When the World of Outlaws...
When the World of Outlaws come to town the fans line up for autographs. Photo by Joey Millard
With more than 40 years of history, the American Speed Association is one of the leading sanctions in creating new and innovative programs for the weekly short-track fans, competitors, and promoters. In addition to a comprehensive insurance program, ASA sanctions a multitude of tracks, events, and series across the country culminating in its ASA Short Track National Championship.
I'm seeing pockets throughout the country where track operators are having different issues. Some tracks are doing very well, while other tracks are not having the greatest of years. If I were to give a "snapshot" of what I'm hearing from the majority I'd say that the general consensus is that the crowds are the same or slightly better than the last few years. However, people are staying closer to home given the economy/price of fuel. The upper division car counts are remaining stable or are just slightly under what they were in previous years. On the other hand, the lower divisions (Street Stock/Hobby Stock) are feeling the pinch more than others. These are the divisions populated by the blue collar worker who has to choose between putting food on the table or heading out to the racetrack. Where you might find a large segment of the racer population complaining about high fuel prices, the traveling series, only about 10 percent of that group, by our estimates, are really being impacted by the "high cost of travel."
But it goes deeper than just gas prices, weather, or the general state of the economy. Factors such as promotional styles of the track owner or the specific region of the country impact how well one track does versus another. The track owner that understands that we're all in this together will be one who flourishes in bad economic times.
World Racing Group chief Tom...
World Racing Group chief Tom Deery says that his World of Outlaws touring Late Models are the hot ticket with robust car counts and great crowds, despite a soft economy. Photo by Joey Millard
The International Motor Contest Association, or IMCA, sanctions approximately 130 tracks in 27 states and boasts around 5,000 active members. Racing on dirt IMCA lists divisions covering Modified, Late Models, Hobby Stocks, Sprint Cars, Sport Mods, and more with both crate and open motor categories.
As widespread as we are we've always had bad weather to deal with, but this year the Midwest was hit really hard, harder than normal. In Nebraska, we haven't run but three or four shows. So the weather problem is a little more drastic this year, we're even seeing drought in some areas. Some tracks have gotten so much rain that the show gets canceled because they can't get the track to dry out. The dirt-track racing industry is extremely sensitive to weather. Weather is the number one issue that promoters seem to talk about these days.
Fuel prices are a big concern, too. In general it's having an effect, but our membership is very consistent to last year. Remember IMCA's primary focus is the local racer who travels less than 40 miles to the track. Where tracks are more spread out (90 miles or more to the track) we see (car counts) affected a little bit, but not enough to where the tracks can't put on a good show. For example, we just concluded the Wild West Modified Tour's Northern swing up into Nevada. Out there it is a healthy distance for the racers to travel but even so we had a strong car count of 51, 48, and 40 over three consecutive nights of racing.
Is racing in a desperate situation? No, those track promoters who understand what they're doing and what this market is are doing OK. The successful promoters are not trying to make it (Saturday night racing) into something that it is not, they focus on doing things the right way.
This industry gets into trouble when times change (good or bad) and they stray from the proven formula. This year, despite the economy, I'm seeing the same number of tracks saying they're having a good year and the same number saying their having a bad year.