Short Track Racing | A Vision Of Our Sport’s Future – Part 11: Finish Line Thoughts
Finish Line Thoughts
As mentioned in the introduction, the main purpose for sharing this vision statement is to suggest that promoters refocus their approach in improving the state of short track racing.
One of the most important elements in building a better product is respect and communication. We have to keep in mind that we’re in an era where business success is based on long term relationships. It is vital for a speedway’s staff to maintain positive relationships with both its competitors and its fans. Folks involved with race teams aren’t interested in participating in a hobby where appreciation and communication is absent. With the abundance of alternative activities available to partake in nowadays, people will just find something else to do and that’s exactly what is happening.
There is a lot of negative talk in the pits and it most frequently revolves around the lack of communication and the absence of unity between race tracks and series. The division in our sport is a hindrance. When the business community identifies this they then conclude that the owners and promoters of our sport don’t know how to run their business. We don’t want our sport to crumble from it’s foundation (meaning fan base, race teams, and business partners), therefore we have to create a more unified and positive vibe around the short track racing world.
The word “profitable” isn’t used much in this statement because it’s an end result. Each individual speedway can become a progressive business and maintain financial sustainability if they are able to:
- Keep fans returning by creating a cost-effective, friendly, and memorable experience.
- Keep racers and teams returning by simplifying divisions, controlling costs, and showing appreciation for their role as the attraction.
- Keep sponsors returning by building close, positive, communicative relationships with marketing partners of the speedway.
Despite the many obstacles covered in this statement, there are still some frequently seen disputes:
-”There is a lack of mechanical interest. Today’s youths don’t like to tinker. Teenagers don’t rush to get their driver’s licenses anymore. There are no more shade tree mechanics and we no longer live in a car-centric society. America’s love affair with the automobile has died…”
People who argue this aren’t aware of their surroundings. There are plenty of mechanically and technically savvy people in this world, they just aren’t hanging around the short tracks anymore. Look at how big the other motorsports industries are: Mud trucks, motocross, street car racing, drag racing. Also notice the popularity of the television hit “The Grand Tour,” one of Amazon’s most popular reality/documentary series following the automobile traveling adventures of three British car fanatics. The interest is still present but, as mentioned in the introduction, modern day promoters need to highlight the compelling aspects of short track racing while evolving their product to connect with new age fans. If we can grasp the attention of the mechanically inclined folks then we can use that fan base to progressively grow the population of the sport.
-”There is no connection to competitive auto racing anymore, especially in regards to the younger crowd. Youths are stuck on their mobile phones and self-driving cars are no longer science-fiction…”
This is a matter of perception. Take the self-driving cars thought for instance, some will say that self-driving cars creates a connection barrier for fans. One could turn this idea around and use that as a promotional tool to make auto racing appear as more of a phenomenon. Fans will become much more intrigued by the fact that these cars involve real life racers with impeccable abilities to control these vehicles that have no traction control, stability control, or any other driver assisting aids.
It should be noted that the world changes and nobody knows how youths will interact and socialize in ten years. Only predictions can be made. For example, our society may get to a point where the technology fad of handheld entertainment plateaus… Our phones do everything we want them to, everybody becomes familiar with them, and people decide to get more hands-on with their free time. This is only a theory but the main point is we can’t continue to sit and fall further behind in entertainment and marketing trends. There will always be a need for real-life socialization and entertainment in this world.
Call to action
We have a lot of work to do and this starts with the owners and promoters providing open communication with everyone involved. Speedway executives have to create 5, 10, and 15 year plans for divisions and upgrades and then share these plans with surrounding facilities as well as their supporters which includes track staff, the race teams, fans, and others within the industry.
It’s important for speedway executives to act professionally and handle people and their racers respectfully. Racers may be outspoken and appear demanding but the truth is they care for their sport. Racers actually want to help build the sport and support the tracks. They will show support if they feel valued by their home tracks.
