Short Tracks Versus Daytona

by Patrick Reynolds on June 29, 2010 · 5 comments

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.

Hogwash.

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)


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{ 5 comments }

1 jimmccoy22 June 29, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Right on, Patrick. We’re light years removed from NASCAR in southern Oregon. For the most part, the racing holds up pretty well. I think most of the patrons- fans of dirt track racing- don’t really give two hoots about NASCAR. In support of your position I am reminded of the line from Field Of Dreams, “If you build it, he will come.” I think with a little care and attention to the competitor as well as the fan, you can bear up pretty favorably- especially with those hard-core fans unhappy with the corporate culture of today’s NASCAR.

2 Janine June 30, 2010 at 6:54 am

Patrick, you just reminded me of the first time I went to Thompson Speedway in Connecticut. There were NO rest rooms. Just a falling down wooden out house. They sure have come a long way since then.

3 The Mad Man June 30, 2010 at 7:14 am

Funny you should mention bathrooms. I know several fans who have sworn they’d never go back to Daytona because of the poor conditions of the bathrooms there and we’re not just talking about cleanliness. We’re talking about bathrooms that haven’t been updated since the track was built. I haven’t been back to Daytona since 1964 and as such I couldn’t say what the bathrooms are like since I spent all my time in the infield. When I asked where a bathroom was, I was told to go around the corner of one of the tire haulers and “take a leak” there. When you’re 9 years old, you’re not going to question an adult and I did as I was told.

As to my local track, they do the best the can with keeping their bathrooms clean, the food is decent, I can’t complain about the seats as you bring your own, and the ticket prices are cheaper than any local theater. However, they have to compete against Richmond, Charlotte, and Bristol. It’s a similar situation with South Boston, Lone Pine, and a few other local tracks in southern Virginia. They plain and simply cannot compete against the TV and radio advertising dollars that NASCAR spends. If they could, they’d be running Cup, Busch, and Truck Series events.

4 Janine June 30, 2010 at 7:21 am

Mad Man, the bathrooms at Daytona are clean on the upper levels. The higher you ticket price, the cleaner the bathroom.

5 Patrick Reynolds June 30, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Jim- Thanks! And you are right on too.

Janine- Thompson has come a long way. But all speedways, or ANY business for that matter, must always be trying to make itself better.

Mad Man- The restrooms at Daytona, like Thompson, have improved.

Thanks to all for reading and sharing your thoughts.

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