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Full Throttle: Was Saturday Night Worth $1 Million?

Saturday night saw the first running of the Legends Million at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a race for drivers from all over the country that compete every week for a trophy and a couple hundred dollars. This race allowed the people who spend more than they ever win a chance to actually win some real cash in a race with their Legends cars.

Drivers from 36 states and two foreign countries traveled to Charlotte to take a shot at the $250,000 grand prize for the winner of the main event, but the grandstands looked as though there were very few spectators that took the time to even drive the few miles it would take to get to the speedway to watch the event. There is no doubt that there was a lot of publicity generated for the drivers and the racing series, but the speedway certainly didn’t make money on the race — and that will probably prevent the event from ever happening again.

When CMS announced the Legends Million they said they anticipated 600-800 cars showing up for the event, with a possibility of 1,000 making an appearance. When it was all said and done on Saturday, there were 301 cars entered in the three divisions that were racing with a chance to run for the million-dollar purse. A $600 entry fee for 301 cars would equate to $180,600. Assuming everyone associated with racecars that were at the track purchased a $75 pit pass, and estimating three workers per car, that would be another $67,725. That gets the speedway close to the $250,000 that was paid to the first-place finisher, yet well below the million dollars that made up the total purse.

Add to that the money that was spent for track personnel and other workers that had to be present for all three days of the event, not to mention the overhead for running the track and lights and other infrastructure, and there is very little chance that the advertising associated with the race was able to make up the other $750,000-plus that was needed to stage the event.

Everyone knows that Bruton Smith is a successful businessman and that he doesn’t do anything that isn’t going to ultimately turn a profit. The question that must be asked is will Smith and CMS be able to recoup their investment via future sales of Legends cars and additional interest in the racing, along with general goodwill that was purchased through this expenditure?

Aside from the financial cost of the event, having these local racers on a national television broadcast certainly allowed some drivers not normally in the spotlight the opportunity to showcase their talents to a much broader audience than on a normal night of racing.

Daniel Hemric, who won the event, is already a two-time national champion in the Pro Division, yet he is not on a single driver development list. He did run in a super late model race this year, but is not receiving support from a Cup team or any other big racing outfit. Hopefully the accolades and exposure that have come along with his victory will alert someone in a position to give him a chance at showcasing his talents at a higher level in racing.

The 19-year old Hemric could be Kannapolis, N.C.’s next big thing, as he has a lot of time ahead of him, although the modern era of NASCAR seems to have people jumping into quality rides at the Cup level by the time they’ve reached Hemric’s age.

Sean Rayhall was another young talent that showcased his abilities this past weekend by taking the checkered flag first in the Young Lions/Semi-Pro Main Event. Rayhall, a distant relative of Indy 500 team owner and former champion Bobby Rahal, won his heat race in his primary car that was entered in the Million as well, so he was already secured in the starting field when he started the Young Lions race.

Rayhall dominated the event on a soaking wet racetrack, illustrating he not only can wheel a car on a dry track, but in the rain too. Rayhall is plying his trade in a multitude of cars this summer, not just a Legends car. He is racing in the SCCA FE Pro Series in an open-wheeled Formula Enterprise car and running his Porsche RSR in select races. He’s doing his best to showcase his talents in front of the right people and Saturday night might have just helped that cause.

There was young talent everywhere at Charlotte this weekend and most all are hoping to get a big break in racing. Putting the kind of money up that Smith and CMS did for the race this weekend, they ensured that some very talented drivers would be running against some very good competition. That exposure will go a long way in advancing some careers and giving some drivers a chance to make it in the sport.

Here’s hoping that Charlotte, SMI, U.S. Legends, SPEED, Z-Max and anyone else interested in advancing racing will step up and allow this race to take place again next year and for the foreseeable future. Racing will be the better for it and race fans will be exposed to drivers they normally never hear about.

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