The cars of the ASA Midwest...
The cars of the ASA Midwest Tour feature mufflers on their 520 horsepower motors. Here, No. 71, Blake Brown, and No. 43, Matt Kocourek, do battle at Illiana Speedway. Doug Hornickel
Let's say that a person is exposed to a sound level of 120 dB at a distance of 10 meters from the sound's source, 10 meters being the standard measurement to determine dB ratings. If that person moves 10 more meters away from the source you might expect that dB rating to drop in half, after all the person moved twice as far from the source, right? Wrong. Remember that sound intensity decreases inversely as you get farther from the source.
Using a logarithm based mathematical formula, we can determine that the person above would experience a dB level of 114 if they moved the additional 10 meters away. This is one reason why when a non muffled race motor being fired across the pits still sounds really loud.
Decibels are not cumulative either. And this fact is perhaps more important to the racetrack argument. For example, let's say that you have a Dirt Late Model, an ASA Midwest Tour-style Late Model, and a four-cylinder Bomber all lined up on a track.
The DLM has an 800-plus-hp Roush-Yates Engine and no muffler. The ASA car has a 520hp 2bbl motor with a muffler, while the Bomber has its production EFI four-cylinder.
The cars of the ARCA series...
The cars of the ARCA series do not run mufflers, but at the same time many of the tracks they race at are in rural areas. Todd Ridgeway
All three cars are fired up at the same time. The Yates-powered car trips the dB meter at 105 decibels, the ASA car hits 95, and the Bomber hit 70. (Note these are not actual numbers, but hypothetical to make a point). With all three cars running, a person standing 10 meters away will not hear 270 decibels worth of noise. They'll only hear the noise from the highest dB reading motor.
However, studies have shown that if multiple cars are running on the track at the same time, each additional car will add anywhere from 3-5 decibels of noise. The real trick is that there are numerous ways to measure and analyze decibels. But at the heart of the issue is the fact that noise is, by and large, a subjective thing. What bothers me may not bother you.
So What's the Problem?
Neighboring residents who complain about racetracks fall into two basic categories-those who move into a new neighborhood which was built near an existing racetrack, or those who live in a neighborhood where a new racetrack is built. The former seems on the surface to be a pretty straightforward situation. A new residential community is built near an existing racetrack. The track was there first and operational for decades as in the case of Wall Stadium in New Jersey or Rockford Speedway in Illinois. The argument is simple: new residents had to know that the racetrack was there and that race cars are loud, right?
These big block Super Modifieds...
These big block Super Modifieds are some of the loudest race cars around and don't run mufflers. Todd Ridgeway
True, but the problem can go deeper than that. Take, for example, the weekly track that runs every Saturday night, but also allows teams to rent the track for testing on say a Wednesday afternoon. New residents who may understand that the track runs on Saturday likely may not ever consider that the track would be used during the week. This is especially true if the new residents are not familiar with our industry.
Rockford Speedway, one of the oldest racetracks in the country, is a perfect example of that type of situation. Built in 1948, the high banked quarter-mile oval is in its 63rd year of continuous racing. Although located on the very northern outskirts of the town of Loves Park (a Rockford suburb), several years ago the housing boom and suburban expansion brought residential developments within shouting distance of the racetrack. As the new houses began to fill up with families, some noise complaints followed. Track operator Jody Deery said that they found out one of the realtors selling houses told prospective buyers that the racetrack was going out of business, a fact far from the truth.
After that rumor was put to rest, Deery said that overcoming neighbors concerns was as simple as doing what was right. "We try to be good neighbors," she says. "We do not run too late, and we keep open communication with the residents. It helps a lot if they know you're trying to be a good neighbor."
Interestingly, that good neighbor policy began years ago when, as a state, Illinois began looking at regulating noise. "We added mufflers to our cars years ago," says Deery. "Our commercial neighbors never complained."
In addition, she said that they planted trees around the speedway and added large billboards around the track. Both the trees and billboards served to buffer noise to the local community by directing the sound from the cars upwards, but the billboards had an added benefit. They allowed the speedway an additional way to gain revenue by selling advertising on the billboards.