Gamblers and Outlaws

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Can High Limit Racing challenge the World of Outlaws’ grip on national touring 410 sprint car racing, and what will this “split” mean for the sport?


When two national touring series start competing against each other in a particular discipline, racing industry veterans get nervous. These dreaded “splits” bring up haunting memories of business battles gone wrong—most notably the high-profile civil war that engulfed Indy car racing.

410 sprint car racing has its own history of splits.

The World of Outlaws has maintained its position as the premier national touring sprint car series since 1978 but faced challenges from both the United Sprint Association in 1989 and the National Sprintcar League in 2006. Both series lasted only a single season before disbanding. In 2024, the World of Outlaws is facing a new challenger led by its own reigning five-time champion, Brad Sweet.

“I’ve been racing my whole life and on the road for 10 years with the World of Outlaws,” said Sweet. “So I always had ideas and ambition to help drive the sport to another level.”

Known for throwing slide jobs and running the cushion, the “Big Cat” saved his biggest move for the off-season. In partnership with Kyle Larson—multi-discipline motorsports star and Sweet’s brother-in-law—the duo officially announced the launch of High Limit Racing, a national series of 410 sprint cars with big ambitions and significant funding that has many in open wheel racing talking.

“It seems like there’s a new buzz in 410 sprint car racing because of High Limit being added to the mix,” said Jim Allen of the Northern Auto Racing Club (NARC), a West Coast 410 sprint car series based in Auburn, California.

The new High Limit series has ruffled feathers, set off a firestorm of online opinions, and ignited a scramble to secure full-time driver rosters and tracks. However, there’s optimism this split may not repeat past mistakes.

“These breakaway [series] have not been successful in the past, but the new game changer is streaming revenue,” said Jerry Gappens of Eldora Speedway, New Weston, Ohio. “Streaming has changed the landscape across the board, not only in sprint car racing.”

Indeed, the rise of streaming in motorsports is creating an interesting and quickly evolving dynamic. With new funding, bigger audiences, and a new national touring series in 410 sprint car racing, this once-niche segment of motorsports is reaching new heights while attempting to conquer old challenges along the way.


The Concept

The seeds of High Limit Racing were sown during the 2023 race season, when Larson and Sweet debuted the High Limit Sprint Car Series, a 12-race midweek series. Less of a full-fledged national tour, the series was a starting point for their team to kick the tires.

“I think last year was definitely a learning curve, but I thought we did a good job and had some great events,” said Sweet. “I think for us, it was more like a proof of concept.”

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Founded by Kyle Larson and Brad Sweet, High Limit Racing is 410 sprint car racing’s new national series. Its inaugural full-time season spans coast-to-coast with 60 dates at 36 tracks in 19 states, with driver payouts topping $5 million. Sweet’s goal is to make High Limit “a more sustainable business for car owners” and to “feel like a professional sports league.”

The midweek series was successful, albeit restricted. World of Outlaws teams could not run in most High Limit races due to the Outlaws’ policy of restricting teams to four non-Outlaws races per year. If an Outlaws team exceeds this limit, they lose eligibility for various monetary benefits, including tow money, points fund, exclusivity bonus fund, and more.

Faced with the limited potential of their midweek series, Sweet and Larson decided not to fold but to go all-in.

“I think what happened was the Outlaws didn’t allow the drivers, like myself, to race in those races,” said Sweet. “I just felt like we weren’t going to be able to stay in that 12-race midweek [series] with it really helping what we wanted to help. But with the FloRacing [deal] and how well things went in those 12 races last year, it created the opportunity and desire to make more of a national series and to take all our ideas and innovation and really make it matter for everybody in sprint car racing.”

For Sweet and the High Limit crew, deals began to fall into place. In late October 2023, High Limit announced it acquired Tony Stewart’s All-Star Circuit of Champions, a Midwest-based 410 sprint car tour that’s been around since 1970. Next, High Limit inked a multi-year media deal with FloRacing—a streaming platform that provides live and on-demand coverage of circle track and grassroots racing—with the media company taking a minority equity stake in High Limit Racing.

In early November, High Limit Racing was officially announced as a new national series. This year, it will span coast-to-coast with 60 dates at 36 tracks in 19 states, with driver payouts topping $5 million. A $1 million point fund will be up for grabs, with the series champion collecting $250,000. Last year’s Midweek Money Series will also return as part of the High Limit national tour, awarding an additional point fund of $100,000. Comparatively, the 2024 World of Outlaws schedule features 86 races at 41 tracks in 19 states.

Perhaps most intriguing, High Limit will begin awarding charters after the first season is complete. Sweet said the series will award five charters to its top-five teams in points at the end of the 2024 season, and five more after the 2025 season. It’s all part of their overall vision to elevate the sport.

“We’re trying to create some equity for these team owners who are making huge investments,” said Sweet. “It’s no different than any other major sports league that has a franchise or a charter system.”

Launching a 60-race schedule and introducing a charter system is a big swing for a new sanctioning body with only 12 total races under its belt. But it’s a risk worth taking, according to Sweet.

