NASCAR King of the PIT Series Announced – Interview with Ron Cates

Day 17- 25 Days of Christmas Blogging….

On December 7th an announcement was made on a forum by Ron Cates that could potentially mean Millions in the future for Competitive BBQ’ing. Here was the announcement:

NASCAR King of the PIT Series Announced

Commenting on the TOY threads I’ve been reading. Smoke on the Water productions has confirmed we have three firm events with NASCAR racetracks in 2010, Michigan International Speedway June 11, Daytona July 4 weekend and Talladega Halloween weekend. A fourth track will be finalized by end of next week. Contracts are not finalized for prize money yet, we’re working to get $50,000 for each with a $10,000 bonus split and paid through top three places in the points chase from each event.
Counting our $100,000 event in North Little Rock, Arkansas in March and three other contests in Hot Springs National Park, Isle of Capri Casino and Springdale,AR, we will be giving away close to $500,000 in prize money. We’re skimping on bowling trophies and splurging on cash. Entry fees are kept low and everybody has a shot at the big dollars.

This announcement made from Ron Cates from Smoke on the Water productions has been highly anticipated. These things don’t happen overnight.



Last year I flew into Arkansas for the Smoke on the Water Arkansas BBQ Championship at the Clinton Presidential Center. It was the coldest wettest competition I have ever been to. It was a very well run competition. I enjoyed it-other than our 47th overall placement. This year we are going back but this time driving down with our own equipment? Why drive?? (almost 19 hours) Its all about the MONEY. This year its $100,000.00 and its moved to across the road. With that kind of money I would rather have my own equipment with me. I don’t have any illusions of winning GC but I would certainly expect to place much better this year. Plus they are paying to 40th (yes 40th!) place. I like this concept of spreading the wealth.


I talked to Ron about his thoughts on competition the exciting news of the Nascar series and where he sees competition BBQ going.

The first thing we discussed were the confirmed events so far for this year from the Smoke on the Water Productions:

North Little Rock, AR March 19 & 20
Isle of Capri, Lula MS April 16&17
Michigan International Speedway August 13&14
Daytona International Speedway July 2&3
Springdale, AR August 27&28
Hot Springs, AR September 17&18
Talladega Superspeedway Oct 29&30

All are $50k except North Little Rock which is $100k.

There will be 4 NASCAR events in 2010 with $400K total prize money

He is also not done with the 2010 schedule yet.
There may still be some additional locations confirmed.



Q-How did you come up with the series?

RC-How everything got started was that we took a look at the demographics of Nascar. The demographics for Nascar and BBQ are almost identical. They go hand in hand. I have been trying for 13 years to get this point. Then last year Daytona contacted me. Unfortunately when the lawyers got involved it was just too short of time on contracts. So we decided on Talladega.

In Talladega- 123 teams attended. We had a lot of teams doing a wait and see. They wanted to make sure that these were for real competitions. The traffic was run well. We had the teams registered before the races, and they left when the concert was over inside the track- so no traffic issues.
We will have more teams for 2010. It proved to be important to the KCBS TOY race. I Smell Smoke won and jumped a lot of spaces. They (ISS, Pellet Envy & Smokey D’s) all had to go to Arizona because of the results.


Q- How did you start organizing contests?

RC- I started when I thought we could really do it better. I have experience in strategic planning and marketing. I just tried to put on a good event.
The first one just about kills you but the infrastructure keeps getting better. It gets much easier each time you do it.

The advertising and promotions for the competitions are bringing money into the areas. You need to know the economic impact. That way you can approach the areas with a proper business plan and get the support. You have to hold viable events. Establishing a business plan is key.

People also need to think outside the box.

We (Cates & Company) handle tourism accounts. Knowing the inside has helped the organization of the competitions. You need to go above and beyond. We don’t like to take no as an answer (i’ll find a door thats open and a yes). You have to make things happen and get things done. If I went away every time someone said no to me -none of this would have happened.

Amazing how many calls I have received to take over other contests over due to lack of infrastructure. It is essential so you don’t end up at the end of the competition owing money.

Our goals have been always the same pay the cooks what they are worth and reward the cooks accordingly. We listen to the teams and the cooks who are out there. What do they want?? The answer is simple they want money. Trophies are fine but its cash that helps the most. We are on a Quest for the best.

You have to have the money in place first. Not money and prizes but just money. I don’t agree with competitions that post money & prizes it is misleading. You could end up with a cheap grill they over inflate the value of. It should be money only first and foremost and if there are prizes they should be specifically listed. There should be a guarantee on the money.

