Mufflers-Not necessarily a Bad Thing
This vintage shot of Stafford...
This vintage shot of Stafford Speedway in Connecticut shows just how close to the track houses are. Can you see the group of fans with the birdseye view of the races? Even so, the track has continued to operate since just after World War II. Circle Track Archives
Mufflers were once thought to be the demise of short track racing. Stiffling the loud thump of big American V-8s would certainly make racing boring for the fans sitting in the grandstands and they would, in turn, stay away in droves. But quite the contrary as track operators around the country have found out.
"It adds another dimension to racing," says Huth. "If you add mufflers and take away some of the bark from the cars, all of a sudden the announcer becomes a bigger component of that race. He can sell hot dogs, he can sell sponsorships, he can keep people informed of what's going on with the racing. If the racing is unmuffled a lot of times he's just a distant murmur in the background."
The ASA Midwest Tour requires all of its cars to run mufflers and meet a 95-decibel rule. Any car not meeting the 95-decibel sound rule will not race and that is clearly stated in the rules. Guess what? That rule hasn't hurt competition at all, the tour is one of the most successful Asphalt Late Model tours in the country producing full fields and strong crowds on a consistent basis.
NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series...
NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series rolls off in front of a packed crowd at the now-defunct Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, California. Back in the formative years of the Truck Series, the race trucks ran mufflers since they visited many short tracks in populated areas. Mesa Marin would give way to suburban sprawl, being sold to developers in 2005. Circle Track Archives
As we found out in the dyno testing phase of Project G.R.E.E.N., adding restriction to the exhaust, in our case catalytic convertors, changed the shape of the torque curve at lower rpm. The increased back pressure produced more torque, albeit slight. Theoretically, the same would hold true if the cats were replaced with mufflers-something we intend on finding out in further testing. So, in essence muffling race cars can have benefits to the racer, track, and surrounding community.
The Bottom Line
Several years ago the State of New Jersey attempted to pass a blanket noise ordinance that would force the tracks in the state to abide by specific operating times and noise levels regardless of their geographic location. Blanket rules such as that are the path of least resistance for politicians to take in attempts to appease voters. However, while it may work in populated areas, it penalizes those tracks in very rural areas. Therefore, it's very important for each track operator, no matter what type of track they are, or how long they've been there, to work within the community and the local government officials to come up with a working arrangement that satisfies everybody.
Want to build a new track...
Want to build a new track and don't want to be concerned about waking up the neighbors? Get out into the country, just like the folks who built Phoenix International Raceway. You can see it off in the distance of the desert hills of Arizona. You can bet they've never had a noise complaint. Circle Track Archives
For racetracks, new or old, that are experiencing pressure from local residents concerning noise, the track management must take a proactive approach as a member of the community much like Jody Deery has done at Rockford. Adding things like hedges and trees or man-made noise barriers, as well as running mufflers on the cars shows surrounding communities that the track is trying to be a good neighbor.
An important aspect of this is that as racers, we are part of the track. Promoters should regard the racers who come to their track to spend money and put on a good show for the fans as part of their family. And racers should feel the same way-we're all in this together. There are a lot of things that you as a racer can do to ensure your track's survival if it is getting pressure from local communities. But it starts with an open line of communication with the track operator.
Offer to go to meetings with the town to show your support of the track. Bring your race car to the local school and give a talk to the kids about racing and how it can positively impact their lives by teaching good sportsmanship, teamwork, discipline, and the rewards of hard work. Get involved with local government committees and get to know your local politicians and the platforms on which they run. Then don't forget to exercise your right to vote come election day. The survival of your local track may just depend on it.