A Race Fan’s Wish List For The 2020 Racing Season

Yesterday felt like New Year’s Day, and then it seemed like I blinked once, and boom, it was suddenly December. While I might be in total denial of how fast this year flew past, there’s no disputing the fact that the 2020 season will be here in just a few more weeks.

With 2020 speeding our way like a magical herd of reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh, I thought it would be fun to embrace the spirit of the holiday season, but in a different kind of way. While children around the globe are busy writing their Christmas wish lists, my 39-year-old self is now doing the same. The only difference is that my list exclusively contains my hopes and dreams for the new racing season.

With the stage set, let’s dive into four things I’d love to find under my tree this holiday season.

Charlotte Motor Speedway all lit up for its Speedway Christmas. (Charlotte Motor Speedway Facebook image)

Tis The Season To Be Safe
Over the past few seasons, I feel like our sport has made significant leaps forward in safety. From enhanced equipment specifications to track improvements, we’ve seen a lot of good accomplished. However, we still have a long way to go in our efforts to protect both competitors and spectators.

First on my 2019 Christmas list is the wish for continued safety advances.

Safety is paramount for fans and racers alike.

I hope racers have recently inspected their fire suits, gloves, shoes, and helmets to make sure they are not only up to spec, but also still current. Just like the eggnog that’s been hiding in the back corner of your fridge since Christmas 2012, safety equipment has expiration dates. Please make sure to verify yours is still up to snuff.

Tracks, please take advantage of the albeit short “off-season” to do a facility evaluation. Ask yourself what you can do to improve safety.

Can you eliminate any-and-all blunt edges? Can you repair compromised sections of catch fences? Can you replace weakened boards in the grandstands?

Providing check marks next to all of these questions could very well enable track owners to relax and enjoy “visions of sugar-plums dancing through their heads” this holiday season.

Let There Be Peace
We live in a money-driven society. Racing is no exception to this. It’s a business, and we all look to operate profitably. However, the next item on my wish list is to see more promoters working together in 2020.

Dirt track racing is a niche sport. Our fan base is a fraction of what most other sports have. However, what we might lack in numbers, we more than make up for with passion and enthusiasm. With that said, there’s still a finite number of fans to go around, and tracks need each-and-every supporter possible.

Packed grandstands are the ultimate goal for track promoters. (Heath Lawson photo)

It’s my wish for more promoters to make a concerted effort to put their pride aside and regularly communicate with other area promoters. It applies to both schedule and rules planning. This also applies to the rescheduling events on those occasions when Mother Nature interferes. Don’t just blindly pick a date without first evaluating what else is happening in the area.

By not having special events nearby on the same night, there’s a greater chance for profit. Furthermore, by trying to coordinate rules, tracks have a better opportunity of drawing new racers when other area tracks aren’t running.

I fully understand there’s not always going to be a viable solution that works for everyone. However, by extending the olive branch, countless good results can be achieved.

Paying attention to the schedules of other tracks can make a big difference in a track’s chances for success.

[Don’t] Let It Snow

We’ve all heard legendary singers like Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra croon the words to “Let It Snow.” Living in Memphis, we rarely get the white stuff, so I do enjoy a good snowfall. However, I’m picky, and I only want it in December or January when I know it won’t affect racing events.

Even more specifically, I hope to see Mother Nature keep the “R” word more in-check throughout 2020.

Mother Nature was tough on dirt track racing in 2019. One of the hardest hit was Lucas Oil Speedway, which suffered tornado damage in May.

The number of rainouts during the first half of the 2019 season neared legendary status. The ramifications were felt far and wide. Racing businesses saw their sales cut in half. Tracks went into the red because no profit was being generated to offset their overhead costs. Professional racers saw their chances for income halted. Last but not least, spouses were left having to spend entirely too much time with their grumpy, race deprived significant others.

As a matter of fact, I watched my beautiful wife suffer through the latter firsthand.

Record rainfall in many areas directly led to a sour start for dirt track racing this year. As a result, it’s one of my Christmas wishes this year to see a less tumultuous weather trend for 2020.

For 2020 and beyond, I would love to see the motorsports fraternity take a moment to collectively remind ourselves what initially made us all love the sport of racing.

It Takes A Village

The next item on my wish list might initially seem to be the most easily attainable. Sadly though, it often proves to be one of the most daunting in our sport. I would love to see more involvement and promotion between tracks and the surrounding communities. The average age of dirt track fans is progressively getting older. Additionally, there are more options than ever before for folks to spend their entertainment dollars.

The bottom line is we have to become more visible in the local communities if we hope to attract new customers. Furthermore, it’s imperative we become more engaging and appealing with the younger generations.

Race tracks can play a crucial role in boosting local economies. (Heath Lawson photo)

However, I will say this battle for community involvement doesn’t fall squarely on just track promoters. Time and time again, I see local communities thumbing their noses at local dirt tracks.

It’s not fair, and it’s not right.

The irony is often times the local dirt track is the only thing that regularly draws traveling visitors to some of these smaller communities. These racers, crews, and fans all introduce additional money into the local economy. In some cases, municipalities need us just as much as (if not more than) we need them. We’ve just got to do a better job of making them see it.

For 2020, I wish for more tracks, series, and businesses to make a concerted effort to be more visible in the community. Displays at car shows, community fairs, school functions, etc. can all pay major dividends in dirt track racing’s future.

The Reason For The Season
My last item on my wish list is one that truly comes from the bottom of my heart. For 2020 and beyond, I would love to see the motorsports fraternity take a moment to collectively remind ourselves what initially made us all love the sport of racing.

Whether you’re involved in racing as a hobby or as a business, it’s time to hit the reset button. So many folks – myself included – can sometimes lose perspective on the role that racing plays in our lives. Because of this, we allow it to stop being fun. Instead, we turn it into something stressful.

The thrill of watching racing hooked me instantly as a small child. (Heath Lawson photo)

Even worse, we start bickering and fighting with one another. We’re so much better than that.

Racing is as American as apple pie. At its roots, it represents excitement, passion, and competition. More than that, though, it represents the opportunity to spend quality time with those we care about the most.

The 2020 racing season will be here before we know it. (Heath Lawson photo)

Hopefully, Santa gets my wish list. And hopefully, on Christmas morning, I find at least one or two of these presents under my tree.

A very special thank you goes out to you fine folks for reading this article. I also would like to say thank you for believing in and supporting dirt track racing.

What’s something racing related you have on your Christmas wish list this year?

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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