March 2017 REmarks

Innovation and Change.  As any successful business leader will tell you these are the keys to survival in a competitive world.  Adapt or die.  Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution stated it very succinctly – species that adapt to their changing environment succeed and thrive, those that don’t perish.  There are many examples of once-innovative companies that didn’t keep up with a changing world and are no longer with us; RCA, Kodak, Kelvinator, Compaq, Montgomery Wards and Woolworth’s just to name a few.  Sears will probably be joining them in the near future.  There are plenty of car companies on the list as well, Kaiser/Nash/American Motors, Studebaker, Plymouth and dozens of others.

Our club wasn’t endowed with any divine immunity from the laws of evolution, and like hundreds of organizations that didn’t adapt to a changing world, only to wither and eventually die, so too must the SCCA adapt or our club will become an irrelevant relic and fade away as the membership ages.

It’s a far different motorsports scene today than it was in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s when the SCCA was pretty much the only game in town when it came to amateur racing. Today there are other car clubs, marque clubs, for-profit businesses and others competing for the motorsports enthusiast’s time, attention and entries. There are new concepts that have sprung up over the last dozen years or so that barely even existed back in the day – professional driving schools, track day promotors that encourage customers to flog their street cars on an honest-to-god real racetrack, low-budget gimmick racing like LeMons and Chumpcar, totally new concepts like GridLife that combines several motoring-related activities in a party atmosphere, the Optima Search for the Ultimate Street Car series, and others.  All of these venues are trying their hardest to get the attention and involvement of the motorsports enthusiast.

The leadership within the SCCA national office recognizes these challenges (some would say a little too late) and are focusing a lot of effort on bringing the SCCA into the 21st century by testing new-to-us concepts and programs.  Chicago Region’s leadership is also committed to trying new things to attract a younger, wider audience to our events and our club.  We were one of the early pioneers within the SCCA to start and nurture a track day program until it became successful and self-sustaining.  Last fall we included a 3-hour Bracket Enduro race during our Fall Sprints race weekend at Blackhawk Farms, a totally new concept for us in that cars do not need to fit into any particular SCCA road racing class to compete. 

This year we are working in concert with the national office to put together an event to test combining several elements – a PDX track day, Track Trials (a competitive version of a track day), a Club Racing Experience (CRE) which allows non-licensed racers get seat time toward their Novice license, and a Bracket Enduro.  We may even throw in an Autocross event.  All in the same weekend and all at the same place, Autobahn Country Club.  But wait, there’s more – over the course of the weekend we’ll use all 3 of Autobahn’s track configurations; South track, North Track and Full track!

It’s imperative we try new things to adapt to the rapidly-changing world around us, and Chicago Region is actively working with the national office to test some of these concepts. as well as updating and improving our methods of communication with our members so that we reach all age groups via methods they are familiar and comfortable with.  If we don’t, eventually we’ll go the way of Studebaker, RCA, and Kodak.

March and April member’s gatherings  

On March 15 you will have the opportunity to visit one of the premier race car prep shops in the Chicago area, Black Dog Speed Shop.  We’ll tour the facility, see the race cars and hear about their operation and history.  It’ll be interesting and informative for sure.  Then in April we’ll be back at K1 Speed Indoor Karting in Addison with a special guest speaker, Bert Levy, author of The Last Open Road and several other books covering the history of road racing in the U.S. and Europe.  They are informative, humorous and entertaining reads.  At that meeting we’ll also have Paul Zimmerman from Motorsports Collector on hand.  I’m sure Paul will be bringing some of his racing memorabilia for display and sale.  Don’t miss this one!

See you at the races!

Rick Bentson
Regional Executive