Short Track Racing | A Vision Of Our Sport’s Future: Part 1 – Introduction

 

Preface

I am a dedicated short track racer and short track racing fan. I race New England asphalt Modifieds on a weekly basis and it is rare for me to not be in the grandstands of an auto racing event on at least one other night of the week.  

I grew up in a racing family and have been around the sport since I was a child. I have been to thousands of auto racing events and I’ve seen the sport from a variety of different angles: playing the role of a driver, family car owner, crew chief, crew member, racecar fabricator, track employee, and fan.  

   

 

I have also been heavily involved in the marketing aspect of my racing program. My most enjoyable project has been creating my video series called Short Track Racer which is a reality-based show that follows my life as a local racer. Short Track Racer has since evolved into a multimedia, lifestyle, and community website for local racing enthusiasts.

What I’m trying to reveal about myself in these opening sentences is that my life revolves around short track auto racing. In addition to that, I am part of the “millennial” generation, which is the most important group of people our sport has to attract. Therefore, I know the wants and needs of a race team and I have a firm grasp as to what it takes for people to to enjoy attending a motorsports event.

 

The Future of Short Track Auto Racing

Let’s not hide from it.  Let’s not sugar coat it.  Short track auto racing has been in a popularity decline in recent years.  Grandstands, pit areas, and car counts are low and appear dreary.  There is also less interest shown from vendors, media people, volunteers, marketing partners, followers, etc.  Racing facilities are continuously shutting down.  The future of the sport shows great uncertainty and I have yet to see any noticeable strides taken to reverse this downfall.

Let me clarify something right away: I’m not writing this to knock short track auto racing.  My intent is not to be negative.  We can call this a memo or a mission statement, or better yet a vision statement because I want to expose the potential of short track racing since I see this as the greatest sport in the world. I want to shed some light on the negatives dragging the sport down because modern day track owners and promoters seem to be stagnant with regard to the future of the sport. I would simply like to share some of my vision and suggest promoters to refocus their approach.

Now I understand that there are a large amount of road blocks that are hindering a race track’s ability to develop. Crippling liability insurance, complaining neighbors, and increasing land values all diminish the flow of a venue’s progress. Beyond that, other entertainment industries are making improvements to enhance their fan experience which will only make the battle more difficult. Above all, our nation is enduring a very slow economic recovery. Auto racing is considered one of the most expensive forms of organized sport so the effects of any economic downturn are sure to be felt in this industry more than others.  Unfortunately, the short track racing world did not position itself for the economic storm.

That’s the bad news.  Now the good news: There will always be a need for entertainment and few forms of entertainment are more enjoyable than short track auto racing.  Drivers, car owners, team members, track employees, and race fans can all get maximum satisfaction from being around the sport… with the right people making it happen.  We may not have positioned ourselves to handle the past economic recession, but we can certainly plan to propel the sport to incredible heights in the next 10 years.

The entertainment aspect of short track racing is already present.  The sport grasps the emotions of everybody involved.  There is no shortage of drama and controversy while the element of danger makes the sport exceptionally fascinating.  There are fights and underdog stories. It engages our minds and legitimizes our competitive nature.  We see inspiring moments while witnessing history take place in front of our eyes.  In short track auto racing, we do not have to create storylines; the drivers and teams do it themselves.  That’s what makes the sport interesting. Speedway Illustrated writer Karl Fredrickson put it best when he stated, “No other activity offers such thrill, risk, challenge, and sense of accomplishment than racing does.”

So the foundation is there.  However, new age promoters need to highlight these aspects all while evolving their product to connect with new age fans.

There is no single problem or area of concern that will make this sport become sensational.  Lack of foresight and imagination is what is impeding short track racing from becoming a vast phenomenon.  In reality, the majority of our speedways are lacking in ALL areas.

I have broken the issues down to nine categories that need revamping.  These are:

-Visual Appeal and Attractions

-Racer, Owner, and Team Interest

-Fan Interest, Entertainment, and Youth Engagement

-Divisions and New Racer Captivation

-Business Partnerships

-Facility Uses and Extra Activities

-Marketing

-Community Immersion

-The Movement and Communication Between Tracks


Click here for Part 1 – Introduction

Click here for Part 2 – Visual Appeal and Attractions

Click here for Part 3 – Racer, Owner, and Team Interest

Click here for Part 4 – Fan Interest, Entertainment, and Youth Engagement

Click here for Part 5 – Divisions and New Racer Captivation

Click here for Part 6 – Business Partnerships

Click here for Part 7 -Facility Uses and Extra Activities

Click here for Part 8 – Marketing

Click here for Part 9 – Community Immersion

Click here for Part 10 – The Movement and Communication Between Tracks

Click here for Part 11 – Finish Line Thoughts

Leave a Reply

3 comments

  • I’ve been following you guys for a little over a year now, you guys put out great content and are doing good things for our sport. I’m glad you’re tackling this topic, and thought I’d share my thoughts too. Here’s my top 3 issues, with maybe a few ideas to help solve them…

    1) Facilities – As you mentioned above, racing has to compete with new forms of entertainment. In my area, our semi-pro baseball team has a shiny new stadium with a nice big screen in the outfield for instant replays, stats, and fan interaction. Our city’s semi-pro hockey team, arena football team, and soccer team enjoy similar amenities. While I’m proud of the track I race at, it sometimes feels like taking a step back in time. I know what all the tracks will say, that would be too expensive. Maybe it’s time to get creative.
    2)Marketing – Local tracks (and drivers, for that matter) seem to lack an understanding of marketing in the 21st century. My track recently banned fans from using Facebook live. On the surface, it seems to make sense from a business perspective. Why let people watch the races for free, we want them to be at the track. Let’s look at this from another perspective. Fans want to share their experience on social media, people see them having fun at the racetrack, people come to the races. “FOMO”. It’s time to think outside the box, stop looking at what other tracks are doing and start looking at what successful forms of entertainment are doing.
    3) Attracting new drivers – If you didn’t grow up in a racing family, you’re not likely to become a driver yourself. Young people need more exposure to the drivers. Whether that’s working with kids at the track or designing programs for local high school or community college students who have automotive interests to get involved in racing. There’s still the cost barrier to entry, especially with young people taking on so much debt early in life. A young person doesn’t just need to buy a car, they also need a truck, a trailer, and a place to work on it. Tough to do if you’re living in an apartment and don’t have family support. What if tracks could provide a space to store and maintain the car at the track? Cut the cost of racing in half or more, and could even be a new revenue stream for the track through monthly rent.

    Thanks again for what you do, I wish every track had people like you to spread the gospel of short track racing!

    • Brandon, Appreciate the support and kind words! You are somebody who gets it. There are a lot of tracks/regions/sanctions that seem to be having success when looking at crowd and car counts. But what is success? Grandstands half to three quarters full and divisions with 20 cars? The ideas you mention are about progress, foresight, and getting ahead of times instead of one, two, three decades behind. Judging by the issues and ideas you suggested here I’m pretty sure we’re on the same page. Glad to have you on board!

  • Hi .
    I would like receive the part 5 to 9 of Short Track Racing – A Vision Of Our Sport’s Future….

    Thanks a lot and h’ve a good day …

    Best regard

    Christian Jacques