Our Tour bus with its 28-foot...
Our Tour bus with its 28-foot double stacker trailer sits atop the hill at the entrance to Lanier Speedway in preparation for the start of the 2010 version of the AMSOIL Great American Circle Track Tour. In reference to the flame wrap, one trucker on I-81 near Christiansburg, Virginia, said on his CB radio, "Hey, your truck caught your trailer on fire."
The AMSOIL Great American Circle Track Tour is on the road and we have visited three racetracks in two weeks. It's important to state, up front, our goals with this tour. We are, first of all, a technical magazine dedicated to helping racers set up their cars for both chassis and motor technology. That being said, we don't "cover" races as such. There are plenty of regional publications that you can refer to that will tell you the winners, finishing orders and how the races were run. The technical aspect of CT is what differentiates us from the others.
What we also do is keep our fingers on the pulse and monitor the health of the industry. This is important in the overall scheme of things because it has a bearing on the success of the sport as well as the long-term survivability for all of us. It's this area that we'll be concentrating on in addition to reporting on the technical trends we see as we traverse the Southeast and ultimately the entire country.
So, what we hope to end up with is an overall look at the technical aspects of racing and a measure of how it stands up in the promotional areas, how the different classes are arranged, and a note about the progression of the class structure compared to years past.
We, being my wife, Karen, and I, recently visited Lanier National Speedway in Braselton, Georgia; Tri-County Speedway in Hudson, North Carolina; and then on up to Lonesome Pine Raceway in Coeburn, Virginia. All three of these tracks are asphalt, and we will be getting to more dirt tracks as we proceed along on this tour. I think overall, the dirt tracks are generally healthier than the asphalt tracks in a lot of ways. We shall see.
Along those lines, on the Lanier website, there was a questionnaire asking should the track be turned into a dirt track? It was, by the admission of the owner, a hoax of sorts, but came complete with a large piece of earth-moving equipment parked next to the entrance sign as a message. The intent was to spark a reaction from both the fans and competitors to motivate them to action. The message: Support this track or see it go away.
I'm not convinced that this type of "encouragement" is going to work to improve attendance or support, but there are ways to bring attention to the tracks that will bring the masses. And that is part of why we do this. Here are some areas we will be looking at and have already studied. I'll lump together the three tracks somewhat in these discussions.
Attendance-Front Gate At Lanier, we had Easter Sunday the next day and many families opted to stay home. So, as could be expected, the stands were mostly empty with approximately 300-350 fans in attendance. But the owner did the best that could be expected and entertained the kids with an Easter egg hunt, divided into two age groups to separate the pre-teens from the smaller kids for safety's sake.
Tri-County did somewhat better at the front gate, but not by much. We saw maybe 400-500 in attendance, but not nearly the level of interaction with the crowd as we had seen at Lanier. Lonesome Pine had more fans attending, but not nearly a full crowd by any means, and this is something we see across the board for the most part.
As the rural areas become more urbanized, there become more choices for family entertainment for the residents, whereas when the tracks were situated away from densely populated areas, racing was the only show around. It's still this way in some areas.
Car Counts On a combined level, the car counts were fairly high. There was a reason for this that will be discussed next. What a track likes to see are four or five divisions with 15 to 20 cars per. For these three tracks, some divisions were low in attendance and some were high.
Promotional ideas varied among...
Promotional ideas varied among the early tracks we visited. Here we see the Food City large grocery cart at Lonesome Pine Raceway that is also a part of the Bristol Motor Speedway promotion during the Cup races there. This is just one of the promotional tools that track promoter Harold Crook uses. Catering to the families seems to be a good way to develop a loyal fan base for any racetrack.
Lanier National Speedway polled...
Lanier National Speedway polled its fans about their idea for turning the track into a dirt track. The hoax came complete with the display of an earthmover parked adjacent to the entrance sign. No, they're not converting the track to a dirt track, but many dirt tracks are doing quite well these days.
Our Tour sponsor, AMSOIL,...
Our Tour sponsor, AMSOIL, is giving away a case of its high-end racing gear oil to the top division winners on this Tour. The teams display a sticker and are eligible for the offer. Many of the teams we talked to were very familiar with AMSOIL and the benefits. Tales of lower rearend and transmission temperatures were common.