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ast month I was a little late (only about 30 days or so, c’mon) getting the Dead-On editorial in. I have been busier than ever with my company, Trailer Toad LLC, and now I have another commitment, the Grassroots Bracket Series. The economy has hit our small business just like it has so many others across the country. We are still growing but it is a “belt-tightening experience” to accomplish it. I am excited about the Grassroots Bracket Series because it is all about growing the sport. Not a bunch of rules, no big money-big entry fee races. It will be focused on local racers and local tracks.
I will stay away from national and local political problems but I will mention one thing. I see that you thought it was time to “start fresh” in our government. The people we have had in office for 15, 20 years have let us all down. THANK YOU for being part of what I hope is “real change”.
Everyone who reads this column is very likely to be a racer, a former racer or close friends with someone who does race and wants to at the very least. The costs to go racing have escalated -- that is not intended to be news flash. I have several questions about that and wonder if it is just the way things evolve or is it the American attitude to always want bigger and better. I think it is the “we want bigger and better” attitude myself but that’s just my opinion.
If we take the current economic situation and apply it to just drag racing I think we can all see the drag racing scene has changed. From a small local track to the biggest national event, participation has changed. In some cases the local tracks have seen attendance increase because fewer racers are traveling and are racing locally. National events and Divisional events have been hurt the most. The reason is obvious: it costs more to travel, more to spend four or five days at an event, and the cost of a National-event caliber car is skyrocketing.
What can be done to help more people get back to the track and still allow the tracks to make a profit? For every person who reads this column, there is probably a different answer or opinion. I wouldn’t expect any less. I have a few ideas and I get to express my opinions in public. (Sometimes that is good and sometimes it may not be…).
The nagging question for track operators is how do I get more racers and fans through my gates so I can make facility improvements, pay purses that draw the cars and still make enough profit to make the risk of owning a dragstrip a profitable decision? There is not one answer that can fix things. However, there is one action that can really help: Support your local track. I don’t care if it is a little hole in the wall track or a track that can park 500 race teams. If you sit at home when your local track is running, you will have nobody but yourself to blame when the track reduces its schedule or worst yet, closes down.
These are some common reasons I hear that people do not support local tracks:
Problem: “The track isn’t sprayed with enough VHT or traction compound. I spin when I go there and I won’t go back until they spray the whole track.” Solution: Help the track find a sponsor who would buy a couple drums of traction compound in exchange for 500 free tickets he could hand out at his business. If you own a local business (over 50% of racers list “self-employed” on their tech cards) you buy a drum and exchange it for tickets that you can hand out to customers and friends.
Problem: “The track management treats us all poorly, they don’t deserve my money”. Solution: Call the track manager and personally ask him if there is anything you can do to help communication between the track and management. The track owner (and I speak from 15 years of experience) only hears the bitchin’. (95% of the complaining is coming from 2% of the racers who can’t figure out how to be quiet.) How many of you make the effort to tell the manager or even the employees, “Thank you, you did a great job today”?
Problem: “That place is a mess, dusty roads and gravel everywhere. I am not going to take my nice equipment there and get it dirty.” Solution: Get off your butt and contact the track manager and see if they will work with you on a fund-raiser project. You could do 50/50 ticket drawings, help the track sell signs to raise money for improvements, if you know a paving contractor, call him and see if he could cut them a good deal on some repair work. Personal contacts are huge and if the companies see it as a good public relations move that may drive more business to them, they might offer the track a nice discount. You will never know until you give it a try, will you?
The ongoing struggle to keep local tracks open will get tougher until the economy fires back up. Local tracks are the backbone of the sport. You can see the big money races failing and struggling so much to get cars that they are allowing double entries and sometimes selling as many tech cards as you want to buy for your car to get enough entry fees to pay the purse.
My partner, Scotty Richardson, and I feel that lowering entry fees, getting sponsors to pay part of the purse, working with local tracks to schedule a limited number of points races is one way to help the sport. It might bring back racers that have decided double entries, buybacks and $50,000 cars were not for them. The Grassroots Bracket Series and the tracks that join us are not sitting on our hands and hoping things go back to the way they were. We are trying some new ideas and I hope you all get the opportunity to support our Grassroots Bracket Series member tracks and our events. Check us out at www.grassrootsbracketseries.com .
Now that the season is over for most tracks, why don’t you get together with some racer friends and contact your local track manager. See what you can do to help make his track and your sport, better.
If you do nothing, it’s on you. If you give it a good try you will always have a good feeling about the effort you made. Trust me, it is really nice when a track manager hears from racers that are offering to help out.