Regional heroes are developed...
Regional heroes are developed through racing in weekly programs and regional tours. The regional tours give the local racers a chance to go head to head with travelers, and the outcome is always interesting. Traveling shows can help promote the product and the entertainment value of racing and its personalities. Photo courtesy Of ACT
"We sometimes use weather as an excuse," says Curley. "It's very easy to blame it if you're not on top of your game. You have to blame something. It's a blessing if you didn't have your work done.
"We factor in a 20 percent loss for the weather when we plan at the start of the year. We know we'll have it, but to blame it is making it a scapegoat. We have a policy that we will race if we can. If we get beaten up on the crowd because of the weather, it's a risk we have to take because it will pay off in the long run. The people know we're going to try to get a show in, so we know people won't be gun-shy and they'll support us. It has paid off over the long term."
"We all have to deal with it," says Kern. "In the last year, we had three rainouts, but we had many shows affected by it. We lost 11 shows in 1997 to the weather. It's a tough deal, but we just have to deal with it."
Let's get back to that which is under the control of the promoters. Last month, we talked about the ideal length in terms of time, but what about the number of classes? Some places offer as many as six classes in a night while another might have as few as three. Can both sides be right?
"With our car count, we couldn't run more than three classes," says Henricks. "We averaged 60 Bombers, 40 Late Models, and 25 Sportsman. There's no interest in a four-cylinder class. We tried a truck class, and it didn't work because we didn't get enough to put on a show. We're fine with three classes."
"Three is perfect-four can be done in a tight show," says Curley. "If you've got a class that only has seven cars, it makes your show stink. You need to run your classes every week. I'm against letting them off for a week. If you have a great product, put it in front of the people. For example, you can't leave the Street Stocks off in a late season special. That's like taking a team of 25 players to the World Series and telling them that only 20 can play. If promoters pay attention to the lower divisions, and I hate to call them lower divisions, they'll find them to be an important part of a business plan. They have a certain amount of loyalty, and promoters can lose sight of that."
The weather can be a thorn...
The weather can be a thorn in the side of some promoters, but the committed ones do what they can to keep the show going. In this case, track drying is underway after an unwelcome shower. You can see the water in the infield, indicating it was quite a shower. This particular track raced after a slight delay. Photo by Mike Oles
Many tracks have grasped the promotional opportunities available with the Internet. "Computers make a big difference," says Henricks. "We have a forum on our Web site. People want to know now, and they're going to ask to find out. Our Web site is very important to us. We want it to be the place where the drivers and fans can find out what's going on, where they can get the results if they want to know what they missed. People used to call the track to find out what they wanted to know. Now, they can get it from the Web site, so it's easier for everyone."
"Our Web site is critical," agrees Kern. "I post schedules, rules, purses-everything so the drivers don't have to wonder. We use our Web site to educate, and it has such a broad reach. You can read about us from anywhere. When people come to the area, they can find out about us and hopefully they can include us in their plans."
The promoters have challenges, but they have tools to combat those challenges. The time to step up the battle may be right now.
We're in a renaissance," says Curley. "[Nextel] Cup has plateaued. We have to take our destiny into our own hands now. We're the last of the American cowboys. We're the final bastion of affordable family entertainment. We offer a $140 season ticket for 20 events. Our gate is $9. You pay $8 for a 90-minute movie. As promoters, we have lots of ways to succeed. We have to be more positive. We were overshadowed. We need to come out of that shadow. We are not the bastard children of racing. We need to steward the sport better. We need to get it healthy. We need to teach the young the right way, or that way will die off. It's not about asset value-because the land may be more valuable as a shopping mall or development-not if you're trying to steward the sport. You have to be positive. That's the only way it's going to make sense."