (previous promoter) was getting ready to retire, so the board asked me if I wanted to do it all, so I did. “
In addition to promoting weekly racing at Macon and Paducah, which he now co-owns in combination with Ken Schrader, Tony Stewart and Kenny Wallace, he’s promoted, at one time or another, race events with ARCA, IMCA, NASCAR, World of Outlaws, Monster Trucks, AMA Motorcycles and more. And no matter what one promotes, based on the ups and downs of the economy, weather and any number of outside, uncontrollable mitigating factors, there is plenty of risk that goes with the territory.
“I don’t worry about the risk. If there’s a way to gauge it, I’m not sure what that is anyway. I don’t feel any part of risk in my make-up. My strategy is to work as hard as I can at each event, and let it fall where it does. I don’t get nervous over it…I don’t lay awake at night worrying about it. I really think it comes back to my competitive nature. It doesn’t bother me.
“I’m very fortunate. I’ve had a lot of great help and I’ve had a lot of support from a lot of friends and family. I’m fortunate to have some great friends in the industry…NASCAR, ARCA…I consider it all part of a family. I’ve got some really good people in place. I feel like we’re very well prepared. That’s the key to any good organization – having good people everywhere. Organization and time management…that’s what it’s all about.”
Sargent sees no retirement in his near future.
“I don’t see that retirement light coming. I have no plans for an end to this. The only light I’m seeing are bright spots in the economy and what I think is coming. I can't say we're ever going to get back to like it was in its heyday...back in the 80's, but I like the signs I'm seeing. I’m always looking for the next event. I’m associated with way too many good people in this industry to ever give it up. I don’t know what else I’d do.”
Sargent is a longtime friend and business partner of racing legend Ken Schrader.
“We (Sargent and Schrader) probably talk every day, sometimes a couple times a day. We’re fortunate that we have a lot of things in common. He’s raced about everything there is to race, and it seems like I’ve promoted just about everything…at this level. We have so many disciplines to talk about in this sport. We’re both involved now with so many aspects of the industry. And now that he’s on the promoting side of it, we can talk about the business side too.”
By Don Radebaugh, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nashville ARCA 200 next
On-track activities for the 24th Nashville ARCA 200 begin Saturday, April 11 with the first practice session from 12:15-1:00 p.m., followed by the second and final practice session from 1:45-2:30. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell will take place at 5:00 Saturday afternoon. The Nashville ARCA 200 is set to start at 8:00.
Southern Super Series late models to join ARCA
Raceday will also include the Southern Super Series as a companion race to the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards. The addition of the super late model tour adds a 100-lap Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco race at 6:00 before the ARCA cars and stars take center stage for the grand finale.