Through The Esses - Ken Grammer States His Case For The American Touring Car Championship
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02/18/09 © Andrew S. Hartwell

In the 1990's there was a short lived touring car series known as the North American Touring Car Championship. After a short run it went away quietly and in the years since, no one has tried to resurrect a professional touring car series of a similar format in the United States. Lord knows there are enough series out there for people who campaign touring cars to run in today - everything from SCCA amateur to Speed World Challenge, to KONI Challenge - so why is it that someone is now trying to introduce a professional TC championship again? And why would they start now, with the current economic climate running so afoul of prosperity?

We decided to find the answers to these questions by going directly to the source of this seemingly oddly-timed idea. We caught up with Ken Grammer, the President of USERA - the United States Endurance Racing Association - the sanctioning body that is taking steps to bring the new American Touring Car Championship to life. He gave us some background on his career in motorsports and he explained some rather logical reasons for driving this idea forward.

Grammer has been involved in racing for some time now and it is his experience and instincts that tell him that this is an idea whose time has come.

My wife Stacey and I got started in racing in the late 1990s by volunteering to work at SCCA events. She worked as a Course Marshall and I was a driver. We jumped in with both feet. In my first year I was offered the position of series administrator for the Atlanta Pro-IT series. I had started out driving an IT truck that I picked up from a team that had run in the old SCCA Coors Truck Series. I raced that for a few years in the SCCA.

We got into the event management and race management side of racing pretty quickly. I was the regional executive for the Alabama region for three years. My real career was in the information technology field, working for independent companies. The SCCA moved their offices from Denver, Colorado to Topeka, Kansas at a time when I was looking for a new position. I sent my resume to SCCA and was hired as the Director of Operations for the World Challenge Series. This was in 2002.

After a few years with the SCCA, I joined Synergy Racing here, in Danville, Virginia. Synergy ran the Picchio DP before I joined them, and we ran a Dinan BMW and several Porsche GT cars. We won the 2005 Grand-Am GT Championship with Craig Stanton and David Murry driving. It was a great experience and I learned a lot about running a first class, professional race program.

At the end of 2005, as often happens with the ebb and flow of racing, funding became an issue so I decided to create USERA. Having raced in a number of series over the years - Motorola Cup and more - I knew that the cost of racing was increasing. It reached a point where it would cost over $20,000 to field a car for one weekend of racing. In SCCA club racing the costs were much lower. But I realized there was no middle step for racers to move up to a professional series.

We developed a formula for USERA with a budget of $5,000 to $6,000 per race for a team to race on a weekend. This allowed people to go endurance racing for a championship at a significantly lower cost to run a full season.

We chose the spec Miata as the car for our first series. We ran this for two seasons and, while it did OK, it never really took hold. As we were getting ready to start the 2008 season I received a call from Lee Brahin and Harvey Siegel asking me to help them get New Jersey Motorsports Park up and running. I then took the position of Managing Director and Stacey became the Track Manager. She handled a lot of the training of track staff and the 150 or so volunteer flaggers and so on. We were handling the transition from the construction stage to the operating stage. It was an exciting project and one we really enjoyed.

At this juncture in our conver