Mike Perrotte is no stranger to the world of stock car racing having been involved in the sport in one capacity or another since 1973. That was the year he began as a driver, running in the Street Stock class, at Airborne Speedway just south of Plattsburgh, New York. Eventually he moved into the Modified class, a keen observer along the way of the elements that go beyond the driving and preparation of race equipment to make a successful promotion.
Perrotte began a new role— that of track manager of Airborne Park (same track, different name)—when the opportunity presented itself in 1988. After a few years, deciding he wanted to race more than he wanted to run a race track, he made the decision to step away. In 2005 opportunity knocked again, and this time Perrotte was back in a management role at Airborne. His work ethic and commitment to racing as family entertainment, is credited by those who know him as having brought life back to the speedway that had fallen by the wayside.
Fast forward to February, 2015—now known for his creative, out-of-the-box thinking with his promotions, Perrotte has now been tapped by World Racing Group (WRG) to head DIRTcar Northeast. His first foray in that role was just a couple of weeks ago at the Dirt Nationals at Volusia Speedway (FL) and he hit the ground running with only a week to prepare himself for the role. AARN was able to catch up with Perrotte and ask a few questions of him:
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AARN: What is the title of your position with World Racing Group (WRG) and what are your responsibilities?
PERROTTE: The title is Director of Series and Sanctioning DIRTcar Northeast. I’ll be working with DIRTcar / WRG staff, track owners, promoters, and race teams on items such as rules development and enforcement, promoting DIRTcar Northeast, working with sanctioned and non-sanctioned tracks on Series races and sanctioning, and overseeing all the DIRTcar Series races for the Big Blocks, 358-Modifieds, Sportsman and Pro Stocks—all the different parts and levels of competition for those four classes. I’ll also be working with the various builders and vendors for approval of parts and design, be responsible for developing the different Series schedules, and working with the tracks when they have their events.
AARN: Will you continue such things as the Series Competitor Notes? Promoters Meetings? Pre-approval meetings with builders on “out of the box” proposed changes? Trade Shows?
PERROTTE: “Yes—Yes—Yes—and Yes! We’re working on arranging my first meeting with track promoters for some time during March. It will be in the Syracuse area but I’m not sure of the location or exact date yet. We’ll also have a booth at the Motorsports Expo show at the (New York) State Fairgrounds the March 13th
weekend. I’ll be reaching out to the various builders to discuss body rules with them and I want to periodically get together with all key players to make sure they all hear the same message at the same time.
It’s also a time for me to listen to their concerns—it’s a two-way street. This is a real team effort and working with me throughout the season will be Jeff Hachmann (WRG Director of Event Sales and Marketing) to put together the best package we can on the various topics.
AARN: What qualified you for the position over other candidates?
PERROTTE: I’ve been involved in racing for over 40 years—as a mechanic, as a driver, as an event promoter and as a track promoter. That probably had a lot to do with it.
AARN: You’ve just finished your first venture as the NE Director at the Dirt Nationals at Volusia. Was there anything unexpected you had to deal with or anything about the role that surprised you?
PERROTTE: Nothing unexpected. I was at Airborne (Plattsburgh, NY) for nine years and I’d have to say I haven’t seen everything, but I have seen a lot. A lot of questions were asked of me. What was great is that I was dealing with a group of professionals teams and officials—at Volusia. There was nothing out of the ordinary working with them. They all want the rules to be continued to be enforced. If someone steps outside the rules they will face the consequences— we will be diligent about enforcing the rule book. Not really a surprise, but something I was pleased to learn, was about the people I am working with in DIRTcar and
WRG. They are a good group of people dedicated to the organization and to the sport. Everyone, from Tom Deery (Chief Operating Officer) and Brian Carter (Chief Executive Officer) to all the DIRTcar officials, have been supportive and great to work with.
AARN: From those four days what would you identify as key topics / rules / procedures that need to be addressed prior to the first Super DIRTcar Series race? What do teams need to be more aware of and better prepared for during pre- and postinspection?
PERROTTE: Right now the focus is on addressing safety, tire softening, and bodies not being right. As far as procedures— there are already good procedures in place for racing. There is nothing in that regard. In Florida we checked the bodies to be sure they were in line with the rule book and found a few issues that we addressed. We were 1,200 miles away from home. I didn’t want to send someone home so we gave them the option of fixing the body problem or adding 50 pounds weight to the car. My position is that those drivers who came to the show and are legal shouldn’t be penalized or at a disadvantage because someone is not legal. We’ll keep track of the offenders and the penalties will be stiff enough that getting caught once should be enough. I am working to get the message out that a car needs to be right when you arrive at the track.
AARN: There are three (3) recognized sanctioning bodies for the NE (DIRTcar, Race of Champions, Super Short Track Series) – what is your position on working with them to avoid conflicting schedule dates for DIRTcar Series dates and major shows at DIRTcar sanctioned tracks?
