Daytona’s annual Independence Day weekend 400-mile Cup race rolls off this Saturday night. Many grassroots-level short tracks will close or shift their race date so as not to compete head-to-head. Track operators feel the televised big-league NASCAR race hurts their attendance and is a losing proposition to hold a race.
It may be true that when Daytona’s summer Cup event is held, a track’s front gate headcount drops. But that is not the fault of the superspeedway schedulers. A grassroots track operator needs to look at his or her own operation. And look at it hard.
Is your speedway website updated in a timely manner? Is there basic information for the first-time fan so he or she is familiar with what is happening at the speedway? Are the directions to your track easy to follow? Heck, are there directions?
Do you charge for parking? Is your parking lot neat and organized or a random free-for-all in the middle of a field? Are your ticket prices in line with other forms of entertainment? Is there an informative printed program offered? And I do mean informative.
Is the concession stand offering quality food? And I do mean quality. It doesn’t have to be five-star rated filet. But I have been served my share of awful hotdogs over the past 35 years. How do you screw up a hot dog?
Are the restrooms clean? I know people who have sworn off particular racetracks on the sole basis of the bathroom condition. And all this before we have even turned to the actual racing.
Are time trials used to set the starting lineup with the fastest guy on the pole? You have lost my interest already. Do you have too many divisions with less than full fields in each? Six to eight classes of cars in which half look alike and average a dozen machines per feature does not get my attention. How about two or three classes with meaningful qualifying races and full fields?
I have been to plenty of tracks that do open their gates and stage a full race program opposite any Saturday night Cup race. Because they put on a quality show that is worth the value of the ticket price. When people bust their tails all week for a paycheck, they are very particular about where the disposable income goes. And they should be.
By a racetrack’s decision to close states it is a better move for a business to not even be open. Which is impossible to make money. And fans would rather stay home and watch television on a holiday summertime Saturday evening than purchase the entertainment product that you are trying to sell. That tells me your product is not very good.
Do not blame NASCAR’s major league handlers of killing NASCAR’s Hometracks. There is not a reason in the world that the two cannot coexist. Unless what the grassroots operator is trying to pass off as a good racing product is wisely viewed for what it is. Not a good racing product.
Speedways that would normally be running a stock car racing program this Saturday and are not, strictly because the Daytona 400 is on television, has a poor race program in the first place.
Any track operator that has to check the NASCAR Cup schedule every year to know which dates to avoid has a problem. The solution does not sit in the offices of Daytona Beach. The answers are contained in his own mirror.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR mechanic who hosts “Motorweek Live” Thursdays at 9pm ET. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com)