Back to Driving Force, Winter 2016

 

‘Save Our Race Cars’ Effort Championed by Racers and Lawmakers

By Colby Martin


In a recent Speed Sport News interview, lead RPM Act sponsor Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) took his first few laps in a dirt late model at the East Lincoln Speedway in Stanley, North Carolina. Afterwards, he gave an update on the RPM Act and Congress’ current efforts to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating race cars and racing parts. As Rep. McHenry put it, “This is absurd, and we’ve got to stop it.”


The year 2016 will be remembered for a number of notable reasons. Among them, a surprising end came to the most contentious U.S. election in recent memory. The electorate voted to “drain the swamp” and change appears to be the order of the day. How the new administration will affect the car and truck hobby remains to be seen. Of immediate concern to the SEMA Action Network (SAN) forces is the threat to racing posed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As you are aware, a bipartisan bill is pending in the U.S. House and Senate—called the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports (RPM) Act—that would make clear that modifying a street vehicle for use solely in competition is legal and beyond the reach of EPA regulations. The effort’s background was detailed in the cover story of the Driving Force newsletter’s Summer 2016 edition.

Recent discussions with the EPA have indicated that the agency still maintains that the Clean Air Act applies to vehicles and parts, both off and on the race track. Thankfully, the RPM Act has continued to build the critical momentum needed to advance it further toward enactment into law. Hobbyist groups, industry members and racers have been spreading the word. To date, the SAN and its allies have garnered almost 200,000 individual support letters to Congress and about 140 bill co-sponsors.

This past November, the SEMA Show in Las Vegas provided another opportunity to add even more strength to a growing movement. With mass exposure guaranteed, an authentic visual symbol was needed to represent the “Save Our Race Cars” effort at the trade show and its official after-party, SEMA Ignited. After all, the week-long convention is where the industry’s influencers annually convene. Michele Abbate’s SCCA Championship-winning Scion FR-S brought the SAN’s racing-themed displays to life, as depicted on the cover of this issue of Driving Force. An aspiring professional racer, she and the rest of the motorsports community are looking to the nation’s lawmakers to provide much-needed certainty regarding how the law is applied.

“Under the RPM Act, we’ve all come together to protect our right to drive unique cars that redefine the limits of performance,” Abbate explains. “Like many others, my car was originally purchased from a dealer. From grassroots all the way up to the pros, entry into this activity would not be nearly as attainable without the ability to modify a production vehicle.”

I was introduced to the rising star during the Hot Rod Power Tour this past summer. Abbate’s winning personality, racing skill and genuine affinity for the four-wheel hobby quickly won me over. The Las Vegas native caught the racing fever as a youngster by watching her brother compete in go-karts. For many years, Abbate used her own daily driver to participate in entry-level road-course competition. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communications and marketing from UNLV in 2010, she became a factory driver for Scion Racing. In 2014, that experience led to her becoming a team owner and driver of her own FR-S. The car’s modification from street car to race car was completed in just six weeks.

In short order, Abbate has become a force to be reckoned with. Last year, she held a crowdfunding campaign to help assist with the costs of entering the SCCA US Majors Tour Western Conference division. She raised more than 130% of her $10,000 goal, which helped her finish a full season in her rookie year. As a result of her hard work, she was crowned Western Conference champion. In the time leading up to the SEMA Show, Abbate used her website and social-media channels to actively promote the RPM Act. It turns out that the neon yellow Scion was a hit with SEMA Show attendees and attracted valuable attention to the cause. Not surprisingly, many Showgoers were already well aware of the legislation and had already taken action in support. The week generated additional RPM Act letters and netted a few hundred more individuals into the SAN’s membership.

Racers such as Abbate and fans nationwide will eagerly await the fate of the RPM Act as the year draws to a close. Behind the scenes, full focus remains on the mission at hand. With the election now over, the bill’s lead sponsor Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) is optimistic that Congress will be able to resume discussions on the topic. As Rep. McHenry puts it, “This is absurd, and we’ve got to stop it.” You and your friends can provide further reinforcement. The 200,000 letter milestone is within reach! Please send the letter to request support from your elected officials right away: www.sema.org/rpm The letter is easy to send and only takes a moment.

Doing your part to impact tomorrow’s laws is as crucial as ever. Ask others to follow your lead, and get involved as well. Aside from propelling the RPM Act, every jurisdiction could use additional reinforcements in preparation for what is sure to be another tumultuous fight against unfair proposals across the nation.

In the meantime, check out the summary of the state and federal victories we racked up this year in the “Legislative Front Lines” feature of this issue. These victories serve as a reminder of what is possible when we act as a unified front. On behalf of the SAN legions everywhere, may you and your families have the happiest of holiday seasons.

—IGNITED WE STAND!

 


ENTHUSIASTS UNITED TO ADVANCE AUTOMOTIVE FREEDOMS

The future of our prized cars and trucks is being threatened! Add your voice to our growing U.S. and Canadian forces united to advance our automotive freedoms. SAN members defend the hobby by responding to timely e-mail updates on vehicle-related legislation and regulations. No fees. No SPAM. No obligations. Great strength comes with great numbers. Can we count on you to help preserve the classics of today and tomorrow?

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