The press release from Virginia International Raceway was stark in its brief and abrupt two-sentence statement: “No AMA Pro Racing event will take place at VIR in 2011. If circumstances are conducive in 2012, VIR looks forward to renewing its relationship with AMA Pro Racing.” This announcement came on July 11, only five weeks before the event was scheduled to be held at the Virginia circuit that has been on the AMA calendar since 2001. What the hell happened?
The obvious explanation is that VIR suddenly got cold feet at the thought of losing money hosting the race—declining attendance figures coupled with a recent management change exacerbated the situation—and decided it was OK to back out. But wasn’t there a breach-of-contract violation with this action? When we asked AMA Pro Racing COO David Atlas, his deflective response was, “I’d rather not address that subject right now.” However, his statement afterward seemed to indicate that there was some sort of signed binding legal document with VIR to host the race. “We had an agreement in place,” he said. “We signed the agreement back in December of last year.”
VIR issued another press release shortly afterward though, surely to counter the building negative sentiment of the sudden cancellation. Much longer than the previous two-sentence blurt, the second release contained this nugget: “Despite requests by VIR beginning in December 2010, AMA Pro Racing did not deliver its proposed contract for the 2011 event until early June 2011.” So who’s telling the truth?
Although both sides are staying silent at this point in an attempt to mend a fence that’s basically been blown to bits, it’s a fair bet to say that both are telling the truth to a certain extent. Judging by the comments from both parties and various sources from other racetracks, VIR had likely signed a letter of intent to host the race, that in legal terms binds them to a contract—only AMA Pro Racing didn’t produce the actual contract until the time stated in the second VIR press release. VIR wanted to renegotiate terms, AMA Pro Racing declined all offers, and you have a canceled race.
...there are definite problems with the series, no matter how positive a spin anyone puts on it. "
In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter which version of the truth you believe at this point. The damage, both to the series in the eyes of the racing world at large and AMA Pro Racing’s fragile reputation among many race fans, has been done.
Some of the media—including Sport Rider—have been accused of being overly critical of the DMG-run AMA Pro Racing series. It’s been claimed that we ignore the fact that the racing is closer than it’s ever been due to the rule changes instigated by the new owners, and that now the privateer teams actually have the opportunity to win. A few have said that all we do is concentrate on the pitfalls and blunders that the AMA series have committed since the sale, and that our negative stories have only served to build up a wave of discontent that overcomes any positive steps that have been accomplished. It’s been implied that if we truly desired the sport to grow we should have “jumped onboard the wagon” and kept our reporting positive in order to help bring in new spectators and sponsorship from outside the industry.
Actually, we have reported on how close the racing is, and we have done stories on how new mandates such as the spec tire rule (which truthfully was already in motion to be imposed before the AMA Pro Racing takeover) have provided a more even playing field in racing. But to ignore all the problems that have resulted from the wholesale upending of the series—much of which can be blamed on former AMA Pro Racing CEO Roger Edmondson, who thankfully is no longer with the firm—is basically putting us in the position of reporting on the emperor’s new clothes; any outsider would quickly notice that there are still definite problems with the series, no matter how positive a spin anyone puts on it.
The new AMA Pro Racing has made some positive steps, both in the beginning and post-Edmondson, in repairing some of the damage he wrought during his tenure. The majority of the riders are highly talented, and definitely would be competitive in the best national series in Europe. But it’s clear there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in order for the AMA series to make a return to its former status as one of the premier national roadracing series, one that attracted many top riders from around the world.