Chapter 4: What Would You Do If You Were The Track Promoter

Three editions of “What Would You Do If You Were The Track Promoter” are officially in the history books. It’s now time to bat clean up with the fourth-and-final installment of this series.

If you’re just getting to the party in this track promotion discussion, have no fear. You can read 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
Chapter 3: What Would You Do If You Were the Track Promoter

Before we jump into discussing the final suggestions from our great readers, please let me reiterate my utmost appreciation for everyone’s support and participation in this series. Over the past decade, I’ve genuinely enjoyed writing a wide variety of articles about the racing world. However, this series is perhaps my proudest to date.

With what we’ve discussed and analyzed, I’m hopeful that some changes for the better may have been/will be inspired. In this article, we take a look at some reader suggestions to problems that many fans overlook.

Safety

“My track officials would all be First-Responder certified at a minimum. The staff would be equipped with all the rescue and fire-suppression equipment needed. I would make sure fences and walls are safe and provide the protection for both drivers and fans as they should.” – Kelley Carlton

“Taller track fences with proper cabling, at least 15 feet for if/when you run a Sprint or Midget show. Also, move the stands away from the fencing further back and use an inner fence to keep fans away from the primary fencing during all race times.” – Marcus Mackey

“Demand more than the minimum when it comes to safety gear in all classes.” – Dennis Michelsen

“No blunt openings on walls” – Josh Tomlin

“Make steady improvements to your catch fence, especially on the home stretch.” – JB

Safety, it’s one of those topics that some tracks seem to put out of sight and out of mind until it’s too late. Racing is a dangerous sport. That’s no secret. We all know it.

The massive catch fence like The Dirt Track at Charlotte. (Jim DenHamer photo)

While some freak accidents and injuries can’t be prevented, there’s a host of others that can. Not every dirt track is going to have a massive, state-of-the-art catch fence. I get that. However, some meager investments into the existing structures can go a long way.

Another level of safety, for both racers and spectators, can be achieved by adding cables for reinforcement to making sure fence sections are firmly attached to poles in multiple spots. These cars are going faster than ever before, and what sufficed as a catch fence two decades ago, likely won’t get the job done today.

In this day and time, unprotected blunt openings are simply and utterly unacceptable. We’ve seen far too many injuries and sadly even fatalities from blunt, concrete openings. I recognize that most tracks can’t budget to redesign their walls completely. However, at the very least, they can evaluate adding gates, barrels, tires, etc. to guard exposed edges .

First Responders

Last but not least, my ole buddy, Kelley Carlton hits on an important topic when he mentions his staff would be First-Responder certified. In addition, he notes the importance of having the right rescue and fire-suppression equipment. Sadly, I’d say only a fraction of weekly tracks currently have either of these boxes checked.

At the very least, tracks should have an ambulance and EMTs on-site. Again though, it horrifies me to see how many tracks don’t even have an ambulance on-hand at their events. Some promoters have told me they can have an ambulance dispatched in a matter of minutes. My response is always the same. A racer can potentially succumb to injuries in that amount of time.

Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. (Scott Frazier photo)

Adequate extinguishers are also imperative. Not all fire-suppression devices are created equal. Different fuels require different compounds to put out a fire. Even more frightening are those occasions where you see an official grab an extinguisher only to quickly learn that it’s empty. Again, I’ve seen it happen more than once.

The bottom line is safety should be a paramount concern for any track. Apart from the importance of protecting racers and fans alike, many tracks are one insurance claim away from seeing the doors closed forever.

Prep It

“Don’t skimp on track prep. Fans, drivers, and teams know the difference whether the promoter is doing all they can do or not, so just do it, no excuses.” – Rod Maus

“Ensure that track prep starts on Sunday following a race and leading up to the next one” – Racecar_1

Oh, yes. The timeless discussion of track prep. While I’m not going to beat this dead horse for too long, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge it.

