Chapter 1: What Would You Do If You Were The Track Promoter

Frequently, I receive both solicited and unsolicited feedback from fans, crews, and racers about what tracks should do to make our sport better. Ranging from weekly divisions to formats, there is no shortage of ideas.

I have my hand in promoting roughly a dozen-or-so events a year, so I’m always interested to hear suggestions. While some just aren’t feasible, other ideas can be really good. In fact, over the years, I’ve implemented a few of them into my shows.

If you ran a racetrack, what would you do to make it a success?

With that all said, I thought it might make for a fun article to solicit suggestions via social media. I posed the following questions: “What would you do if you were the promoter? What’s something you wouldn’t do?”

Honestly, I hoped for a few dozen responses. However, what I got was more than 500 replies in less than three days, which totally floored me. Most suggestions, I found to be really good, while only a few bordered on the absolutely unrealistic.

As a result, instead of a single article, I decided to break this into a series of features. In each chapter of this series, I’m going to group some of the similar comments and then provide my analysis and feedback from my experiences in the sport. I also hope to see a lot of your thoughts and reactions in the comment box at the end of each article.

With that said, buckle up, because here we go.

Packing the stands and showing the fans a great time is a top goal for tracks.

Time And… Again
“Make sure the show was over by 9:30-10:00 p.m.” – Logan Roberson

“People saying ‘end the show by 11’ are out of their minds. ALWAYS be shooting for a 9:30-10:00 TOTAL finish time. 11:00?! Are these people nuts??” – Michael Rigsby

“Tighten up the show, move things along. Been to way too many dirt tracks this year who finished up at 1, sometimes 2 a.m. Only talk to the winner in Victory Lane instead of the top 3. While the winner is getting interviewed, grid the next class on the front stretch.” – Derek Pernesiglio

“Start on time every week and run the big feature first, or as early as possible on special events, to give traveling fans the option to get on the road home. Heat races staged and lined up to hit the track as soon as previous heat is done.” – Damon Warren

“Keep the show moving! Time limits on all events. Yes, this might make a night or 2 of frustration, but no one wants to be at a track for an extra hour or 2 just because a couple of cars have trouble making laps, spinning out, or there are multiple pileups.” – Patrick Davis

“Start races on time, so the crowd is not there all night.” – Joann Bagley

“Keeping on schedule is critical. Big races that people travel to must run a big event early. Period.” – Alan Wood

“Done by 10:00 p.m. at the latest, and do NOT run 8 support classes when a big show is in town.” – Darrell Goode

“MOVE ALONG!!!! Whether it’s getting a car off the track with a wrecker or taking a 15 min intermission that isn’t needed. 5 min break and get going!” – Colton Burdette

“Never, ever have an intermission. Ever.” – Kelley Carlton

“4 divisions of racing max, 3 is better. Open the gates at 4 p.m., slow roll at 5:30 p.m., hot laps at 6 p.m., qualify/heats 6:30 p.m., 30-minute intermission, 7 p.m. A-mains and be on your way home at or before 10 p.m. guaranteed.” – Greg Blanton

“Get the show started on time and over in a timely fashion (like Dixie Speedway)” – Jimmy Thomas

“Run a timely show. Try to get the whole thing done in as close to three hours as possible. Time limits on each race, spin rules like they run in Iowa. To quote Jerry Van Sickle, ‘Keep ‘er mooovin’!” – Marcus Mackey

“I wouldn’t start so late and run no more than 5 classes. The late nights (early mornings) are hurting our fan base.” – Derrick Nichols

“Start the races on time and PLEASE PLEASE no hour-long intermission.” – Ron Mitchell

“Shorter shows. My 4-year-old missed his dad win this year because his feature didn’t hit the track until midnight and he was sound asleep in the truck. We NEED kids involved, but keeping a 4-year-old entertained for 6-plus hours is impossible.” – Rachel Ashcroft

If you know me or have followed my articles over the years, you know that time management is my biggest pet peeve. Furthermore, it’s arguably my biggest concern for the future sustainability of our sport. The comments above show that I’m not alone. Honestly, I could’ve included at least another three dozen or so similar comments saying the same thing. However, for redundancy and brevity, I chose not to.

I think the point is loud and clear, though. Efficiently running our racing programs is a prominent issue in our sport. If you are a track promoter, and you don’t think that your customers care if your program runs all night, do me a favor. Please go back to the beginning of this section and re-read those 16 comments. If at that point, you still don’t think it’s a problem, then I literally have no words for you.

Yes, it’s a significant problem, but in a lot of instances, simple changes can be made to improve the situation vastly. From pre-planning to logistical changes, you can make an immediate difference in your show. Best of all, it doesn’t cost you a thing.

Tracks, please listen to your customers. Fans, crews, and racers are all fed up with unnecessarily long nights. It’s killing our sport, and it’s no doubt impacting your bottom line.

The Formality Of It All
“Get rid of passing points format… I agree with Jonathan Davenport on the subject.” – Gunnar Sullivan

“No pill draws. And the fastest qualifier in the top divisions would get the option to start on the tail for an extra $500 to win each week. Maybe, each week also gives the guy on the pole of one of the support classes the option to start on the back for the same deal.” – Logan Roberson

“Hot lap qualifying. Never have a regular night.” – Daryl Barth

“Less qualifying – every class of Late Model isn’t above heat racing.” – Luke Riddle

“Make every class run heats.” – Zach Jenkins

“No qualifying in any division. Bust our butts to be done by 11 p.m. every night.” – Chris McDill

“Features would go in reverse order like Fairbury does it. Lower classes first, then Modifieds, then Supers. I think that’s one of my favorite ideas I’ve ever seen from a racetrack. Nobody wants to race after everyone has left.” – James McCubbin

Oh, yes indeed. The time-old debate of what format to run at events. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or social media just isn’t your thing, you’re well aware of drivers and fans critiquing which format is best. The debate has raged for years, but here lately, it’s definitely taken center stage. In the handful of comments above, the widely varying preferences of what is best is clearly represented.

Some folks like qualifying, while others like a pill draw. I wish I had the perfect answer here, but honestly, I don’t know if there is one. Everybody likes something different. As a result, no matter what format you go with, somebody is going to be unhappy.

I will say this, though. The format you choose for your nightly show may largely be dictated by the characteristics of your track, as well as how many classes and competitors you draw on a weekly basis. Some formats just aren’t going to work for some places.

Also, maybe consider having surveys that your fans and racers can complete to gauge what the majority wants. I’m not saying you should make a radical change to the way that you’ve always done things. But the feedback you receive might inspire you to experiment with something new on a select, race night.

At the end of the day, tracks are in the entertainment business. We have to find that happy medium between entertaining the fans, while also offering a structure that racers can comfortably embrace.

Again though, there’s currently just no easy answer.

The Wrap-Up
This puts a wrap on the first chapter of this new series. I again want to thank each-and-every person, who took the time to read this first article. I enjoyed reading through everyone’s comments, and I hope that you fine readers have enjoyed seeing what your brethren have to say about improving our sport.

Upcoming chapters will include topics like track prep, divisional choices, entertainment value, focus on kids, safety, affordability, and more. Some bumpy subjects are waiting around the corner, 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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