We try to cut our costs in everything else and we do that so that we can give more money. For example in Little Rock we wanted to make sure the teams had hot coffee and donuts but instead of us shelling out money for it we had Krispy Kreme sponsor that. The cooks are happy with donuts and coffee, Krispy Kreme is happy with the exposure and we have not given up any money towards the teams.

All of our contests are open. There is no invitational. We’re just looking for the best competitors and barbecue in the land. We are skimping on trophies and splurging on cash.



Q-Why tie in with Nascar besides the demographics?

RC- Its all about exposure. These teams are going to be with over 200,000 other people attending the event. There are multiple news station coverage and exposure for sponsors. Additionally we will have a backyard division to access those participants who may not be able to enter the pro series. These Competitive BBQ teams that have sponsors will have better impressions for them at events of this level.

Q- What are your thoughts on the new TLC BBQ Pitmasters series>

RC- TLC BBQ Pitmasters is doing for BBQ what American choppers did for Motorcycles.
It’s all about marketing. The show is revolutionizing this. This is TV high drama. Its not staged its exposure. It works.



Q- What are your thoughts on the KCBS?

RC- KCBS when I started with them in 2000 it was totally different then. The people in the office wanted to be more proactive. There are a couple of people on the BOD that have turned it upside down. Just a fact. Gotten away from doing what they should be doing. Planning for the future.

I think of myself as an independent contractor-the KCBS they should be helping us. I am their customer – I pay sanctioning fees ++ plus $13.00 a head. Smoke on the Water Productions has 112 avg teams per competition. I am giving them $13.00 a head and what are they doing for me.?? Giving me grief..

For example I was trying to get a press releases announcing our competition and they wanted to charge me for it.
Then they told me I had to advertise it in the Bullsheet.

I don’t need the KCBS Bullsheet. I have a database of 10,000 names and can get the word out on my own. E-news letter for example. I can control my own costs.

They are micro managed beyond a doubt. Without calling names it seems they are more concerned with covering their ass and their absurd rules. The people in the office are scared to do anything because of that.

We may have to start our own sanctioning body. Similar to KCBS blind judging but with a different scoring system and ruled. Also the garnish issue. I have heard from many teams that they don’t need it or want the hassle. We listen to the cooks.

I would rather have advisers instead of a BOD -they would not get bogged down in micro management. I would rather give away points and money for TOY (team of the year). Also if I run it it’s a dictatorship. We would make the decisions best for the cooks. I believe this would extend the viability (business plan) of competition BBQ. There is no doubt about it. We listen. We react better.

I have talked to as many cook teams as possible. You have to listen to them. Money talks. Integrity matters. We have had 100% certified judges since I began. We treat them nice. They travel on their own time. We make sure to take care of them. That’s what should be done. We must be doing something right as we already have 240 certified Judges registered for Smoke on the Water, Little Rock.

KCBS TOY race – I have a problem with the way it is run as well.
We had probably some of the best top teams that were registered for Smoke on the Water then they backed out (with their own “excuses”) to do smaller contests and the points were still allocated. We are attracting National Sponsors. Instead of buying a $5.00 bowling trophy lets get a $30,000 sponsor and give it to the TOY.

KCBS seems too narrowly focused – not aggressively marketed themselves. KCBS has so much potential to take it further and they haven’t. KCBS is in a rut. You have to keep evolving. Or else you will stagnate. They are doing nothing cutting edge.

I really don’t care what the current board is doing. I will continue to do what is going to attract people. If they are upset with us-oh well.

IF we can work with the new BOD and get back to the way it used to be then I will work with them absolutely. Here is my problem though – its all about the money. We put on these $100,000 events with music (300,000 ppl per event) and more……
It all adds up to what is KCBS doing for me?

Q- Are you endorsing anyone running for the next BOD of the KCBS?
The Nominees are:
Randy Bigler
John Kirby
Paul Kirk *
Mike Lake *
Barbara Milroy
Linda Mullane *
Jim Stancil
Jeff Stith
Candy Weaver

(* Indicates current board member)

RC-In all fairness I don’t know the others- however I will endorse Candy Weaver and Randy Bigler.
Candy started a couple years ago – She is a business person and has a cooks perspective. She takes no shit off nobody. She will put them in their place.

Q- What is your answer to those people who state you are ruining the purity of BBQ contests?

RC- We are not trying to put the small contests out of business. There is still a place for them.

When you are playing football you play no matter what. Same with BBQ you have to play in all conditions. Only the strong will survive. Our marketing plan is very simple we listen to what the cooks want and we bring the money. Period.

At the bottom of it all – if you don’t like what we are doing don’t come. We will bring the big boys out. The integrity of the sport is not gone – viability is in the Money – it has to be viable to make it last.

To quote Myron “to be the best you have to beat the best”
Our contests will attract the best.

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