A Vision Of Our Sport’s Future – Part 3
Racer, Owner, and Team Interest
Short track racing, with regard to the actual racers and race teams, has deteriorated into an absolutely abysmal state. Racers pay more than ever at the pit gate to participate, and are paid less than ever at the end of the event. From a racer’s perspective it seems as though tracks view race teams with contempt. It’s as though throughout the last fifty years track owners and promoters have been conducting an experiment to see how poorly they can treat the weekly racer while still turning a profit.
The race teams are the people putting on the show. Let’s not forget that. The track management is responsible for keeping the racers pleased. Now I understand the difficulty of pleasing everybody, however, small incentives show appreciation for the competitors and showing appreciation for the racers creates a more positive environment throughout.
If you were to poll the race teams in the pit area as to their feelings about the track management, many would respond with, “They have no idea what we go through. They don’t know the money, time, and struggles that go into showing up at the track every week”. That’s because many tracks lack incentives for the people who arrive at their facility to entertain their fans.
Let’s talk about a real screwing for the racers: A local speedway director once told me, “There are little things right in front of our faces that are a problem in our sport, one being pit pass fees increasing when a visiting touring series shows up.” Think about that for a second. When an outside touring series shows up, it means the entry level racer has to pay around double for a pit pass. When they pay double, what do they get in return? Well…
- They lose money since they leave work earlier than usual just to sit around and wait for all the visiting series’ qualifying races.
- They are shuffled out to park in the distant, usually dirty, and possibly poor terrain sections of the pit area.
- They miss spectating the touring series race because they are too busy preparing, loading, and repairing their own racecars, or making their way through post race tech inspection.
Basically, racers have to dish out more cash for a complete inconvenience.
Acknowledgement doesn’t take much effort, nor does communicating with the people who support your racetrack to build a positive rapport. Whether it is the team in victory lane or the team that finishes last every week, they are all necessary in making up the fabric of a speedway. Congratulate the winners. Contact a racer he/she doesn’t show up one week, and find out why. You can better understand the struggles of a race team and they will find it encouraging to know their absence was noticed. A quote from Mike Twist: “The easiest way to take care of racers is to show them respect and that doesn’t cost a dime.”
Track management quick reference
-Do all intermediate and premiere divisions have scheduled highlight feature events?
More laps and more prize money should be made available for the middle to higher rank divisions at least twice per year. Entry prices shouldn’t be raised for the front or back gate for these events.
-Are competitors getting their presence exposed to the fanbase?
The racers are the speedway gladiators and the announcers should be presenting them as they are: Local celebrities. Their sponsors should be reported by the announcers and presented well on the track print, website, and social media accounts.
-Are racers able to compete with a car number of their choice?
Drivers and car owners are recognized by their car number. It’s an identity and a brand. Racers have invested apparel, decals, email addresses, and Twitter handles that represent their brand. With a number attached to their name they are easier to follow through the ranks and when making appearances. Teams shouldn’t have to change their identity simply because somebody else in the field claimed it. Especially if the facility has electronic scoring..
-Is there a database for penalty infractions?
It appears that many speedways shoot from the hip when handing out penalties and this creates accusations and criticism. Every track should have a predetermined offense list that includes tiered punishments for technical violations, and on/off track misconducts. A history database should also be compiled as a reference guide to create consistency when issuing penalties and to confirm multiple offenders.
-Does your track team have respected executives and consultants?
An executive representative who is widely respected should be present at every speedway. It has to be somebody who understands the struggles that a race team goes through on a regular basis. This often, but not always, comes in the form of a current or ex-racer. Track operators are not doing race teams a favor by giving them a place to race. Respecting what the teams go through and showing them appreciation for supporting the speedway is vital as racers have lives outside of racing. They are, in fact, choosing to devote time to their home track.
-Does your track have any type of rewards program or contingency sponsors to give back to competitors?
If the speedway is bringing in money for advertising income then a small percentage of that should be dispersed to the racers. Awards should also be given to the most recognized characters of the speedway in the form of Most Popular Driver, Best Appearing Racecar, etc.
-Do racers and owners enter the track for free? If not, does the purse at least cover their entrance fee?
Short track racing is a semi-professional (in some cases, professional) spectator sport. In most cases they are being charged to enter your facility so they can perform a dangerous act in front of your crowd. If competitors and car owners are being charged to enter the pit area then the purse structure must at least cover that expense.
-Are race winners and champions able to enjoy their victories with a level of excitement?
Winning a race is extremely satisfying to a racer and his/her team. A speedway should do their part in adding to the celebration to create a memorable experience. Pyrotechnics, confetti, music, ability to celebrate with crew members, and an attractive backdrop for photo capturing should all be part of the ceremony.
-Are the racers and teams in sync with your visions of division rules?
If car owners see uncertainty in the future of a division/series then it affects their decision of acquiring a certain race car. They see their purchases as investments. A speedway should have a 10 year vision of their divisions and the competitors should be made aware of the forthcoming of their investments. Regulations should be discussed between the track and its race teams and there should be a considerable amount of time before putting new rules into effect. Race tracks shouldn’t make sudden rule changes because this diminishes trust with its racers.
-Do race teams have freedom with their investments?
In order to gain acceptance from the race teams and gain new competitors, we have to give them what they want. Racers want the freedom to travel and experience different race tracks. Facilities that try “locking in” their racers by having their own rulebooks different from surrounding tracks often show little success. Racers aren’t interested in spending money on something of little to no value. A race car that is only good for one track is not a worthy investment to race teams because it limits their freedom to visit other facilities and their ability to sell if they ever decide to take a different route.