OSWEGO — A new racing team is looking to bring a modern spin to Oswego Speedway for the 2020 season and beyond.
Oswego native James Rusaw, along with supermodified driver Jason Spaulding, is starting up the Hollywood Racing Team at the speedway.
Rusaw has been a lifelong race fan and always dreamed of one day racing on the paved oval at Oswego.
“Growing up as the fan in the stands, it’s always been my goal to race at some point,” he said.
That dream came to fruition when Rusaw saw an opportunity to compete in the 350-Supermodified division. The division recently wrapped up its first season at the speedway.
“It’s at a level where I think I can be competitive in the division,” he said. “I want to add some value to the team.”
With the biggest goal of bringing excitement and action to the 350 division, Rusaw said, “Over the years, people have always said there needs to be a division below the supermodifieds that the average person can get into. I believe I can be that guy. I’m going to really try to build up the division and live my dream.”
The “Hollywood” team name is derived from Rusaw’s nickname he received from someone 20 years ago.
“The name ‘Hollywood’ just comes from my younger days. I loved enjoying life to the fullest. You’ll always see me with sunglasses on and riding around in my sports car. It’s more of the big personality that I have,” he said.
“I want to be a driver that stands out amongst the pack.”
While the drivers’ aspect of the team has been figured out, the modern feel will be expanded to Rusaw’s plans for promotional ideas at the speedway.
Rusaw is using the power of social media to promote his team and reach out to the younger generation and bring potential fans to the speedway. A simple “like” of a post or re-posting on any of Hollywood Racing’s social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) can lead to prizes like free tickets for a weekend of racing action at the speedway.
“It’s a way to bring people to the track, be a guest of mine and be (in the pits) and up close to see what a supermodified is,” Rusaw said.
Along with a slew of promotions, Rusaw is in the process of having brand ambassadors as part of the team. Those ambassadors will be at the speedway every weekend giving out Hollywood Racing merchandise to the fans in the stands, which will help the team “stand out,” Rusaw said.
“Giving back to the fans that have done so much for the racetrack is a good thing,” he said.
The team’s exposure on social media and the racetrack benefits the list of sponsors Rusaw has worked with and brought on to a part of what he’s creating. Sponsors for the team are Jake’s Automotive, Red Bull, Tricky Dick’s Roadside Grille, Lucas Oil, Cloud 9, Hyperco, Fox Shocks, White Glove Dumpster Rentals, Upward Graphics, Saves Auto Body (PPG), Powermist, Wix Filters, Miller Beer, and Fastenal.
“Social media for sponsors are a really big deal,” Rusaw said. “I’ve gained some sponsors due to a return on their investment.”
Spaulding was thoroughly impressed by the notoriety Rusaw has been able to bring to the team, saying, “So far, so good. He’s good at getting the sponsors. It’s a huge help.”
Piquing the interest of racing to a younger demographic, Rusaw said, “is vitally important.” Rusaw recently approached WTOP-TV, a student-run television station at Oswego State, about doing a docu-series on the Hollywood Racing Team.
When Rusaw asked the students if they knew what supermodifieds were, the reply was a bit of a surprise.
“Meeting with the students, they didn’t really know what supermodifieds were,” he said. “For something that’s so big in Oswego and the surrounding areas, I think it’s important for the younger generation to know about it.”
For the racing team, Rusaw is expecting fast results going with it going into its first full season next year.
“Every driver should have the mindset to win every race you enter. I am no different,” he said. “We have a winning team. It’s my job to go get it done.”
Rusaw knew he couldn’t do it alone, and welcoming Spaulding on to the team was a large step in the right direction of putting the team in a good position.
“I wanted to see him race once again,” he said.
Spaulding said, “James threw me a heck of a pitch for me to be part of the team. I was all in.”
Spaulding has been racing supermodifieds for about four years. Prior to that, he raced super stocks for three years. He knew Rusaw “really wanted” him to be part of the team, especially when Rusaw offered to help put the finishing touches on Spaulding’s No. 34 supermodified for this year’s Classic Weekend.
“He helped out with the big block,” Spaulding said. “We were in the process of getting it ready for Classic (Weekend). It was a nice gesture.”
Rusaw’s original plan was to have a driver for each division on the team. As of right now, Rusaw wants to see how the 2020 season progresses before bringing on a small-block supers driver.
“It’s possible we’ll have an SBS driver later in the season,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Picking No. 7 for his 350 car, Rusaw’s competitive racing experience can be traced back his days of competing in go-karts. With Spaulding as his driving coach and “knowing he wouldn’t be called Hollywood if he didn’t have confidence,” Rusaw plans to go into the 350 division head-on.
“My goal is to go out there in week one (of the season), be competitive and do my best to win the race,” he said.