RaceChaser Editorial on the State of Racing in 2023
Updated: May 7
The United States president, and almost all state governors, annually have what is called a state of the union or state address. Most of them are just nonsense rehashed rhetoric bashing on opponents and are a waste of time. Most politicians are a total waste of time for me, like the governor in the land of 10,000 lakes, but that’s another blog.
I get into discussions with people about the future, or the state of stock-car racing. Keep in mind that this blog, which may be in its final year, is written from a fan’s perspective and not a driver or promoter or sponsor. I am not a rules expert and have never claimed to be. So keep that in mind when reading this. Here is my state of things. 100 percent my own opinion and perspective and a talk about racing in general and not specific tracks.
There are a lot of challenges in racing right now and it’s easy to focus on those things. There are some good things happening too that need to be embraced and built on. We will start with the good.
There is a lot of good young talent in racing right now – Tye Wilke, Tucker Pederson, Bryce Sward, Cole Greseth, Ashton Spieker, Collin Compson, Brody Carlsrud and Brodee Eckerdt are a few of many that come to mind. It’s promising for the future to see the growth of the younger drivers (there are many more that I don’t have time to mention). That is encouraging to me. Plus, there still are a good number of younger kids in karts which is the future of racing.
There are also established veterans who continue to run at or towards the front and be excellent representatives of the sport. They are the ones who four or five decades ago who helped build the foundation for racing today. Their experiences make their viewpoints worth listening to. Drivers like Tom Corcoran, Mitch Johnson, Clarence Washburn, Todd Carter, John Kaanta to name a few. Appreciate what they've done for racing.
Another positive is the influx of female racers. When I was growing up many years ago there were few if any female drivers, aside from some powder puff events. Now there are dozens of women racing locally and regionally who contend regularly for wins and top five finishes. This is a huge boost for racing and needs to be embraced. And for those who are sexist or make inappropriate comments about female drivers on social media, well you can take a hike.
I also love seeing large amount of kids at the races. Many are children or nieces and nephews of drivers. Some go with their parents who are just fans (Which is how I got hooked). They are the future fans of racing and potentially future drivers. Driver autograph nights and meet the drivers are great ways for kids and drivers to interact.
Another positive that I see is the availability online of watching races. Yes, being there in person is much better and I will always say that. Here’s why this is a positive, at least to me. I can watch USMTS, Lucas Oil or World of Outlaw races from across the country at my home. If I can’t make it to a race on one of the local tours outside of the region I live, Dirt Race Central, which does a terrific job of covering racing in this region, has it covered. The more exposure the better. I do hope that tracks get a fair deal on revenue from these online streams.
One other positive is the work of many – Mason Eisenzimmer and his outstanding videos, photographers like Cody Papke, Krystal Ostenson, Mike Spieker, the Stevenator and Collin Nelson (among many others) who put in a ton of hours taking photos and making cards for drivers. These folks don’t get enough credit for the hours and hours of work they put in.
There are good things happening that should be recognized and built upon. But yes, there are challenges and things I don’t like.
As a fan, there are too many classes. It seems like we add a new class somewhere every year. There are some tracks that run eight or nine classes weekly which is ridiculous. And some of the classes aren’t great for fans to watch if we are being honest. I won’t single them out because I know there are talented people in every class. And in the end some of the classes are a personal preference. But we don’t need more. Sometimes less is better.
The most common complaint I hear in racing is about money. Nobody has enough and everything costs too much. Some deep-pocketed people spend too much to win. Not a new problem. This is driven mainly by the economy, and right now we are paying more for everything – food, fuel, clothes, you name it. Most of that is beyond the control of people in racing. But guess what, money has ALWAYS been a complaint in racing and that will never change. So no need to dwell on that. But I will say I appreciate tracks doing things like point funds, letting the drivers into the pits for free, etc. For example, Granite City Motor Park in Sauk Rapids is taking a proactive approach with a point fund and also paying drivers for heat races.
Are there too many tracks? I get asked this a lot. My response is considering the number of drivers and fans aren’t increasing, that existing tracks are fighting for a portion of a smaller pie than was around 30 years ago. I like many don’t like to see any track close. But I also understand we are in a different world now. I have been to 54 tracks in my life. Eight of them no longer race or don’t run weekly. Growing the amount of fans and drivers would be helpful but that is a separate discussion.
The length of race programs is a problem for me as a fan. I don’t like regular weekly shows taking four hours. There are some tracks that show no urgency at all in keeping the show moving. Guess what? That drives away fans. Especially older folks, and parents with young kids. There are things that can cause delays that people understand – weather delay, a red flag that requires and ambulance, etc. People get that. Taking 5 minutes between every heat race is not a good practice. This also goes to too many classes.
I think there needs to be more constructive dialogue between drivers/fans and promoters. Some constructive feedback makes things better, and that is what everyone in racing wants. There are too many petty comments and fights on social media that aren’t productive. The fans and drivers who pay their money each week to go to the stands or pits have a right to their opinions but let’s use those moments for productive conversation and not a pissing contest. Likewise promoters and owners have the right to run their tracks as they see fit but some refuse to listen when folks bring up legitimate issues. Finding a balance between constructive, honest criticism and incessant bitching is vital.
Social media is such a double-edged sword. It does great work for publicity for tracks (a lot of free) and getting the word out. It also is destructive at times. Not just for racing but for people in general.
Sanctioning bodies are a double edged sword too. They bring a semblance of order to racing but also are political and make decisions based on financial methods and not common sense.
I write this because I want racing to be fun for me again. I want it to grow and to tackle the challenges. That will take everyone – fans, drivers, promoters, photographers, bloggers, you name it.