After having traveled around a full three quarters of this continental United States on the AMSOIL Great American Circle Track Tour, I've developed a list of things I like to see, and some I don't, at racetracks. I've wanted to do this piece for some time now, but waited until I had sufficient ammunition. I feel like, after doing the upper mid-west portion this past year, I have plenty to talk about. So let's get after it.
I Like To See—Scoreboards. Some tracks don't have them believe it or not. One really neat thing I saw that I think most tracks can do is have the lap counter on the scoreboard count down instead of up. Counting down let's everyone know how many laps are left till the checker flag. Counting up serves no purpose for those of us who forget, or never knew (the track speakers were drowned out by the engine noise) how many laps were supposed to be run in each race.
I like tire rules, especially when Kalamazoo had the Super Late Models running on 8-inch grooved tires. Hey, everyone had the same disadvantage. And several teams told me that the tires were faster the second night you ran them.
ILTS—No guardrails for most tracks. I know that is not possible for many tracks, but when possible, remove them. For paved tracks, put in lane dividers that follow the real racing line. I saw this done at Dells Raceway Park and Wayne Lensing got it right. He said to the drivers, "Pick a lane, stay in it, or go to the rear." It keeps the rookies in line, most of the time when having to race side-by-side.
And I like to see red flags instead of yellows where the cars stop on the track as soon as the flag comes out, right where they are, and stay there until the green flies again. I saw this at Riverside Speedway in New Hampshire and it worked great.
Kalamazoo Speedway had video cameras, eight of them, positioned so that every angle covering all of the turns could be monitored and checked to see how an incident came about. It settled a lot of arguments quickly.
ILTS—The paved pits at www.briggsauto.com Speedway in the Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kansas. That is a dirt track by the way and the teams loved having clean, dust-free pits.
I really liked the "No Cry Babies" sign at the pit credentials office at I-35 Speedway in Mason City, Iowa. Wouldn't a night at the track be more enjoyable without those?
I like to see good payouts to the teams and Montana Raceway Park topped the list when they not only paid $8,000 to win ($1,000 for last place) for the G.E.T. Rich 212, they handed out a gold bar to the top three finishers. Talk about a podium.
ILTS—Legends and other small cars that go fast run on smaller, inner tracks to keep the speeds down. Those cars aren't really made to hit a concrete wall at more than 100 mph at half-mile tracks. And that is a segue into my liking to make head-and-neck restraints mandatory for all divisions. That day is coming soon, so save up your money racers.
And speaking of safety, I like to see security at the racetrack, in the pits as well as the grandstands. There was a serious lack of that at a track that should have known better when we visited a huge fall Modified race in 2011. Most tracks have local sheriffs or city police looking after things on race day.
IRLTS—I also really like to see race cars that look like current model cars like I have already seen at several racetracks. And underneath those stock-appearing bodies could be any chassis and motor combination. The cars that stood out to me were all Sportsman cars with stock frames.
And while we are at it, I like relaxed rules governing chassis setup. Hey, you asphalt tech officials and sanctions, take a look at where dirt racing is today. It is kicking your butts on car counts and fan interest. Want to know why? It is largely because the rules are open as to chassis design and setups. That way of running tech builds the back gate and keeps the front gate flowing too.
All in all, I like to see racetracks that are successful and where the racing is clean, competitive and the racers and fans go home happy and wanting to come back next week. The above list represents just a few of the reasons why I think some tracks accomplish that goal, and some might not.
If you have comments or questions about this or anything racing related, send them to my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail can be sent to Circle Track, Senior Tech Editor, 9036 Brittany Way, Tampa, FL 33619.
I have been a huge fan of yours for more than 10 years when I first picked up your chassis setup book. I ran ASA North Crate series for 6 years and now I find myself as the Business Manager for Madison International Speedway.
I read your Circle Track article on antiquated rules (July '12). I'm so happy to have read what you wrote. A lot of the things I have been talking to my General Manager and Tech Official about since I started here have been in the same directions that you are talking about. The height rule, shock rule, and to me the Engine rule are costing us more money for less power and performance!
I'm really wanting to change some things at my track going forward and feel I have some great ideas that will bring exciting, potently less expense, and fans back in the seats. For example we run a Late Model class that runs off of the same rules as the Big 8 Series. I have guys that I know have put $25,000 into their engines and end up with 460 to 480 hp.
When I know for a fact if the rules were changed I can go out and for $20,000 I can build an engine with 600 to 650 hp. Then maybe we will bring back tire management with a softer tire and if the guy with a big pocket book goes and builds a $60,000 motor with 800 hp he will just burn up the tires and the guy with 650 hp will be a much faster car.
I feel that we have made it more expensive for the guys to race, and with less horsepower and hard tires the show has lost entertainment and hence the low fan count. I'm trying very hard for my guys at my track to feel the same way and maybe you can help me with this subject? Thank you for your time Bob and all the help you have given me over the years,
What the owners, promoters and tech officials of the tracks and sanctions need to be reminded of is that innovation in the areas of chassis setup is what built this sport. Early on, the racers were WWII mechanics who were bored and needed stimulation and racing provided that.
It was the building and tweaking the chassis to gain speed that provided the interest. Without that, the hard work that goes into building, maintaining, and racing a stock car would not be worth it to many of these guys.
And in this day and age, affordability is important, but not to the extent that it takes away the fun. There is a balance, just like in chassis setup and we are doing our part to help people like you find that perfect balance that will grow this sport from this point on.
Stock Appearing Comments
My name is Scott Luck. I race at Dells Raceway Park in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, in the Sportsman division. I read the article on Stock Appearing Bodies. I want to say you're right on with needing new looking Street Stock/Sportsman bodies in these types of classes.
I would just like to show you what I have been running for a body on my Chevy metric chassis (Ed. Note—see picture on this page). The body is an '07 Dodge Charger. It has stock rear quarters, stock roof, stock front fenders, stock nose, and stock hood. We took a four-door car and made it into a two-door. I will let the pic speak for itself.
You got it, Scott. I did notice your car when I was at the Dells and you were a short distance behind Dave that night and also having a great run to the front. It would have been cool to see you two battling it out for the win.
Stock Appearing Continued
Please take a look at Delaware Speedway in Ontario, Canada. It has had bodies like you're describing for two years now in its Super Stock division. All three major manufacturers are available. A local race car owner and part-time racer created the fiberglass body program and sells the bodies at a low cost of from $1,000 to $2,000.
I really hope you follow up on this as it is a great program saving that class which up north here has run out of steel bodies.
As evidenced by the huge response we have received, we feel certain that this stock-appearing body crusade is going to build momentum and be something we will see a lot of in the next couple of years.
More Approval for Stock Appearing
You hit the nail right on the head. Change is needed in a hurry. The change you suggested in your CT column has been needed for a long time. Manufacturers go for it!
We got an immediate response from the car manufacturers. They are willing to do what is necessary to support this push. NASCAR is going that route too in its top division. I won't go so far as to say we influenced that, but I will say you racers might well have let them know what the fans want to see. We just delivered the message.