Speedway owners and promoters have to frequently evaluate the product being put out at their facility. This includes: Food & midway areas, bathrooms, cleanliness & appearance, announcer talents, racing product, overall attitude & atmosphere, hospitality, entertainment, speedway star power, sponsor promotion efforts, website & social media presence, and public relations. It takes an open mind to give honest self-evaluations of these aspects. And just as speedway executives would consider giving themselves an “A” grade, they must do better and work towards further progressing their product. It’s also important to consider developing ideas that may have failed in the past. Many ideas do not work on the first attempt and have to be finessed before becoming successful concepts. It’s key to remember the four main essentials of review and refinement: Quality, service, value, and cleanliness. Execution of these elements are crucial in order to establish consistent workflow and repeat customers.
Improving the product of a speedway, or any business for that matter, means constant self-education. Effective methods include reading publications and books, visiting places of interest that are successful at providing entertainment, and taking notes and ideas from those other venues and relating them to short track racing.
In order to succeed speedway owners and promoters have to learn, progress, and adapt. They have to move forward. Just because a speedway has 20 car fields and healthy grandstand attendances doesn’t mean it’s time to kick up the feet and admire the success. We have to think big.
Notice that there are few mentions of big investments in this vision statement. The big investments are only mentioned for long term additions. There is also no mention of lowering gate prices or increasing purses because those are afterthoughts and can only be considered on a case by case basis. Instead of lowering prices, it is encouraged for speedways to increase their value.
I may not have the credibility to be writing a vision statement like this: speaking about the lackluster performance of our short track owners and promoters. I have seldom ventured far from New England asphalt racing. However, I’m offering possible solutions to what seem like widespread issues in this sport. I have devoted (and will continue to devote) a lot of time researching trends, reading publications on marketing, creating business plans, visiting speedways around the country, and communicating with people throughout the industry to gain knowledge, gather insight, and compile ideas for short track racing.
I’m not afraid to admit that I’m in love with short track racing. I love everything about it. I believe in it. The people within my racing family are who I care for most in this world. They are dedicated, devoted, and passionate and they are the ones who inspire me and make me believe in the sport. I’m simply here to say that short track racing should be so much more than it is. The entertainment factors are present because the sport is able to strike all emotions. Therefore I feel that the short track racing is just worth it. The local speedway can be an exceptionally magical place with an excellent social environment. It is where friendships and relationships are created and it’s the cool place to go as a group or family. The local short track brings families together and it’s where local heroes are established.
My goal in life? I’ll die happy if one day race tracks throughout the country are overflowing with fans and competitors… maybe even see new short tracks being built. I want to see speedway owners making money and reinvesting in their facilities. I want to see track promoters doing their part in building the sport while communicating with other race tracks. I want to see racers and fans satisfied with the product and gladly supporting their home tracks. All because I believe in short track racing.
Thank you to all who have helped with this vision statement and anybody who has reached out with their thoughts. Even opposing opinions have helped me gain a better understanding of the sport and people involved. It is much appreciated.
If anybody has questions, comments, death threats, or whatever it may be, feel free to contact me:
Cell: (860) 803-2943
Some of my favorite and most helpful sources:
Growing Up NASCAR – Racing’s Most Outrageous Promoter Tells All
By Humpy Wheeler and Peter Golenbock
Let’s Go Racing! – The Amazing Story of the American Speed Association
By Rex Robbins with Dave Argabright
Let ‘Em All Go!
By Chris Economaki with Dave Argabright
Earl! The Life and Times of One of the Nation’s Best Racing Promoters
By Earl Baltes with Dave Argabright
By Jon Spoelstra
Ice to the Eskimos
By Jon Spoelstra
Creativity, Inc. – Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
By Ed Catmull
The Thank You Economy
By Gary Vanderchuk
X Play Nation
By Alex Striller
Motorsports Marketing and Sponsorships
By Alex Striller
Best Damn Garage In Town – The World According to Smokey (3 Volume Set)
By Henry Smokey Yunick
The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World
By Susan Veness
Other non-specific books:
Local town/county/place of interest historical books can help gain an understanding of a region or area. Sports management guides and textbooks. Along with a number of books about historical people in auto racing which have only educated me about the evolution of the sport and the people who helped build it.
Sports Management Worldwide – Motorsports Management Certificate Course
Racing Promotion Monthly
Sports Business Journal
Ernie Saxton’s Motorsports Sponsorship Marketing News
People in the pits, online forums, social media posts and comments, and speedway reviews on Google.