“The biggest thing is that we’re trying to make it a more sustainable business for car owners and to capitalize on the momentum of what’s been happening for sprint car racing over the last few years,” he said. “We’ve been seeing larger audiences show up at the race tracks and streaming audiences growing, which has created a lot of opportunities to raise purses and try to share the money more evenly through the whole ecosystem. The ultimate goal for us is to improve every aspect of sprint car racing and be good stewards for the sport.”

The series plans to invest more money into safety and help race tracks make safety improvements, while also improving the overall fan experience at the facility. Additionally, High Limit will prioritize working closer with team owners by increasing transparency and “treating them more like partners.”

“We want to make it feel like a professional sports league,” said Sweet. “I think these owners need it to be more of a business rather than a hobby or something they are toying around with on the side. It’s a big money business behind the scenes.”

The World of Outlaws has long touted its series as, “often imitated, never duplicated.” In 2024, High Limit Racing is rolling the dice to not just imitate or duplicate the Outlaws’ tried-and-true brand of national 410 sprint car racing, but to elevate the status quo.


The Positives

Between the high price of travel and skyrocketing costs, to remain competitive in sprint car racing means funding is front of mind for most teams.

“We’re talking about businesses running down the road,” said Allen.

Funding 900-horsepower businesses involves scratching by with a combination of purse winnings, tow money, points funds, sponsorship, and personal investment. Yet with growing purses, high-paying marquee races, strong crowd sizes, and robust car counts, 410 sprint car racing is thriving.

“There’s a substantially increased amount of money on the line now,” said Allen. “It’s not all top heavy, which is good because we need to keep all those teams in business.”

Ultimately, a key difference maker has been streaming. Since 2018, the World of Outlaws has broadcast races on its own streaming platform, DIRTVision, while High Limit streams on FloRacing. Beyond the national series, both streaming platforms work with various tracks and regional racing series to stream local races, providing revenue and exposure to the weekly racing circuit.

“High Limit is a great venue for [FloRacing] to get subscribers,” said Allen, who just signed a two-year contract with FloRacing to continue streaming NARC races. “We got a little more money this year, our audience is increasing, and collectively, I think we all play off each other. It’s good for the sport.”

Not only are streaming services bringing in new revenue and new fans, but also new ideas to enhance the nightly programs. “One thing that FloRacing has really pointed out is that these shows need to be run more efficiently and be done in two or two-and-one-half hours,” said Allen. The idea is that efficient shows will keep fans engaged and entertained, both at the track and on the couch.

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Eldora Speedway will host multiple nights of racing for both the World of Outlaws (seen here) and High Limit Racing in 2024. So which series will prevail? “From a track perspective, it’s butts in the seats,” said Eldora GM Jerry Gappens. “The fans will be the jury on whether they like it or they don’t.”

However, the money is making the biggest impact. Without FloRacing’s partnership, High Limit Racing likely wouldn’t have made the jump to a full-time national series or brought millions of dollars to the sport. Ultimately, this much-needed influx of funding is creating new opportunities for teams around the country.

“I think it will open up some opportunities for more race teams to go out on the road and have a chance to make a living from it,” said Gappens.

For example, Sweet said the All-Stars only had a few full-time teams last year, but at press time, High Limit has 17 drivers fully committed to its 60-race season. “I feel like we upgraded the All-Stars to the position we’re in now with High Limit Racing. It’s a lot more equivalent money-wise to where the World of Outlaws are at.”

In addition to creating more full-time teams, it creates new opportunities and aspirations for young drivers. “Hopefully more up-and-coming drivers will look at winged sprint car racing as a viable option to make their livelihood,” said Sweet.

Gappens agreed about the importance of developing new talent. “From a promoter standpoint, I think that’s really important to generate new stars. Any sport needs new stars and new [drivers] for people to cheer for.”

For most aspiring young drivers, the road to competing full time in a national series begins at the local track, in the local series. This could be a boon to the local racing scene according to Doug Johnson of Huset’s Speedway in Brandon, South Dakota, and Jackson Motorplex in Jackson, Minnesota.

“I think it’s a lure to some of these young kids coming up,” said Johnson. “Having both series on both coasts is going to help that. In turn, most of them aren’t going to jump right to the World of Outlaws or High Limit. That’s where the local racing is going to benefit from getting some of those guys.”

With more sprint cars on track, builders and parts manufacturers are another potential benefactor.

Dan Musselman of Maxim Chassis in Springfield, Illinois, is not concerned about the High Limit and World of Outlaws duel. “We still sell to the same customers, and it really doesn’t matter to us what series they’re in.” He described business as “very solid,” though not at the peak he experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s added three new employees over the past year to increase production and believes his shop’s outlook is positive.

“The small business economy is still pretty good, and that for the most part is what drives our business,” observed Musselman. “Australian business has picked back up after COVID-19, that also helps with our volume.”

Ultimately, Sweet believes healthy competition between the two series will lead to a better result for fans, drivers, teams, and the entire sport. He cited the fact that both High Limit and the Outlaws now travel with a safety team, and nightly features pay a minimum of $12,000 to win and $1,200 to start, with dozens of races offering much higher purses.

