Mission completed. The AMSOIL Great American Circle Track Tour of the U.S. is done. For those new to the story, we came up with the idea of touring the country and visiting racetracks in a motorhome. We secured a great major sponsor and associate sponsors who funded the project and then we went out and did it. This is something we have never heard of a magazine doing before, even very large circulation magazines, so there was some groundbreaking going on here.
I came up with the idea back in late 2009. Jim Foos, our senior publisher, cut the deal with the sponsor, and the company backed the plan and bought a fine motorhome. We wrapped it in a cool flaming design and we were off to the races, literally.
The following is a list of the things we saw that we liked as well as a list of the things we didn’t like. Remember that we verbalized a lot of this at the time we visited each track and ended up writing about most of this, so the “not liked” parts might have since been corrected. Anyway, here goes, an overview of a wonderful four year racetrack Tour.
What We Liked
I like scoreboards, period. Some tracks we visited didn’t have one. But I especially like scoreboards that count down. So, for a 30-lap race, the counter starts at 30. That way, everyone knows how many laps the race is and how many laps are left at any point in the program.
Looking Out For the Kids
I love kids’ programs. Many tracks had them, but a few really stood out. At Elko, there were professional trick bike riders, a huge and modern playground, and a petting zoo. At LaCrosse Speedway, many drivers lined up their cars and kids got to ride slowly around the track for a lap or two. Some tracks had school buses they would load up and drive kids around the track and pits. If you make the kids happy, you bring families to the track.
Every race night needs to end around 10 p.m. so the kids can get home and go to bed. Long programs that run past midnight are never good and cause people to not come back.
I like family sections where smoking and drinking is not allowed. That way, you can bring your small children and not have to worry about them hearing crude language or breathing cigarette smoke.
Speaking about late nights, good security at the track is essential. We usually see where tracks will hire local law enforcement to attend the races and keep order. One surprise, at a very well known Texas track, was the complete absence of security for a huge Modified race where things got out of hand late in the night and some of the facilities were destroyed.
Good Announcers Make the Show
They make the show work. It can be a big difference in repeat attendance. At Southside Speedway, the announcer for the opening night we attended was a popular local radio DJ. He promoted the races, for free, during his shows the weeks before the track opened and the stands were filled. He did a great job announcing the races that night too. He probably was paid well, at least we hope so.
Mandatory H-and-N Rules
I like for tracks to have a mandatory head-and-neck restraint rule for all classes. You knew that was coming. I have many photos of youngsters putting on their HANS or other devices before climbing into their Legends cars or Street Stocks. Those parents are doing the right thing.
Great Victory Lanes
Cool Victory Lanes like the one we saw at the Dells Raceway Park make winning that much more special. It was super modern, placed outside the track next to the grandstands and accessible to the fans after each race. That way, the next race can get under way while the fans get photos of the previous winner and their car.
Family Run Tracks
Families seem to work well together when operating a track and it all goes smoother. When racers own tracks, they remember how they wanted the tracks to operate when they were racers only. From what we have seen, the racer-owned and -operated tracks have better run programs overall.
I like clean facilities and the ladies like clean restrooms, at least that is what I heard. I saw both ends of this spectrum. There were really dirty and unpainted tracks we visited where we were told the promoters put nothing back into the track. Then there were others where they looked brand-new although they were many tens of years old.
Elko, Stateline, The Dells, Montana Raceway Park, Rocky Mountain, Wenatchee, Bowman Gray, Dillon, Eldora, Motordrome, New Egypt, Mohawk, and Thunder Road are examples of tracks we saw that really kept the grounds and facilities in top condition. And some of these are very old tracks.
Some tracks just had much better food than others. At Motordrome, the track prepared home-cooked meals like roast beef and vegetables and served them in closed top Styrofoam dinner plates for those who came straight from work to the races on Friday night. Other tracks had terrible food that we were warned about before hand by the race teams.
