By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
As competition season draws to a close, USAC and dB Drag Racing competitors are scrambling for final points, IASCA is closing its first season under new owner Paul Papadeas, and SLAP just held its first finals competition in Atlanta.
Although some competition organizations feared a slow year in the aftermath of Sept. 11, many say participation was equal to last year. In addition, the organizations have been restructuring their divisions to draw new interest and claim they are attracting a growing percentage of novice competitors.
USAC president Ralph Randall says approximately 75 percent of its competitors this year were novices due to the formation of a new stock division and a basic SQ class. "The stock division has been over 50 percent of every show," he said. dB Drag Racing said its new Mini Street novice division is also attracting newcomers with many dealers offering four or five classes under Mini Street and filling every one.
USAC this year began holding events in the evening to help draw crowds and it added live entertainment at some shows. Defending USAC's drive to reach new members, Randolph noted, "We've been criticized that we're not retaining some of the old competitors, but we're trying to bring people in and once we do that, it's up to the retailers to keep them. The guy who has won first in his class for the past eight years — what's he doing for us? He's scaring off newcomers and he's already got his stereo."
SLAP says its overall attendance has been up by 30 to 40 percent this year although much of that is due to an increase in the number of auto enthusiasts competing in the car shows. SLAP, which combines car shows and sound-off contests, said it held approximately 150 events this season, slightly more than last year. The organization completed its first championship final event, drawing approximately 300 cars for all formats, said marketing VP Terry Miller. Tweeter was the title sponsor of the event which was held Sept. 7 at the HiFi Buys Amphitheater in Atlanta. Miller says most SLAP shows draw an average of 150 cars, each and he hopes to grow that to 200 to 300 cars.
DB Drag Racing says it has deliberately reduced the number of shows it sanctions which has resulted in increased attendance at each show, according to president Wayne Harris. "Last year we did a little over 1,000 shows and the year before that we did 1,100. It looks like we'll do 900 shows this year and I'd like to see us pull back to 500 shows," he said, noting that when the retailers hold too many events, it dilutes attendance.
IASCA, which is in the process of redefining its format, said it held about 70 shows this year, including some of its first events in many years in the Northwest. IASCA is pushing a new format that will include sound clinics to be held, ideally, about a month before each event. The clinics allow consumers to diagnose their systems and to learn where improvements are possible. IASCA owner Paul Papadeas noted that the clinics can help retailers drive new sales, well beyond the competition market. Less than 10 percent of a store's clientele actually wants to sit in a lane and compete, he said. "It shows people how to get to that next level."
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