PERROTTE: We have to have an open line of communication. We need to work together to make the pool of race cars grow. I will do what I can to work with everyone and that would mean any promoter or track owner that wants to talk about scheduling, rules, or whatever. With all that said, my first obligation is to DIRTcar and DIRTcar sanctioned tracks.
AARN: What is your response to the question from non-sanctioned tracks as to ‘why should I join DIRTcar— what’s in it for me?’
PERROTTE: When I promoted Airborne we joined for a number of reasons, even though it is an asphalt track. Most importantly, there is a set of rules in place to go by and that is good for the competitors. You have the legality of a sanctioned body behind you and that sanctioning body is the premier sanctioning body for what we race.
You have a sense of belonging to something bigger than what you are as an individual or independent track. You can call on other tracks for assistance. And, you have the ability to have a DIRTcar Series race that can get your track a lot of good publicity and potentially be profitable for the track.”
AARN: Same question regarding drivers—’why should I commit to being a platinum driver?’
PERROTTE: It provides each driver an opportunity to earn extra money as a racer during the season and at season’s end with the point fund. Being a platinum driver also gives you a preferred starter status at the Series events. The publicity from DIRTcar headquarters and tracks is beneficial to team sponsors. Racing against and with our platinum drivers is pretty enticing—they are the best there is and each time you run with them you get better and better as a driver. It’s a tough hill to climb, but once you compete as a DIRTcar Series driver people recognize your talent and skill as a driver as being on a whole different level.
AARN: How will you deal with the ‘misinformation’ regarding rules, penalties, scheduling, etc. that seems to plague all racing lately? How do you keep the fans connected and informed?
PERROTTE: I’m real big on communication—it’s necessary— and on utilizing social media, press releases, Twitter, Facebook and anything else available. Having information out there always worked for me. The more correct information that I can put out there, the better it is. We don’t need to have wrong information coming back on us. We need to utilize all available means of communication and resources to the max. It’s all part of the buzz and pizazz and we have to be diligent about getting the right information out there in a timely manner.
AARN: The DIRTcar rule book – are there any areas you are particularly interested in reviewing for possible revision?
PERROTTE: The rule book is done for 2015 and we’ll work with it as is. I’m taking note of things, concerns and suggestions that we may want to look at in the future. The product, meaning the racing itself, doesn’t have much wrong with it in my opinion. That’s been proven these past few years by the increased involvement by teams and tracks.
AARN: Are there any significant rule changes, in any class, we will see for 2015?
PERROTTE: I’d say the rule change with the most potential impact on teams would be in the Sportsman class. Teams can run aluminum or steel wheels and the same tires as the Modifieds. Whether it’s 300, 400 or 500 Hoosiers is a track determination. If running aluminum wheels the weight is 2450 lbs. and if running steel it will be 2400 lbs.
AARN: Your opinion on whether the newly formed regional series for the Sportsman cars (Canandaigua, Fulton,
Brewerton, Weedsport) and (Albany-Saratoga, Fonda, Lebanon Valley) of DIRTcar tracks hurt participation in the DIRTcar Sportsman Series?
PERROTTE: I don’t think the two regional series will hurt the DIRTcar Sportsman Series calendar or level of participation at a Series race. We will continue with our commitment for DIRTcar Series races at the various tracks. Those promoters did what they needed to do to strengthen their tracks. DIRTcar needs to work together with them, to be involved and try to continue the success of this division at every DIRTcar track.
AARN: You have now become the face of the DIRTcar Northeast organization, the person who will be viewed as its leader—the one responsible for enforcing its rules and regulations. Most recently the Northeast Director also served as the race director for Super DIRTcar Series races. Is that something you will continue? Who else will be traveling as Series officials for the different classes?
PERROTTE: You won’t see many changes in personnel because the existing group runs pretty smoothly together. They are a great group, supportive of the organization and the different roles we all have, whether it be DIRTcar or World Racing Group staff. I will not be serving as Race Director for the Series races. Based on my experience I’m more effective when being able to communicate with everyone, at any time necessary, during the show. We will make an announcement as soon as we have someone in place.
AARN: What’s the one most important message you want to get out to the race teams about you in your role as the DIRTcar NE Director of SDS and Sanctioning?
PERROTTE: I’ll work my hardest to be fair, firm, and consistent. I hope to develop team trust and at the same time, it should also be fun. I told the drivers at Volusia and they will hear this message several times from me—I want to promote them and DIRTcar because they are the best drivers in the country. We need to do this together. When they roll into town they represent DIRTcar and the best there is. It’s my job to make sure everyone knows that!
AARN (In Summary): Perrotte is regarded by competitors, track officials, friends and fans as trustworthy, ethical, and fair with a little “carney” attitude thrown in the mix. His known ability to remain controlled and calm under the most difficult of circumstances will serve him well.
He is viewed as knowing what is needed and required by race teams to keep coming back weekly, to what fans want to put their money down for, to what promoters need to keep the doors open. All of which will serve him and DIRTcar Northeast / WRG well.
The general feeling in the racing community is Perrotte is the right man for the job. AARN will check in with Perrotte throughout the season, after the honeymoon is over, bringing you updates as they occur.