“These are things that wouldn’t happen without competition,” said Sweet. “The Outlaws have raised their bar, they’ve doubled their tow money, they upped their purses. We pushed them to make improvements, and I’m sure they’re going to push us to step up our game. In the end, there’s going to be more teams that can be more sustainable with all the extra resources out there, and I believe the fans will win with more content to watch and races to attend.”


The Concerns

Between two national touring series, there will be 146 race dates scheduled for the 2024 season.

“As a promoter, I always worry about oversaturation of a product,” said Gappens.

While these races are spread throughout the country, that translates to many high-paying races that need to be promoted, attended, and streamed. 410 sprint car racing continues to grow, but 2024 will provide a significant stress test to its overall popularity.

“My biggest concern is if the average fan has the disposable income to go to all these bigger events, and then in turn, what is that going to do to weekly racing,” said Johnson. “I have major concerns, but we’ll just wait and see how it plays out.”

While increased purses are a boon for teams and drivers, they are a challenge for local tracks. Gappens said the World of Outlaws raised purses by 20% to tracks for the 2024 season, which was “a big hit in one year.” While he said the price of hosting High Limit and World of Outlaws was comparable—Eldora is hosting both series this year—increased costs are difficult to absorb for small tracks making small margins.

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In October 2023, High Limit Racing acquired the All-Star Circuit of Champions (seen here) from Tony Stewart. The Midwest-based series only had a few full-time teams last year, while 17 drivers will go full-time with High Limit Racing. “I feel like we upgraded the All-Stars to the position we’re in now,” said Brad Sweet. “It’s a lot more equivalent money-wise to where the World of Outlaws are at.”

He added, “20% is going to make a big difference on the bottom line for all of us, but especially at a family-operated race track.”

A major concern is if the increased costs will force promoters to raise ticket prices. “For every action, there’s a reaction, and we’ve got to be sensitive to when we price ourselves out of the market for the common race fan,” said Gappens. “That’s what’s getting lost in this that worries me with the sanctioning bodies.”

National touring sprint car shows typically draw healthy crowds to tracks because of big-name drivers, but most facilities rely on weekly shows to stay in business. That’s where the Catch-22 of streaming services comes into play. For all the benefits they have brought to sprint car racing, side effects are showing up in the form of lackluster weekly attendance.

“If people have just an inkling that it might rain or it’s too cold, they’re not going to go to the races, and they’ll stay home and watch it,” said Johnson. “[Streaming] is too convenient for weekly racing.”

This is creating a unique problem for track promoters. The streaming money may help fund their operation, but it can also keep people away from the track.

“As far as the national series, I think the streaming is great and it does great for them,” explained Johnson. “But we have got a weekly series we need to worry about and put butts in the seats because if we don’t, the doors aren’t going to stay open. It’s that simple.”

The surge in popularity for 410s is also decimating another sprint car class that was a mainstay at the weekly level—360 sprint cars.

“My son has raced 360s for a number of years, and it’s not cost effective,” said Johnson. “You look at it from a car owner standpoint, you’re spending the same amount of money [as 410s], but you’re racing for half the money.”

As the sport continues to grow, teams are sparing no expense in their fight to be competitive. But this mindset creates another challenge to the segment’s financial sustainability.

“We’re our own worst enemies with the cost,” observed Gappens. “Now it seems we’ve got to have titanium parts; you’ve got air pressure bleeders. When you bring technology into it, you’re increasing the cost.”

Keeping costs in check for teams, tracks, and fans will be a key challenge for these sanctioning bodies to navigate.


The Big Question

Is there enough support for two national touring series to survive in 410 sprint car racing?

Strong arguments could be made either way, but we won’t truly have a clearer picture until the dust settles at the end of the season.

“We’re going to give fans a good sampling of everything, and then the fans will be the jury on whether they like it or they don’t,” said Gappens. “They’ll vote by buying tickets to these events.”

Eldora will be an interesting case study, as it is hosting multiple nights of racing for each series. In Gappens’ view, the success or failure of either series will be easy to determine. “From a track perspective, it’s butts in the seats. If our attendance is the same or hopefully up for all of it, that’ll be a great success. If we see a drop off on one or the other, then that obviously is going to raise a red flag and cause some concern about the direction we’re going.”

410 sprint car racing is entering a new era. With more money, more races, and two national series going head-to-head, there’s a lot on the line this year. While disagreements about the sport’s direction and costs have led to this latest split, the sport’s overall success is ultimately what’s most important.

“We certainly don’t want to hurt the sport,” said Sweet. “We’re going to be very open-minded and try to make the right judgment calls on what’s going to be better for the overall health of the sport. I just hope in 10 years, this is a much larger sport, a more professional sport, and hopefully a lot more people know what a sprint car is.”


Eldora Speedway

High Limit Racing

Huset’s Speedway

Jackson Motorplex

Maxim Racing

Northern Auto Racing Club

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