FROM THE HILL
By Eric Snyder
Industry and Enthusiasts Unite Behind RPM Act of 2016
Filling up the pace car. The EPA’s policy change threatens to reduce sales for many companies, including VP Racing Fuels.
The U.S. Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule to outlaw the conversion of motor vehicles into race cars made waves all across the country. SEMA members, race enthusiasts and members of Congress led the way in opposing the rulemaking, resulting in the EPA’s April 15 announcement that it would remove the provision from the larger rule. Unfortunately, the agency’s announcement has not settled the issue, as the EPA is standing by its recently stated position that it has always considered it illegal to convert any racing vehicle that started its life as a street-legal car or motorcycle, making it illegal to modify a motor vehicle’s emissions system from its certified configuration.
It appears that the EPA does not fully comprehend the magnitude of its position. However, racers, fans and the businesses that support them have a clear understanding of what it means, both for them and for the future of racing. From companies that manufacture, sell and install racing parts and equipment to the racetrack owners who employ people in communities around the country, the EPA’s actions have Americans united in opposition.
With tens of thousands of motorsports participants and vehicle owners, both amateur and professional, racing at tracks around the country, word traveled quickly regarding the impact of the EPA’s proposed rule. While purpose-built race cars, such as those used in NASCAR, would not be impacted by the EPA’s policy change, most racers begin their careers competing in a division that utilizes a modified production vehicle. That’s because it is the cheapest and most cost-effective form of racing. The EPA’s position that a vehicle’s emissions system can’t be modified from its certified configuration would devastate this type of racing.
Ralph Sheheen, managing partner and president of National Speed Sport News, has built a career around racing, which has included broadcasting racing on major television networks.
“The EPA’s position that it is illegal to modify a motor vehicle would have kept my dream from ever becoming a reality,” he said. “You see, famous racers—Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and so many others like them—all began their careers in vehicles that would have been outlawed according to this regulation.”
Long-time racer U.S. Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) smiling after a hard fought victory at the track.
This issue is also near and dear to the hearts of members of Congress who are racers and fans of the sport. Racers in Congress include U.S. Representative Bill Posey (R-FL), who chairs the Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus, and U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV). Rep. Posey is an accomplished stock-car driver, having received the “Short Track Driver Achievement” in memory of Davey and Clifford Allison.
“As a child, I started going to races with my dad at a track in Culver City, California,” Rep. Posey said. “It was there that my love for racing started. I have fixed up and converted more than 20 cars into race cars over the years. EPA’s policy would have made all of this illegal.”
U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) grew up working in his father’s transmission and engine shops and has raced for more than 25 years on everything from dirt to asphalt.
Sen. Heller also grew up around racing and still competes to this day. He was named 2004 rookie of the year in the Open Modifieds division at the Champion Speedway in Carson City, Nevada.
“I’ve been surrounded by amateur motorsports my entire life,” Senator Heller said. “My father raced sprint cars, stock cars and super modifieds while I was growing up. It’s in my blood. I’ve raced for more than 25 years on everything from dirt to asphalt as a race-car driver, mechanic and automotive enthusiast.”
While racing is a passion for many drivers and fans alike, for others it is their livelihood. With more than 1,300 racetracks in the country, the vast majority are not dedicated to running high-cost, purpose-built race cars as in the well-known top divisions of NASCAR, IndyCar or the NHRA that we see on television. Racetracks are an economic driver in communities across the United States, many of which are in rural areas. Chris White, Summit Point Motorsports Park motorsports director in West Virginia, provided a racing-
“The unforeseen effects of the EPA’s position are a decline in track revenues, which means less money to put back into improving amenities and safety,” White said. “There will be reduced revenues for the surrounding communities, including restaurants, hotels, gas stations and supermarkets. Our little community of Summit Point relies heavily on the revenue generated from racing, whether it be from taxes, direct spending or charitable donations made by the racers to the local library and Jefferson County food bank.”
It’s not just the communities that are home to racetracks that will be impacted. The companies that manufacture race products employ Americans in cities and towns around the country. These companies that produce, sell and install racing parts and equipment would be particularly hard hit by the EPA’s policy change, which will result in racing products disappearing from the shelves of retailers and installers who are no longer willing to perform race-vehicle modifications.