Spy in The Sky
I like the use of video cameras placed around the track like at Kalamazoo Speedway. They had eight cameras placed so that you could see from every angle the action on the track. If a driver made a mistake on-track, the replay usually answered the questions after the races were over. The view from inside the car is usually much different than from outside.
Tracks need to have a free admission day where all fans are admitted without charge. Viking Speedway did that when we were there and it was a big hit. A sponsor paid the track what was close to what would have been taken in, and the track still made money on drinks and food. It was cool seeing people arrive and walk right in through open gates. Many of those who were first time fans ended up coming back again.
I like it when a driver new to dirt racing beats full-blown Dirt Late Model cars with a crate motor car. A kid at Crossville, Tennessee, who used to run asphalt drove a crate motor-powered car, ran his race straight ahead like on asphalt, or actually two 25-lappers, and beat out two full-built motored Late Models by a long shot.
I asked, “Where did you learn to drive on dirt like that?” He explained that he had only run on asphalt tracks and he didn’t know any other way to drive.
We saw covered grandstands in the Northeast and Midwest mostly. When the roof meets the back of the grandstands, it keeps the dust from coming onto the fans. It’s strange to watch, but if the winds are coming at the stands at a dirt track, and it is dry and dusty, when the cloud of dust rolls toward the stands, it stops because it has to go over the roof to continue. The fans stay relatively dust free.
Red Flag Cautions
One rule we saw at Riverside Speedway was a good departure from the norm. During a big four-cylinder Street Stock race, if there was need for a caution, they red flagged the race, and everyone stopped where they were on the track. The mess was cleaned up and when the green flag waived, everyone got going again. It moved the program along and didn’t penalize a good car that had gotten a lead over an opponent.
I really like to see where a track that had been abandoned has been revived and rebuilt by someone who has a passion for racing. Salina Speedway was one such place. It lay dormant for some five years before being reclaimed. In just two years, it was made a success and transformed into a viable business.
Old Time Racers
I have enjoyed seeing restored race cars racing again. These cars from the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s really do run well and the organizers put on a good show wherever they go. We saw these cars racing at Unity Raceway in Maine and across the county at Stateline and Douglas County Speedways. We were treated to a luncheon by the Old Time Racers of Oregon when we visited Douglas.
We didn’t really make any effort to attend big shows with a few exceptions. Eldora has to be seen to be believed. It’s the greatest show in short track racing. Upwards of 30,000 people attend the World 100 each year and we were there. Bowman Gray had a usual Saturday night show that drew more than 17,000 spectators. That was fun to see. And Southside filled the stands on opening night, something the two sister owners couldn’t explain. These were exceptions though, unfortunately.
I like to see tracks where the grounds were used for other revenue generating events. Sandia Motorsports Park, home of the asphalt NAPA Speedway, our destination, had facilities for moto-x, road racing, dirt track, quarter midgets, drifting, and radio controlled cars. On the day we were there, four of those were running. Heartland Park is another multi-use facility with a large road racing track and a dragstrip. Rocky Mountain Raceways has the asphalt oval, a dragstrip, and a moto-x track.
There are many big race programs at most tracks around the country, but some of those events stand out, like the one at Montana Raceway Park called the G.E.T. Rich 212. This event was named after the grandmother of the track owner and offered cash payouts on the front straight after the race and a 1-ounce gold bar to the top three finishers.
Multi-Tracks in One
I especially like to see a track with several sized racing ovals available. At most tracks like that, there is one big oval and a smaller oval in front of the main grandstand. At Evergreen, there were three tracks and one for Figure 8 racing, which reminds me, I love Figure 8 racing too.
Gentleman’s Tap-Out Rule
This one came up late in our Tour in 2013. We heard about the Gentleman’s Tap-Out Rule whereby if an altercation occurs, the one who caused the problem “accidentally,” is allowed to claim responsibility and go to the rear on the restart. That way, anyone who didn’t cause the “accident” can continue in the position they were before all heck broke loose.