SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. – When the Wild West Shootout moved from Tucson to FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway, the third-mile dirt oval became the focus of teams and fans for 10 days in January.
The event has grown each year and now offers more than a quarter of a million dollars in guaranteed purse money for six nights of racing. Bonus opportunities add additional income, with a potential $250,000 bonus available to any driver who can sweep the six dirt late model main events.
Next year, things will be even wilder at the Jonah Trussel-promoted track with the addition of the Wild Wing Shootout for 410 sprint cars one weekend after the Wild West Shootout. Another large purse will make January in the desert seem like an even better idea.
The sprint car feature will pay $7,000 to win on opening night and $10,000 the next two nights. IMCA modifieds are the only other division and those events will pay $1,000 to win for each of three nights.
The Wild West Shootout is promoted by Chris Kearns while the Wild Wing Shootout is a cooperative effort among four people. Trussel, Kearns, Michael Grigsby and Matt Curl formed an equal share partnership for the sprint weekend.
As of now, there is no concern over the ability to have enough fans in the stands for the races.
“When I was asked if I was interested, I drug my feet for a couple of months trying to decide if we really wanted to do something of that size or not,” Trussel said of the addition of the Wild Wing Shootout. “We finally decided it could be a really good event, we have a good relationship working together on other events, so we decided it was something we should do. Then enter COVID-19.
“We drug our feet a little longer until we figured we could get some good support by getting a good turnout of cars and having fans in the stands,” Trussel continued. “It’s a great time of the year to do this in Arizona. People always want to see that level of talent that we’ll have, they will enjoy watching out here, but it is a big risk for all four of us.
“I think it’s a good fit, it’s a good fit for our race track, the team that is doing it is a good set as well, and it will complement the Wild West Shootout. That’s a great event, I’ve watched those guys do it the last few years, and I think it will carry over to the Wild Wing Shootout.”
Since there may not another sprint car race in the country during the fourth weekend in January, perhaps the purse does not need to be particularly large.
Trussel disagreed with that assessment.
“The days of a huge group of talent showing up to an event for a purse a promoter can actually afford, those days are over,” stated Trussel. “Sponsorship is more difficult to get than three years ago, so many people are switching to digital ads and social media campaigns. The dollars that an average decent size race pays, you have to be competitive or better than that if it is a first year event to get teams to show up.
“The purse was always my hesitation on whether or not I wanted to be part of it, the purse is so high. But you see the people who have already committed and it takes a lot to get that caliber of race team to commit this early to a first year show, so that’s why we offered what we did.”
FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway was already the focus for a large group of race fans in January. In 2021, that group of fans will be larger than ever.