Chapter 3: What Would You Do If You Were The Track Promoter

It’s time for the proverbial hat trick. Let’s buckle up and get set to dive into Chapter 3: What Would You Do If You Were The Track Promoter.

Before going any further, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the first two chapters of this series. If you haven’t read them yet, you might want to take a look before reading this segment. All of these chapters stand on their own, but to get the full context, it would be good to read the series in order.

You can get to the previous chapters by clicking on the links below:
Chapter 1: What Would You Do If You Were the Track Promoter
Chapter 2: What Would You Do If You Were the Track Promoter

Fans, crews, and racers have been providing great feedback for improving racing programs. (Heath Lawson photo)

With those tidbits now outlined, let’s jump into the next installment. This edition is going to focus on a single concept — the kids. That’s just how important the topic is.

It’s All About The Kids

“Have a kid’s club promotion. Something parents can sign kids up. Have a special meet and greet night for just them, a shirt just designed for them, let the kids tour the pits with a driver, and maybe a monthly mail out for the kid featuring their favorite driver. These kids are the future of the racing community… get them started early!” – Katie Dugas

“All kids with student ID get in free. Reach out to your local schools have a driver take their cars to school. We have to get the youth back involved in racing.” – Zach Jenkins

Getting the kids involved is paramount for the future of our sport.

“Advertise. Need creative ideas to make kids want to go and make it affordable for the parents to bring them. When I was a kid, we begged our parents to take us.” – Mike Horton

“Focus on the kids…they are the future of racing. Have more driver interaction with them. Get an old school bus and take them on pit tours. Have them present the winner with the trophy … get the kids involved and the parents will have a good time and come back.” – Tonya Hall

“I started letting 18 & UNDER in for FREE at Springfield Raceway in Springfield, Missouri. It doesn’t matter if it is a special event or not … FREE … if you look around in your grandstands the High School kids aren’t there … it helps a Family afford it. The other night we had 275 free kids and sold 300 burgers that night.” – Jerry Hoffman

Keep It Family Friendly

“Playground at the track for the kids to play on when they get bored and restless. Similar to what the college and minor league baseball teams have. Keep the tracks as family-friendly as possible.” – Jonathan McNutt

“Bring a parent night; this coupon is good for up to two parents or guardians to receive a $2 or $5 discount (depending on General Admission prices) when accompanying a minor.” Hopefully, this will get the parents to bring their young kids, which in turn gets the younger generation to come out and see and get addicted to racing.” – Bill Colley

“I would find a way to get into the schools (i.e., shop class, P.E.’s, clubs). The future of the sport is with the kids. Bring a car and let them sit in it. Bring a local driver and let the kids meet them. Give the kids a job at the track.” – Kiff Newnum

“My home track has every driver sign a card when they get there. Each kid gets a card, and if that driver wins their feature, the kid gets a trophy. Very cool to see kids root for new drivers and see them light up in victory lane.” – Brandon

Putting a mic in front of a young fan is always entertaining.

I give my racing brethren a standing ovation for the quality of their input on the topic of getting kids more involved. Bottom line, no question about it, we’ve got to put more effort and time into finding ways to get the younger generations more interested in our sport. Without them, there is no future for racing.

This fact is undeniable.

The Kids Club

Katie Dugas kicks off the discussion above by recommending some variation of a Kid’s Club at the track. She couldn’t be more correct in this. Give the kids something additional to look forward to at the track each week. Whether it be an ice cream social for them at some point during the night or the chance to sit in race cars, give them an added incentive to want to be at the track.

As a child growing up going to the races at Riverside International Speedway, I can remember looking forward to participating in Junior Fan of the Week every race night. Basically, my parents just filled out a card when they got there, where they put my name, age, and favorite driver. Each week a lucky name was drawn. The winner got a photo with their favorite driver, a trophy, and a free corndog from the concession stand.

Looking back, I don’t think I ever won a single time, but it didn’t keep me from getting excited every week when they announced they were about to draw a name.

Knowing some school faculty, I can speak firsthand that they are always looking for rewards for incentive programs for the students.

School Involvement

Onto the next point, Zach Jenkins and Kiff Newnum hit on another great idea. Tracks need to do a better job of getting involved with area schools. Reach out to them and see if you can have a few of your drivers bring their cars for the kids to see, touch, and ask questions. Also, offer to provide free passes to the kids that can be used for rewards, such as attendance, honor roll, etc.

Knowing some school faculty, I can speak firsthand that they are always looking for rewards for incentive programs for the students. Furthermore, if you get the kids inspired to come to the track, then they are going to bug their parents, which brings me to the next point.

Getting to meet drivers is a dream for many young fans. (Heath Lawson photo)

By getting kids involved at the track and talking to their friends about their experiences, you are not only gaining new attendees in the form of kids, but you’re also gaining their parents. Mike Horton mentions above that he used to bug his parents to take him to the track every week. Me too, Mike!

Get ‘Em Hooked 

Growing up, I was hooked on racing from the get-go. I wanted to be at the track more than anywhere else. If there was even a hint of us not going to the races, I bugged my parents until they agreed to go.

In a day and time, when parents struggle to get their kids to step away from computers and/or video games to even go outside, the odds are pretty good they’ll be receptive to taking them to the track for “real-world entertainment.”

Next time you are at your local track, glance around the stands and you’ll quickly notice the average age of race fans is rapidly rising.

More kids in the grandstands equal more concession sales. More parents in the grandstands equal more front gate revenue. It’s a win-win situation.

With this in mind, I turn my focus to the input from Springfield Raceway promoter Jerry Hoffman. At his Missouri oval, he lets ages 18 and under in free. Why you might ask? Well, because as he says, “If you look around most racetracks, the high school kids aren’t there.”

He ain’t wrong folks.

Taking a few minutes to talk with young fans could make a race fan for life.

Next time you are at your local track, glance around the stands, and you’ll quickly notice the average age of race fans is rapidly rising. Sure, there are a few exceptions — like Illinois’ Fairbury Speedway – where it’s the “cool thing to do” for kids to be there. However, largely, the teenage group just isn’t there, and the reality is we need them far more than they need us.

Make A Lifelong Fan

Some promoters might argue that by letting the 10-18 age group in free, you are sacrificing front gate admission. You’re not wrong. You’re initially forfeiting at least a few bucks per entrant. However, if you’re vision stops there, then you are oblivious to the net gain. Not only are you generating more concession sales, but you are hopefully also cultivating lifelong fans.

If you are a promoter, and you’re still leery of letting ages 18 and under in for free, then maybe consider trying it for a few months. After a few months of experimenting with the promotion, give your numbers an honest look and see if the juice is worth the squeeze. I’m going to bet that you’re going to like the results.

This is just a taste of some of the things you can do to get the next generation of fans involved. Other ideas include kid’s foot races on the track at intermission, hayrides through the pits, candy tosses from the flagstand, and the list goes on-and-on.

The bottom line is that we’ve all got to do a better job of getting the next generation of race fans involved. It’s not going to be an overnight fix, but if we dig deep and try new things, an answer can be found.

At the end of the day, we all want to see racing continue to thrive for decades to come.

The Wrap-Up
Just like that, another chapter of this series draws to a close. As always, please continue to reply to this article with your own insights and suggestions. You never know when they just might show up in the next installment.

Upcoming topics will include safety, track prep, and more, so please stay tuned.

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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