I’ve got a couple of things on my mind racing-wise that I feel like writing about. One is that racing shows are taking too long. The other is we have too many classes and adding more isn’t the solution.
First, the shows need to be quicker and done sooner. This is NOT directed at any one track around here but a general problem that seems to be getting worse at a lot of tracks, not better. The good news is this is fixable in most cases.
I’ve sat through too many four-hour shows (or longer) this season. Now, let me clarify, some nights things happen that are out of a track’s control. A lengthy red flag for a big crash. Damage to a wall or fence. Lights going out. Or an unexpected amount of cars that lead to more heat races and B mains. That stuff happens, and I get that. I'm not talking about stuff like that
It’s the extended cautions, taking too long between races, taking too long to line up cars, taking too long at intermission that is driving me crazy. Cars not being in staging when they are supposed to be. The time between races and the intermission time is something tracks can control. Some tracks show little urgency on this. The exception I have at intermission is if the track badly needs blading or major work, which doesn’t happen as much later in the year.
Because the long shows are driving people away. Our attention spans are less now than ever and sitting around for 4-hour shows turns some people off. Look at major league baseball — games routinely going past three hours or more. Guess what has happened? Attendance has dropped the past three years in MLB and is on track to see an attendance drop for a fourth straight year (according to a July article on Fox Business Channel’s website). One big reason is the length of games.
The lining up cars thing irks me because I thought we transponders were supposed to help speed up the process and it seems to be the opposite. It feels like I spend more time watching caution laps than green flag laps some nights. Turns out, there are a couple of remedies here. One is for drivers to listen to the raceceiver and get lined up; the other is to have less chatter on the raceceiver and one person who communicates a lineup clearly to the drivers.
Cedar Lake Speedway, on night two of the USA Nationals, had four NASCAR Late Model heats, two NASCAR B mains, two WOO Late Model B mains and one last chance race. That’s nine races. Guess what time the 100-lap feature started that night — after 10 p.m. They turned a potential 2 1/2 hour show into 4 (I am guessing to help pad concession and beer sales some which they clearly did).
It’s time an emphasis is put on this by racetracks. The length and speed of racing programs is so vital to attracting and keeping fans.
Wissota Street Stock driver Kasey Ussatis of Nome, N.D., made a list of the classes in a Facebook post that run at tracks within two hours of his home. It’s quite a list:
-Mini Stocks/ Sport Compact/ Short Tracker/Hornet
-Wissota Street Stocks
-IMCA Stock Car
-Wissota Midwest Mods
-IMCA Sport Mods
-Wissota Super Stocks
-Limited Late Models
-Wissota Late Models
-WRSS Sprints (new addition for 2020)
If you want to know another reason shows are going too long — some tracks are running entirely too many classes. Some are at four — River Cities Speedway is one — and a few are at five. Some are up to nine or 10 classes in the Midwest. Your car count may increase, yes, but all you are doing is spreading the car counts among more classes. If you run eight classes and have 60 cars — that’s a bit less than eight per class average — I’m not sure fans are entertained. Plus there are more features to run which could lead to more cautions hence more delays.
It seems like every year a new class is popping up. Some are legit with a future and some, I wonder what the appeal is. I won’t get into specifics because that isn’t the point.
I’d rather seen tracks focus on four, maybe five classes, and work to make them more affordable/desirable within their sanctioning body. We might see better racing.
Ok, I’ve done the critical side, there are still plenty of great things going on racing wise:
—What a crowd and turnout for Sheyenne Speedway’s NLRA Late Model show last week. A great crowd and great car counts. I’d call it one of the biggest nights in the history of the track.
—What a turnout for the Dick Johanneck Memorial at I-94 Speedway — 43 late models would have made Dick, who was a late model guy to the core, smile. The stacked field included five former national champs: Chad Becker (who leads the national points this year), Curt Gelling, Don Shaw, Jeff Wildung and John Kaanta. Great car counts in the other classes too. Former Wissota
—Teenager Tye Wilke of Detroit Lakes wrapped up his first two track championships of his INEX Legend class this week, one at Norman County Raceway and one at Buffalo River Race Park. He has 14 wins this season in what is a breakout year for him.
—The IMCA Hobby Stock class in the Fargo-Moorhead area has three teenage young ladies that race regularly. One, Alyssa White of West Fargo, is the veteran of the group in her third year and has won three features this year. Skyla Miller of Harwood and Andrea Jacobson of Fargo are rookies in the class. It will be exciting to watch all three continue to improve and develop as they get more seat time.
—Watching the Wissota Modified features at I-94 Speedway weekly. There isn’t a deeper, more talented group in Wissota IMO.
—One big positive this season has been the number of drivers who have earned their first career feature wins this season. In the eight racetracks in the RaceChaser coverage area, 20 have won their first features. That to me is an incredible number and it’s exciting for the sport, especially for the teenagers in the group (Alyssa White, Gavin Walton, Jaden Christ, Zack Nord, Cole Greseth and Brendan Mullen).
Here is an updated list:
Travis Sureus, Fargo, N.D. (NLSA Lightning Sprints, Buffalo River Race Park, Aug. 24)
Brendan Mullen, Grand Forks, N.D. (Outlaw Sprints, Devils Lake Speedway, Aug. 24)
Noah Metzger, Crookston, Minn. (IMCA Sport Mod at Norman County Raceway, Aug. 22)
Haley Lee, Starbuck, Minn., (Wissota Midwest Modified at Sheyenne, Aug. 18)
Dylan Steele, Jamestown (Bombers at Jamestown Speedway, Aug. 17).
Gavin Walton, Englevale (Mini Stock, Sheyenne Speedway, Aug. 11)
Brandon Ferris, Moorhead (IMCA Sport Mod, Red River Valley Speedway, Aug. 9)
Cory Dykhoff, Perham (Wissota Street Stock, I-94 Speedway, Aug. 2)
Alyssa White, West Fargo (IMCA Hobby Stock, Norman County Raceway, July 18)
Jaren Wibstad, Jamestown (Wissota Midwest Modified at Sheyenne Speedway, June 30)
Cole Greseth, Harwood (Mini Stock at Sheyenne Speedway, June 30)
Zack Kort , Fergus Falls (Short Tracker at I-94, June 28)
Tucker Pederson, East Grand Forks (Wissota Street Stock at River Cities, June 28)
Jarod Klein, Wimbledon (Bombers, Jamestown Speedway, June 22)
Kelby Anderson, Fort Ransom (Mini Stocks at Sheyenne Speedway, June 16)
Ryan Schow, McIntosh (Wissota Midwest Modified, River Cities Speedway, June 14)
Zack Nord, Enderlin (Hobby Stock at Sheyenne Speedway, June 2)
Brody Carlsrud, Moorhead (INEX Legends at Buffalo River Race Park, June 1)
Jaden Christ, Jamestown (Wissota Street Stock, Brown County Speedway, June 1).
Dillon Thorpe, Monango (Bombers at Jamestown Speedway, May 11)