Track prep isn’t easy. In fact, I’d say there are far more chances to miss your desired results than there are to achieve perfection. After all, we are trying to maximize the performance potential of a soil and water combination. With that said, though, we’ve all arrived at a track on race day and quickly come to realize the track crews didn’t even try.

Perhaps the track is kicking dust during track packing, or maybe there’s still hints of rubber on it from the week prior. Either way, it’s like a punch in the gut to arrive at a track and immediately know the racing is going to stink. Fans and racers instantaneously feel cheated out of their money.

Have the announcer give more info about the drivers, teams, and sponsors. Maybe offer some type of program with this info. – Russ Daniels

Not all track prep is the same for all surfaces, but some of the top tracks share common practices. Well-prepared tracks will often begin prep work within 24 hours of completion of an event. Some will start blading and watering the surface within minutes of the final race of the night.

Throughout the week, continued work is often needed. This may include watering, grading, rolling, etc. If there’s a problem area that perpetually gets rough each week, then some track crews will excavate that area. From there, they decide on whether to spread the material and let it dry before recompacting it into the hole or just replace it with new material.

Give your fans and racers a reason to want to come back to your track. (Heath Lawson photo)

Again, it’s a different song and dance for everyone. However, odds are pretty good that if no effort is put into the preparation, your paying customers are going to be the wiser.

Inform The Masses

“Have the announcer give more info about the drivers, teams, and sponsors. Maybe offer some type of program with this info.” – Russ Daniels

“I see a lot of tracks that do not announce the sponsors on the cars. It would be nice if they did because it would help promote the companies that support the drivers.” – Charlie Armstrong

“Make sure u could hear the announcers.” – Mike McDougale

“Good balance of driver/car/sponsor info over the PA system from an “in-the-know” announcer or announcing team of 2” – Jay Adams

“From an announcing perspective, utilize the awesome programs that are available to help speed up check-in times and provide awesome info.” – Robbie Wilson

During downtime, your announcer keeps the crowd involved and entertained.

“Tell the announcers to wait until the car noise has subsided to announce winners. Not everyone knows all racers!!!!” – Charlotte Spencer

“Got to have a good announcer that involves the fans and keeps the slow times fun!” – David Cooper, Jr.

“Good p.a. and announcer- Not a jokester.” – Chip Stebbins

“Improve/upgrade the P.A. System, or at least turn up one notch from where you currently have it set (all tracks…just do it).” – JB

Personally …

As an announcer, this topic hits close to home for me. I’ve written articles about it in the past and have some future ones in the works. While your announcer should not make the show about him or her, they can be a crucial part of the presentation.

Not only do they present information on the drivers to the fans, but they also have the job of keeping the crowd entertained and engaged at various points throughout the night.

I’ve come to learn that if you poll five random race fans, you quickly discover that everybody likes something different out of an announcer. Some folks want more talking, while others want less. Some fans want a comedian of sorts, while still others want a consummate professional, who just presents the factual details.

While I don’t have the perfect recipe to meet everyone’s expectations, I do know there are some things you can do to benefit the night’s program. Always assume there’s at least one new fan in the stands. At some point in the night, explain the difference in the classes, what the flags mean, where the restrooms are, what some of the signature items at the concession stand are, etc.

I know it sounds redundant, but conveying this info could be the difference in a great first experience for a new race fan or a night of confusion for a one-and-done onlooker.

Engage the crowd and try to interview a driver or two during downtime. Do your homework in advance and learn fun facts or stats about as many drivers as possible.

At the end of the day, we are in the entertainment business, and the track announcer is the voice of the facility.

Don’t skimp on track prep. Fans, drivers, teams know the difference whether  the promoter is doing all they can do or not, so just do it, no excuses.” – Rod Maus

The Wrap-Up

And just like that, the fourth-and-final addition of this series draws to a close. Thanks so much to all the fans, crews, and drivers for your input and perspective. Hopefully, the 2020 season will see some of your suggestions and requests implemented at your local tracks.

Last but not least, I want to say a special thank you to everyone who supports dirt track racing and continues to make it the greatest sport on the planet.

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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