Texas Asphalt Modified racer...
Texas Asphalt Modified racer Marc Madison says that there has been a wall built between promoters and racers that is bad for the sport. Photo by Marc Madison
Like Root, Ron Drager at ARCA believes that the complete picture is critical to success and it ties in directly to the product you deliver. "We focus on providing something you can't get at home. Step one, the person has to choose to leave the house. If our product is racecars going in a circle I'm not so sure that you need to leave your house to see that. We need to deliver a complete package, everything from clean restrooms to on track autograph sessions to the sensory perception when the cars hit the track. At Toledo, for example, we'll even bring the winning car and driver straight from the track into the main grandstand concourse for the fans to join in the victory celebration."
Drager subscribes to the notion that everybody (driver, car owner, crew, and fan) is a customer.
George Silberman at NASCAR says that the key to the future of the short-track racing industry is the promoters ability to transform. "The drive-in theatre morphed into the multi-plex, people didn't stop going to the movies and I think the successful tracks will follow that model."
While every one of our sanction heads was completely correct in their statements, the future growth of the short-track racing industry lies just a little bit beyond what was said.
"I've been driving for 34 years, I used to be able to go to the track and make money but nobody is making money now," says Texas Asphalt Modified racer Marc Madison.
"We're getting paid the same amount or less than we did in the 1980s. Back then we raced for $600 to $1,000 to win depending on the track. But it also cost just $7 to get in the pits. Today it cost $25 per person, plus a $50 car fee, then you have to rent the transponder, buy a Raceiver, and methanol is now $7.50 per gallon."
These packed grandstands are...
These packed grandstands are at the Syracuse (NY) Fairgrounds, a.k.a. the Moody Mile. Apparently, it's not as bad as some would have you believe. We just need to pull together for the future good of the sport. Photo by Joe Alexander
Madison says that the attitude of his fellows racers today is that we're going to the track to lose money.
"There's been a wall built between the promoters and the racer because the racer perceives the promoters are pocketing all the money," says Madison. "Many local racers don't believe that they are the show."
Throw the red flag says Huth. "That's exactly the problem," he says. "The wall between drivers/teams and promoters hurts our sport. For just one fan, or worse one journalist, to hear 'I ain't never going back to that so-and-so track because (insert driver complaint here)' is seriously detrimental to the sport as a whole. You may think that one comment like that isn't harmful, but if the fan or journalist who hears it forms an opinion about that track they will pass it on."
"The same holds true when track owners/promoters single out a racer or group of racers," says Huth. "As a promoter, you must without a doubt and without question treat each and every racer as your customer." There has been more than one example of a track with a robust car count changing management only to see that car count gradually dwindle when the promoter begins to favor racers with the local car dealer sponsorship, the local celebrity who races when his schedule permits, or the worst case, the promoter's own family member who races at that track. Left unchecked the track's fate becomes that of our cover photo this month.
In order for our sport to prosper we must eliminate that wall between the promoter and the racer.
"What we are seeing is in the weekly headliner division, the financial side of putting that car on the track continues to nudge up despite everyone's efforts to fight it," says Drager. "Where do the revenues come from to offset that? The answer is not to increase grandstand prices and certainly it's a self defeating practice to increase pit entry prices. Promoters must work hard to provide a better facility, better exposure for the team, and a better set of circumstances for the team to take to a marketing partner. On the flip side the teams have got to be prepared to use the tools the promoter gives them to help a sponsor achieve a goal."
"The primary focus is getting racers to the track," says Brett Root. Everybody agrees that good car counts translate into healthy competition. Healthy competition breeds exciting racing, exciting racing brings fans to the grandstands.
"Track operators as well as competitors are some of the most loyal and hardest working people in sports today," says Dennis Huth. "The trick is that we need them to be working together for the betterment of the sport. Everybody needs to be working in unison and change the process of thinking away from "open the gates and they will come."