Welcome back for more of: What Would You Do If You Were the Track Promoter?
As we prepare to embark on the second installment in this series, I’d like to pause to say thanks. The response thus far is amazing. I honestly believe that this discussion among racers, fans, and tracks can produce some positive results. While, we may all have different desires and visions in this sport, at the end of the day we all have the common goal of keeping racing alive for generations to come.
Click here if you missed Chapter 1: What Would You Do If You Were the Track Promoter, to see the premise that launched this series of articles. For everyone else, let’s check out the next batch of feedback and suggestions.
Showing True Class
“No more than four divisions and each has to be easily identifiable.” – Dan Hodgdon
“Don’t have more than 5 classes.” – Buck Monson
“It’s just not necessary to run 8-9 divisions each week, ESPECIALLY when you have a big show. Either rotate a few of them every week or consolidate some together.” – Brandy Davis
“Don’t have divisions that all look alike.” – Chris McDill
“Limit classes to 3 classes and make it fun.” – John Steffen
“A track doesn’t need to have more than 3 classes. Make the payout better for the 3 classes and let the fans get home at a decent hour.” – Randy Smith
“No more than five divisions on a Saturday night program. I went to a track earlier this year where there were eight divisions of racing and didn’t get home till 3 a.m. Don’t bore them or exhaust them with a drawn-out program. You always want to leave your audience wanting more, they become repeat customers that way – just my two cents.” – Derek Pernesiglio
“No more than 4 classes per week. A track may have more than 4 classes but rotate them. Once a month, allow fans to visit the drivers/teams in pits 30 minutes after the last feature. As a kid, I loved this at tracks.” – Shannon Aultman
“Limit the number of classes to 4 or 5 regular classes and freeze the rules for at least 3 years.” – RwingJr
Tracks and promoters listen up. Your people have spoken and across the board, they’ve all said the same thing. They don’t want a show that has an unreasonable number of classes. The comments shown above represent about half of what was submitted, but they all said the same thing. Fans don’t want more than five classes on any given night. On special events, they want even less.
Now, I know that some promoters will argue that if they cut a class or two it will leave some racers unable to compete. With that in mind, let me share a tidbit of knowledge I received more than 15 years ago.
The late-great B.J. Parker, who promoted countless races and founded the Southern All-Stars, told me one time, “A weekly track doesn’t need more than five divisions. If a driver has a car that doesn’t meet those rules, he’ll find a way to get his car legal so that he can keep racing.”
Not sure if I believed ole B.J. at that moment. However, as the years passed, I’ve come to see more and more how he was absolutely right.
Fans don’t want to see eight-to-nine classes with six-to-seven cars in each class. It makes for long, drawn-out nights of boring racing.
One other thing I want to address (mentioned by both Dan Hodgdon and Chris McDill) is the identity crisis that some tracks battle with their weekly line-up these days. Some tracks – not naming names – have entirely too many classes that look exactly the same. On a given night, you might see Steel Head Late Models, Crate Late Models, Sportsman Late Models, and the list goes on.
Fans tend to get detached from the show when they see multiple classes that identically resemble one another. Having diversity in appearance makes it far easier for both new and regular fans to differentiate divisions and become engaged in the flow of the event. This is an issue some tracks definitely need to ponder sooner rather than later.
You Have To Admit
“I think I would have some sort of family package for a family of 4. When you bought 4 tickets, you would receive a free popcorn and 2 drinks at the concession stand.” – Patrik Daniel
“Why not do Fan Appreciation every night or at least most the time with half-off or free admission. They would make their money back off of concessions.” – Larry McClellan
“I have always thought the NHRA deal gets it right with one price admission.” – Kelley Carlton
Admission prices are a hot-button topic, upon which I regularly receive feedback from fans. It can be a tricky area for tracks to navigate. Trying to find that magical balance between what fans are willing to pay and the price point where tracks can be profitable isn’t always an easy task.
For the weekly tracks I assist, we operate by the rule of thumb that the average family of four shows up with about $50 to spend. Between admission and the concession stand, the track is going to get that $50 during a weekly show. It’s up to the track to determine how to ensure the family gets the most bang for their buck.
Furthermore, you don’t want your gate and concession stand prices so high that the $50 is completely spent before the race night is halfway over. At that critical point, you risk the family leaving early if the kids are still hungry or thirsty. The direct result is they will likely think twice before coming back again.
Family Nights or Fan Appreciation Nights are a good idea for tracks to do a few times a year. Like Patrik Daniel suggests above, have a family package night, where a family of four gets admissions, two drinks, and popcorn for a nominal amount of like $15. This is roughly half of what they usually spend on the same experience.
Fan Appreciation Nights with half-off admission or even free admission can be successful. A majority of what you sacrifice at the front gate, you generally gain back from concessions. Remember the rule of $50 as outlined above.
Besides, with admission being free, you can usually draw some new fans who elect to come and check out what racing is all about. Because our sport isn’t for everyone, a majority of the newcomers aren’t going to be hooked from the get-go. However, just getting them to come to the track for the first time is a positive result.
The one spot I must detour from one of the suggestions above is that these discounted or free nights only work a few times a year. I’ve seen tracks, time and time again, go out of business trying to operate regularly on a free (or discounted) grandstand price. The reason it doesn’t work for the whole season is that those occasional or new fans won’t be there every time the gates open. They may come once or twice, at best.
Furthermore, while you’ll recoup a majority of that $50 budget a family has to spend, you typically still won’t get it all. As a result, a track is ultimately left with its usual crowd and roughly half of its normal revenue. You don’t have to be a financial expert to see those numbers don’t add up.
With all that said, I absolutely recommend promoters to get creative with Fan Appreciation Nights as well as family packages to encourage more patrons to visit their track.
Just like that, another chapter of this series draws to a close. As always, please continue to reply to this article with your insights and suggestions. You never know when they just might show up in the next installment.
Upcoming topics will include a focus on kids, safety, track prep, and more, so please stay tuned.