If I Ran the Show...
Jason Berg suggested a blog idea for me on Track Talk on WDAY last week — to describe what I would do if I ran a racetrack. Since rain pretty much washed out the whole weekend locally, what the heck, let’s put one to paper.
I’ve thought about this off and on for years. If you’ve gone to as many tracks as I have (50 and counting), you’ve seen what works, what doesn’t work, and the little things that make a difference.
There have been plenty of nights I have left a racetrack unhappy in four decades of going to races. Sometimes it’s the admission or concession prices; sometimes it’s the smoking in a non-smoking section; sometimes it’s a bad call from the flagstand; sometimes it is a show that shows no urgency and drags on to 4-5 hours.
There also have been many nights I’ve left the track thrilled after seeing a good show. Those would outnumber the lousy nights over the years.
So, here is what I would do if I ran a racetrack. This is written keeping in mind I would not have an unlimited budget to play with, then my answers would be different. Yes, I realize many of these are much easier said than done and this is truly idealisitc, but some are doable without a lot of cost.
Here we go:
—Run no more than five classes weekly. Some tracks are up to seven or eight, and to me that’s too many.
—Start on time and work to have the show done in 3-3 1/2 hours.
—Let all kids 14 and under in free with a paid adult and have a minimal charge for ages 14-17 ($3-4).
—Have a family concession package (4 hot dogs or burgers, water/soda, family size fries or nachos) for $20. It is better revenue wise than having people eat at a fast food place afterwards.
--Have affordable concessions in general for things like popcorn, pop/water, candy.
—Hire an objective individual who is fair but tough to make the calls from the flagstand.
—Find sponsors to help support a point fund for the season. Reward the drivers (mostly local) who show up every week and run for points.
—Have one higher-paying event for each weekly class during the season. This includes the feeder classes. There should be sponsors capable of helping with this. This could be a challenge series late model race, Advantage RV or Sanders Mod Tour event, for example.
—Unless there is major track work needed (a rough track, for example), keep intermission to 15-20 minutes.
—Have someone from the track (promoter, etc.) telling fans “thank you” as they leave. Deer Creek Speedway does this. It’s a little thing but a nice gesture.
—Keep a family section in the stands with no alcohol or smoking allowed. Important for some who bring their kids.
—Meet the Drivers night for each class, one per week. Let the kids go up and get pictures and autographs.
—Have a season ticket/pass package that saves regular fans money. Maybe it’s 5 or 10 percent discount, but the gesture for rewarding their weekly attendance is important.
—I would not sanction the entry-level classes like the hornets or pure stocks. Keep the rules affordable and safe and make them easy to jump into.
—Candy toss every week. Have a driver or sponsor pay for the candy each week. Have drivers throw out the candy.
—Have a kids club, which provides T-shirts and other rewards. Make kids feel like they are an important part of the racing program.
—Work hard to develop a sponsorship base to help keep a solid weekly show— and reward those businesses/individuals with not only good exposure (billboards, etc.) but with gratitude.
—pay back better throughout the field. Remember only one driver wins and gets that purse and that all drivers pay the $25-30 entry fee to the pit area.
—Have a live music/beer garden after the races. Let’s rebuild some camaraderie after races.
—Have a lap counter so people in the pits can see. Doesn’t have to be fancy.
—Do everything I can to make racing “fun” again for drivers AND fans.