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  • tombergie01

Running a Race Track Takes a Team

Officials conduct a pit meeting at River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks Herald photo)

I often here this from people, “well, if I ran the racetrack…”

I admit I play armchair quarterback at tracks at times, saying I’d do this or that different. But I’m not sure most of us realize just how much goes into running a track — or how many people it requires. My guess is that most tracks have 25 people or more working on a nightly basis to keep the race program moving. It’s a team effort.

My parents ran Fiesta City Speedway from 1992-94. The weather sucked but that's another blog. It rained a lot. A tornado hit my hometown in 1992. You get the picture.

It takes a lot of people.

Here’s a list to think about:

Promoters: Have to make sure the show runs smoothly, not only from a racing standpoint but a fan standpoint. And to make sure the sponsors are recognized and taken care of.

Concession workers: These folks hustle all night, some nights with no air conditioning in brutally hot weather, and most of them don’t even get to see a race. It’s really a thankless job but the revenue created for tracks is important. I really tip my hat to these workers at each RaceChaser track around here — they do a great job.

Ticket/Pit Gate Workers: Another job that goes unnoticed by many. Most of the time before they races they are pretty swamped. I think especially for Friday night tracks where there seems to be a rush of folks who are getting off work and hurrying to the track. There is a rush period I don’t envy, especially at the pit gates. Again, many of these folks don’t get to see the races.

Tow Truck Operators: They have a tougher job than you would think. Many times they are there to help pull apart multi-car pileups — and that can be tricky. Their job is to be quick and yet, make sure the cars aren’t damaged further by their work. Most tracks have at least two tow trucks with 1-2 people manning each.

Scorers: The addition of transponders has changed this for sure but it still remains a vitally important job to get the lineups right. Most tracks have two or three of these people.

Trackside workers: Some of these folks are corner flagmen, some are ones who are on ATVs that go and inspect crashes, pick up debris, etc. Their jobs have evolved to pulling fenders, checking on cars, etc. It’s a job that often requires hustle and a decent knowledge of how the cars work. It used to be a person with a chalkboard/dry erase board lining up the cars after a caution (which was a fun job) but Raceceivers eliminated the need for that person.

Tech inspectors: Another not-glamorous job but an important one. A lot of times after a feature race they are to check over the top five cars in quick fashion and make sure everything is as supposed to. Some tracks have one, some have two or three. Most of the time the tech folks run the scale, too.

Security: This varies by track as some have more than others. Some tracks their main job is to make sure there are no alcoholic beverages in the family or non-alcohol section. Some of the time, they get to see the races even.

Ambulance/Fire Personnel: You can’t run a race, insurance-wise, without EMT or ambulance personnel. So obviously this job is critical to having a race program. Most tracks have local ambulance or fire personnel on hand, some are volunteers. I know this — having good, competent people in these roles would give me a lot of comfort during a serious crash or incident.

The three most scrutinized jobs/positions at a racetrack are below:

Flagmen/women: This is without a doubt the most criticized job at a racetrack. You have to make tough calls on a multi-car crash that happens in a split second. Those 50/50 calls are the toughest. It’s like being a basketball referee or baseball umpire — someone isn’t going to be happy. The goal of the job, in my opinion, is to be fair and consistent and not play favorites.

Track prep: Another group of people who have a next-to-impossible job when it comes to keeping people happy. Some want more water, some want less. It is impossible to keep 70-80 drivers happy and it’s impossible to have a perfect racetrack — which is what those folks strive for.

Announcers: Having to pronounce dozens of names correctly each, including any new drivers, and finding ways to keep people interested during down times — for instance, a power outage, or an extended red flag — is hard. I speak from experience. One time, I had a 45 minute delay while announcing. You can only play so much music or give away so many prizes to keep fans interested.

Plus, this is a job where fans can be pretty big critics — announcer talks too much, too little, isn’t funny, tries to be funny but isn’t, can’t get names right, etc. It’s a job that is much tougher than people realize.

That’s not to mention other jobs that don’t happen on race night — lining up sponsors, setting up promotions, cleaning bathrooms, facility upkeep, financial work.

Running a racetrack does indeed take a team…

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