Racing at tracks around the country, including Accord Speedway in Accord, New York (pictured), is threatened by the EPA’s position on race modifications.
“Competition-use vehicles are modified in shops across the nation, and the vehicles are outfitted with safety equipment such as five-point seatbelts, rollbars, cages and safety netting as well as suspension, wheels and tires,” said Chris Kersting, president and CEO of SEMA. “These ancillary sales and services would cease as a result of the EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act, because performance modifications to make the vehicles suitable for racing would be prohibited.”
U.S. Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) has introduced the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016 (the RPM Act; H.R. 4715), which will protect the future of motorsports and ensure that those modifying race vehicles are not subject to tampering fines and penalties. Rep. McHenry understands the impact of racing in his home state of North Carolina, where motorsports generates more than $6 billion annually for the Tar Heel state’s economy and supports more than 27,000 jobs. The congressman became invested in stopping the EPA’s rulemaking after speaking with one of his constituents, Jason Snyder, a shop owner who would be directly impacted by the EPA’s rulemaking.
“We cannot stand idly by watching the EPA regulate people like Jason right out of business,” Rep. McHenry said at a March 15 hearing of the House Science Subcommittee on Oversight. “For people like Jason, this is not simply a weekend hobby but rather what pays the bills for him and his family.”
U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), a race enthusiast and RPM Act sponsor, taking a ride at the zMax Dragway in Concord, North Carolina.
U.S. Representative Richard Hudson (R-NC) is a racing fan and a passionate advocate for those who need the RPM Act to become law in order to provide certainty to their businesses.
“The EPA’s position on race modifications threatens the livelihood of folks all across the country,” Rep. Hudson said. “Even if I didn’t represent a whole lot of racing enthusiasts, I would be outraged by this ridiculous government overreach. Congress made it clear in 1990, when it amended the Clean Air Act and explicitly excluded from regulation modified vehicles used solely for competition, but the EPA isn’t listening. That’s why I introduced the RPM Act to stop the EPA’s overreach into motorsports and protect the future of racing. We’re not just going to sound the alarm on it—we’re going to fight to stop it.”
“The racing market has long been a laboratory for developing new-product technologies that are eventually incorporated into daily drivers,” said Doug Evans, chairman of the SEMA Board of Directors. “If the EPA has its way, both racers and the general public will be deprived of innovative products.”
For VP Racing Fuels, manufacturer of performance fuels for 40-plus years and sponsor of more than 60 racing series and sanctioning bodies, the EPA’s reading of the law would indirectly impact business. The company, based in Elmendorf, Texas, supplies 70-plus fuel blends through more than 1,500 distributors around
“The EPA’s change in policy underscores the need for the RPM Act, which provides long-term assurances companies need in order to continue to invest in the race market,” said Steve Scheidker, VP Racing Fuels’ director of corporate communications. “We need clarity in federal law. Otherwise our business will suffer, since there will be fewer vehicles modified by performance enthusiasts, thus reducing the demand for race fuel.”
SEMA has joined forces with automakers, manufacturers and the vast racing community to enact legislation to provide permanent protection.
SEMA PAC President’s Club Spotlight: Les Rudd
Les Rudd is the president of Bob Cook Sales, headquartered in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Rudd currently serves as the chairman of the Manufacturers’ Representative Network and is a two-year member of the SEMA PAC President’s Club.
“My entire working career has been in the automotive aftermarket industry. It is my life. It’s what I do. It’s all I know. I just can’t sit back and hope that Washington, D.C., has my best interest at heart,” Rudd said. “That is why I support SEMA PAC and why I joined the President’s Club. It gives me a chance to give back to the industry that has given so much to me. It gives me a direct voice on key industry issues, and it gives me confidence that someone has my back to protect my family, my company and me from undue government regulations.”
For more information on the SEMA PAC, contact SEMA PAC and Congressional Relations Manager Christian Robinson at 202-783-6007 x20 or firstname.lastname@example.org.