Late Model Racer Magazine has been on hold since the untimely death of Editor/Publisher Craig Murto on January 30, 2020. In May of 2020, the magazine will relaunch under the leadership of Race22 founder and part-time race promoter Langley Austin.
Murto worked his way up from being the magazine’s editor under the guidance of publisher Dean Nardi in 1998 to become the sole owner of the magazine in 2000. Murto moved the magazine from West Springfield, Massachusetts to Virginia and, over the next 20 years, Murto would grow the magazine into one of the best publications covering short track racing.
With a focus on asphalt Late Model racers throughout the United States, Late Model Racer Magazine kept readers up to date with background on all the stars of the sport, history on stars of days gone by, the latest on what the tracks and series throughout the country were doing plus insight on sponsorship, the business side of racing, the latest products for racers and so much more.
Murto leaves behind a legacy of positivity for the sport and niche of Late Model racing that he loved to watch and wanted to see thrive. Austin, from a totally different background, is much the same and hopes he can carry on with the legacy that Murto created for the 25-year-old magazine.
“Craig was a friend of short track racing and a friend of mine,” Austin said. “His passing was a great loss for short track racing. He did a lot to help keep short track racing alive and in return, I hope we can keep his legacy alive by keeping the magazine going for years to come. It’s going to be hard to fill his shoes but I’m ready to give everything to it to try and keep a magazine that I’ve always enjoyed going.”
Austin’s background having grown up in the racing business helps bring a different perspective to the magazine while building on its core values. Austin founded Race22 (race22.com), which is the second most viewed website dedicated to asphalt short track racing with a niche centered around Late Model Stock Car racing in the Southeast region. Austin also promotes racing events in the region particularly at his home track of Franklin County Speedway in Callaway, VA, where he grew up watching his father promote through short track racings heyday. Austin also has recently launched a touring series for four-cylinder Mini Stock cars racing in the same region.
Despite Austin’s geographic location and the niche that his successful website covers, he knows that in order to build upon Murto’s legacy that the magazine has to continue to focus on racing throughout the country.
“Race22 is a beast of its own,” Austin explained. “We built it on the back of Late Model Stock Car racing but outside of this region, there’s no such thing as a Late Model Stock Car. Super and Pro Late Models are far more prevalent, and we’ll be continuing the focus on covering all types of Late Models. Despite Craig living here in Virginia, he knew people everywhere and made the contacts needed to make this magazine work. Now it’s my turn to reach out to more than just the Southeast and keep up with racing all over the country. I’ve got my sights set on doing just that this year.”
Late Model Racer Magazine has a strong subscriber base and a healthy list of advertisers. Austin says he hopes he can begin to build relationships with the advertisers and get a product out to the subscribers as soon as possible.
“Craig did a great job of cultivating a lot of advertisers to make the magazine work and I hope we can continue a working relationship with all of those advertisers. Equally the subscriber base is strong with Late Model Racer and we want to deliver a product like they’re used to and maybe build upon that as well. The print industry is still alive and well despite the increase in digital media and we plan to be a part of both.”
Austin says he expects to publish the first issue of Late Model Racer Magazine toward the end of the month of April and then begin publishing regularly as scheduled after that.
“We’re going to try and keep everything the way Craig had it,” Austin continued. “He had a great thing going and there’s no need to mess with a formula that has been proven for a long period of time. We’re going to have the same people involved with writing, photography, design, printing and every aspect we can. I’m sure there will be small tweaks here and there but it’s important to me to keep things the same going forward.”
Late Model Racer Magazine will launch a new website soon and will be improving on their Facebook page with more content and more ways to deliver news and information to race fans.
“Craig’s wife Meg gave me a wonderful opportunity to honor a man that I respected greatly by keeping something he’s worked on for 22 plus years alive and I don’t want to let her down,” Austin explained. “I hope to keep Late Model Racer Magazine going for many years, but I also know it’s going to be a challenge to do so. We’re hoping to get a lot of help from the people who have always helped keep the magazine going and bring in new people and new advertisers and new subscribers. That’s the way we’ll keep the legacy alive.”
Writers, photographers, other contributors, and advertisers are encouraged to reach out to Langley Austin at [email protected] to continue their relationship with the magazine.
“We are kinda starting from almost scratch with a lot of things with the magazine,” Austin explained. “Craig was sort of a one-man-band behind the scenes and many aspects of the magazine were kept in his head and not necessarily on paper or recorded digitally. So we’re unable to reach out to some people who were involved before because we have nothing to go on. We will reach out to the ones we can and work from there but hopefully many will reach out and some already have before we even had control of the magazine.”
Additionally, Austin hopes that the current coronavirus pandemic doesn’t slow the magazine’s progress in returning to the hands of subscribers.
“We definitely are relaunching this magazine in a trying time for not only racing but our nation and really the world in general,” Austin said. “We just hope that it doesn’t impede our ability to deliver the magazine to its readers and give our advertisers a platform to promote their products and services to a large base of racers and race fans who love Late Model racing on asphalt.”
Please follow Late Model Racer Magazine on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/latemodelracer/. Langley Austin can be reached at [email protected] or by text/calling 276.613.4208.