Skooter Peaco is the Vice President of the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA). Having served for many years as the Director of Race Operations, he has a unique understanding of the drag racing landscape. Gallagher Racing sat down with Skooter to discuss the state of the IHRA and the important role insurance plays in their growth.
1. What has it meant to the IHRA to have IRG Sports + Entertainment take over and continue the ownership since 2013?
(SP) The biggest thing for us is stability. The IHRA is owned by IRG Sports + Entertainment, a leading marketer and promoter of sports and live entertainment experiences, that oversees the IHRA and several other racing properties. We feel confident about our direction and future growth with our commitment to the grassroots, sportsman racer. IRGSE, our great partners and supportive racers all want to make sure we are successful long-term.
2. Describe the growth the IHRA has had and is experiencing in places like Australia, New Zealand and even the Caribbean.
(SP) There were sanctioned tracks in New Zealand long before we did anything in Australia. There are even tracks starting to pop up in the Middle East. We have small pockets of people in many countries who are enthusiastic about racing — they’re either looking to build a facility or simply organize to get people off the streets. There are not a lot of tracks in Australia, just a few in New Zealand, and tracks in the Bahamas and Aruba that are government-owned. They’re not necessarily enterprising tracks like we think of NASCAR with thousands of people. These are run by individuals who are just passionate about the sport. They’re not making a living at it, and they just want to be organized and recognized by a legitimate sanctioned body that can help give them the tools and programs to be successful.
3. Is there a difference between an IHRA fan and an NHRA fan?
(SP) I think there are many people who bleed NHRA, and it’s the only thing that exists to them. But there are people like that with the IHRA as well. Because of the national events and TV presence, the NHRA has a very wide base to draw from, whereas the IHRA is more regionalized. But I think there are a ton of drag racing fans who are just interested in the sport, the competition and the live events. If you were to strip away all the branding and found some track in the middle of nowhere, the majority of people on that property wouldn’t know which it was. They’re there for the cars and competition — not because it’s NHRA or IHRA.
The racers are a different breed and more sanctioning-body loyal than spectators are. There are racers that will never be on an IHRA property, and there are racers that will never be on an NHRA property.
4. What sort of risk management strategies do the IHRA and individual affiliated tracks utilize to best protect teams, participants and fans?
(SP) There has been a core set of strategies that were developed years ago that are still in play today. We’ve really needed some guidance along the way to keep up with the changes that are going on in the insurance and risk management industry — because that is not our forte. In the past, when we were owned by Clear Channel or Live Nation, there were specific people who handled risk management for a living, so we had it at our fingertips.
When we got bought by IRGSE, there was really no infrastructure for us to tap into. So, for the last four or five years, we’ve relied more on Phil Kerrigan from Gallagher. I rely on him heavily to keep us updated on risk management issues that are changing and how it impacts racers, spectators or managing facilities in general. He’s really our conduit now, and Gallagher — by proxy — became our risk management department. Gallagher has been our big brother in that respect, and it’s comforting to know that I can make one phone call to one person, and I’ll get what I need. That really helps a small group like ours function.
5. Why is Gallagher a good partner fit for the IHRA?
(SP) What I found to be nice about Gallagher — more than anybody that I’ve worked with in the last 16 years — is that they give us a global footprint. That’s the direction we’re headed. So, when I call a track, or a track calls us in, say Western Canada, I know that I can get them insured, because Gallagher’s got a group that does business in Canada. Or if Australia calls, I know that Gallagher’s got a group in Australia. Or when a guy from the Middle East calls, I’m willing to bet that Gallagher has a guy out there that’s willing to help me. That helps us convert or acquire tracks, because one of the first things they want to talk about is insurance.
Obviously, in motorsports, if you don’t have a stable insurance provider, then you don’t have a sport. This business doesn’t run without insurance on any level. So that’s been a great benefit for us — having a global footprint via Gallagher that can take care of us no matter where the track is.
For more information about Gallagher visit www.ajg.com or call 630-773-3800.