There is always talk about the future of racing in the pit areas. Some veteran drivers who’ve been around a while aren’t real optimistic about the long-term of the sport, seeing car counts and fan attendance decline. I’m not quite that pessimistic, but it’s something that needs to be on our radar, and
For those who want to go back to the glory days of racing, that won’t happen. It’s a completely different world than decades ago. Back in those days, many that were into racing really were into the cars themselves – the mechanical side of things, working on making them faster, the different makes and models, etc. I would include my dad in that group and his generation. People liked fast cars back then, and many race fans liked watching fast cars.
You had more originality in those days, for sure – Mustangs, Corvettes, Monte Carlos, Camaros – also saw a Cutlass Supreme on the track from time to time, or Chevelles. I remember a few Novas in the street stock class. There were some rivalries just based on makes of the cars, you know, the Chevys vs. the Fords, for example.
Those days are gone, and it’s going to take ingenuity and creativity to get and keep fans in the seats. It will take all of us involved in racing to do that --- promoters, announcers, sponsors, drivers, bloggers, photographers and fans. No longer can we sit around and just accept the status quo if we want our sport to be here in 5-10 years.
--Keep the go-kart tracks going. They are the best way to get kids into racing. I can’t tell you how many drivers in today’s racing got their start in go-karts. And if a kid races go-karts, chances are mom and dad, grandpa and grandma, a neighbor, or someone comes and watch.
--Keep the weekly shows shorter. This is the IPhone generation with everything available with a click of the button on a phone. Running regular-weekly shows that go on and on, frankly, have turned away some fans. The diehards may stick around, but the fans that go to 4-5 races a year are turned off by this. At a track way out of the RaceChaser area last year, I sat through a 40-minute feature in a class with 14 cars. It was pathetic. Our attention spans
--Let some rivalries happen. I’m not talking about destroying each other’s cars. I’m talking about a scenario that gets half the crowd cheering for one driver and the other half for the other. A little booing isn’t bad. The best rivalry I ever saw was between Ryan Muzik and Scott HIllig at Viking years ago, and you saw great, hard racing as a result. And a packed house.
--Invite new people to races. There are some people who’ve never been to a race, and if you invite them – maybe it’s a relative, co-worker, friend, neighbor – you never know, they just might like it and want to come back.
--Make racing affordable. This is on the sanctioning bodies as much as anyone to keep rules that allow the average, budget racer to stay on the track weekly. Rising costs drive drivers away faster than anything else. While making it affordable, also have rules that make sense and enhance competitive racing.
--Build connections. One of the things I like about Meet the Drivers Nights is kids can go right up to the car, get a picture/autograph from a driver, and see the driver and car up close. That’s how kids develop favorite drivers – and in some cases, aspire to be like them some day.
--Cut back on classes. I think we have too many in racing, and it’s ended up splitting car counts to the point where you could have 56 cars – with seven classes. Sometimes less is better.
--Highlight why we, as fans, drivers, etc., -- love racing. It’s the competition on the track. The camaraderie and friendships off of it. The sounds of the engines roaring on a green flag. There are positives out there that we need highlight as fans, drivers, etc. There are some nights my adrenaline is sky high after a great feature race (the Seitz Memorial in 2020, for example).
--Make it Family Affordable. Have a reasonable family ticket package, and have reasonable prices at the concession stands. There’s a lot of competition for the entertainment dollar today, and being competitive and reasonable in terms of pricing to me is important.
--USE SOCIAL MEDIA. Many people in racing view social media as a negative, where fans and drivers go to bitch and complain about things. That happens of course. But there are more positives with Facebook and Instagram. Mason Eisenzimmer’s videos are highly popular; putting race times, schedules, special events happening on Facebook is easy, and free. Social media has its evils but can be a very useful tool.
I’m not saying all of these ideas will help turn the trend in racing around, but as a fan of more than four decades, I feel I’ve been around the sport long enough to at least offer a few insights. I’ve been to more than 50 tracks, and as a fan, I can tell you what is a good show and frankly what isn’t.
We race fans and drivers love our sport. And I think all of us want to see it grow and be around in 5-10 years.