Any track can offer racing, but what can your track do to get the fans to come back for mo
"Without the heroes, all we have to sell is a product. We have no names to draw people. If the product is no good, there's nothing to sell. Promoters have to accept that if they don't have the names, they have to make the product the best it can be with exciting racing and everything that makes the experience positive for the customer."
As we found in our comparison of the National Speedway Directory from 25 years ago, there are actually more tracks today than there were in 1980. It is not inconceivable that some of the growth came about when someone thought they could build a better mousetrap (i.e., a track that was better than the one 20 miles away). That idea seldom works. It results in more tracks, but not necessarily more racers. If the number of racers stays the same, the size of the class is basically cut in half, which seriously dilutes the product. Promoters have to take a realistic look at the racetracks in the region. It's not always competition.
"We work the best we can with the other tracks in the area," says Kern. "They are competitors. We're offering a similar product, and we're targeting the same audience. There are cases where we can work together for rules and work hand in hand. The problems often come when a track gets new owners. The new owners have new ideas, and those may not be consistent with yours. The best thing we can do is have similar rules to give the drivers a chance to compete, and we can share cars. With the economy the way it is and family obligations, a guy may only race once a week or even less. There has to be some balance. If a guy is going to race once a week, I'd like to have him here.
"We address common issues. The Michigan Speedway Promoters Association helps tracks in the state to address their concerns. Next year, Krista and I will be going into our 11th season. We're not the new kids. A new kid is one who comes in and upsets the delicate balance. In the old days, if you didn't have 20 years experience, you weren't a veteran. Now, the turnover makes it more of a challenge."
Local heroes are created in Victory Lane at the weekly racing track. For many, there are n
Oakshade Raceway is close to Michigan International Speedway, which hosts two Nextel Cup races and a number of other major-league events. It can be a blessing and a curse to have "Big Brother" so close.
"Before 2005, we could tell when they were racing," says Henricks. "It had an effect on the number of people we were seeing in the stands. This year, it didn't have much of an impact. Some of the people who were here said that our racing is better than NASCAR's.
"We still have some who aren't here because they are camping up there. Because it's so close, some don't go until Sunday morning and they still come to the races on Saturday night. The IROC race hurts us more it seems. The June [Nextel Cup] race didn't hurt us at all."
The big track is not the only racing attraction. Less than 100 miles downstate, there's a track called Eldora Speedway, which draws short-track fans galore. "A race at Eldora doesn't just take fans, it takes cars," Henricks continues. "Anytime we lose one car, it hurts because it takes the fans of that car, too. We'll have that when the ALMS (American Late Model Series) runs at Attica and we have a couple of our drivers go there. You'll notice they're gone. For the ALMS race in Canada, we lost five of our top Late Models. Aaron Scott was high in the track points, but he had to go to protect his series points. We rained out anyway, so it worked out."
Ah, yes, rainouts. While we would like to stay on aspects of promoting that can be controlled, let's deviate for just a minute. Even the best-planned show with the highest car count and a world-record payout can be wiped out by the weather. No one in racing wins when the rains come in. You know weather is going to be a factor, you just don't know when. Still, you can plan that it will happen.