Race Time-Management: Fans And Racers Voice Their Concerns

I’ve written several dozen editorials and opinion-based articles during my tenure in the dirt track world, and most of them illicit at least some type of reaction from motorsports patrons. Sometimes, I receive a few emails or texts, and other times, even a phone call or two.

However, I’ve never seen such large-scale reactions like I did from last week’s article, which addressed time management issues by dirt tracks. It received several thousand shares and comments on social media. To date, the article has been shared over 12,000 times from the OneDirt website. If you haven’t seen the original article and would like to read it, please click here.

As I read through the comments, one theme became glaringly obvious in the responses. Racers and fans alike are largely fed up with wasted time and excessively late nights at race tracks.

Because I feel wholeheartedly that this is a very pressing issue, I wanted to do a follow-up article sharing some of the input that I received from the racing world. I think it’s important that promoters, tracks, and series’, take a hard look at what can be done to make their shows more appealing to the folks who pay the bills.

Before I jump into sharing some of the feedback that was received, I do want to say one thing as a disclaimer from my previous article. By no means am I implying that every track in our sport is failing at time management. There are some tracks out there doing a phenomenal job. However, my grave concern is that the separation between the tracks that do a great job and others who don’t, is an unacceptable gap continues to grow. It seems like there is no middle ground in this issue. That’s why I say that as a sport, we must do better. With that said, let’s jump into some of the comments that were received:

AMEN!! I couldn’t agree with you more. And I don’t want to watch two to three hours of qualifying. – Kate D.

“You hit this right on the head of the issue. I, as part of a pit crew, want to race and get the show in and leave. Most of our tracks are hours away, so every hour they run behind, is an hour or two later I get home. This also factors into having enough time to work on the car and get the proper set up for the next night of racing, but promoters just don’t get it.” – Don M.

Don’s perspective as a crewman brings up a point that a lot of people – including myself – don’t always take into account. If a track runs late on a Friday night, it might impact whether or not a team can get ready in time to support a Saturday night track. Inadvertently, the misappropriation of time by one track could directly affect the livelihood of another.

“I read your article, and it is true in every detail. Having been involved in the sport in EVERY aspect during the past 63 years, I see tracks that have done well for years, are still doing well, and others that are steadily going downhill at a much faster rate than ever before.” – Dargan W.

“I have stopped going to regular shows altogether, because there are too many classes, and some of the same things you described, occur repeatedly. I am twice your age – many of my contemporaries are way more patient than I am – but us old farts are not going to be around that long. If you take grey hair out of the grandstands at many tracks, there will not be many people left.

“I hope young people like yourself who love the sport can enjoy if for a long time like I have. A few bright, young guys like Cody Sommer and Roger Slack get it, but just like our government, we are way overdue in handing race promotion over to younger folks.” – John W.

“As a 67-year-old that has attended races for half a decade, I still want to go. But sitting on a slab of rough-sawn lumber for more than four hours, and sometimes as much as eight hours, is just ridiculous and in most cases – NOT gonna’ happen! Great article, Ben, but this is a tough situation that not enough people take seriously. Track owners ponder this: If I’m not there, then neither are my grandkids!” – Jim M.

With these previous three comments, we are again reminded that for most tracks, the average age in the grandstands is only increasing. With most millennials attuned to an instant gratification society, if we expect them to support racing, we must find a way to tailor events to make sure the length of shows don’t exceed their attention spans.

“Start on time and finish in a reasonable time period. My pet peeve is when they shovel dirt forever, cleaning up oil or other fluids. Get a cheap dirt spreader and it would only take a few minutes. Having a curfew is a great idea. Run the Super Late-Models first, because that is what most people came to see. Some have to leave early to get up and go to work or church. A lot of us travel, and it makes us get home really late.” – Jim G.

Having a curfew is a great idea. – Jim G.

“I agree without question! That is the main reason I quit going to the races. A typical night at the races is from 6:30 to approximately midnight. Then, I have another hour drive home. Keep sounding off!” – Cliff 

“AMEN!! I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t want to watch 2-3 hours of qualifying. Start at 7:00, end at 10:00-10:30. If qualifying is deemed necessary, start at 4:00, but let the real show start at 7:00. And please, for the love of God, do not make these shows last until 1:30 in the morning.” – Kate D.

“Time management is the number one issue with race tracks right now. Add in long intermissions for no reason, as well as tracks with 10 classes of cars with multiple heats with only 4 cars in them, and there is a huge waste of time. Some tracks have figured it out and rotate their classes to keep the program rolling. I am a huge dirt track fan, even raced for awhile, but I now find myself leaving early if the show is going on and on. That’s something I would have never done years ago. Also, when I have over an hour drive home, who wants to be on the road, tired, at 1:00 in the morning trying to get home.” – Richard M.

“Great article. Late starts and dead time are killing the sport. I’ve had numerous debates over this topic. Shows lasting until midnight is also a problem. Wives are mad and kids are tired and crying. Next time dad wants to go to the track, he has a fight on his hands.” – Roy C.

In many of the comments, fans, crew members, and racers have repeatedly voiced the same frustration about shows running too long. Better preparation, fewer classes, and more efficiency were the most common requests.

Some comments – like the next two – even placed a portion of the responsibility for time efficiency on the racers.

“Let’s not forget the responsibility of the drivers themselves in keeping the show moving along. I raced for 16 years, and another four as an owner. From day one, I just couldn’t believe that people would sit in a stopped car and wait for a yellow flag to come out so they wouldn’t lose a half lap or more from spinning out or whatever. You screwed up. Sack up and learn from it.” – Matt D.

“I’ve been around racing for several decades as a racer and car owner. It used to be that you had four minutes from the time your class was called to be lined up and ready to race. If you didn’t make it, they didn’t wait on you. It should be that way now.” – Melvin H.

Again, this is just a small sampling of the feedback that was received from the original article. The proof is in the pudding that our lack of time management is costing us fans in the stands. Many tracks already operate on a razor-thin profit/loss margin, so any fan that is loses, can be the difference in being in the red or green on any given night.

As outlined in some of the quotes above, it’s not just the track officials who are responsible for keeping the show moving. Racers taking their time to present their cars to the starting grids and bringing out intentional cautions only amplify the issues at hand.

Furthermore, fans are well within their rights to voice their displeasure to tracks who consistently start late or waste considerable time. You are spending your hard-earned dollar to support their business, so I encourage you to offer constructive criticism to owners and promoters. Sure, some might not listen, but you might be surprised at how many do. After all, they need your weekly support to keep their doors open. If they don’t listen, then at least you can say that you tried to make a difference.

I encourage fans and racers to please share this, and the previous article with your local tracks, series, etc. Let them know that this is a very serious problem, which is likely taking money from fans and racers who are fed up, out of their pocket.

Last, but definitely not least, I encourage everyone to keep providing ideas and feedback on what can be done to get this ship righted. After all, we all love racing and want to see it survive. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be so readily talking about this issue and what needs to be done.

About the author

Ben Shelton

Ben got his start at historic Riverside International Speedway. His accomplished motorsports media career includes journalist, race announcer, and on-air personality.
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