Whether growing up in the
After the gate
As I got older I became more involved with the race working there now building lasting friendships with drivers and officials and really understanding what goes on during the race. I helped write articles for the programs, did track maintenance, and victory lane interviews. As technology took over I created a website for the track to help spread the word about the race track to attract a bigger audience. Sadly, the track did not make it as politics and disagreements shut the gates on the track near and dear to my heart.
That was the experience many of dirt race fans got during that era of growing up. If you grew up after that era here is a taste of what you may have encountered. The open trailer concept was slowly disappearing in the mid 90’s and many of the youth would miss out on racing. Enclosed trailers were the start of the demise of the sport in my eyes. People on the highway would see an enclosed trailer and not know what was inside of it. It could be boxes, landscape equipment or a race car.
The part with people would see the open trailers on the road and follow them to the speedway was gone. Technological advances in the late 90’s and early 2000’s paved the way for more expensive racing equipment which led them to want to protect it more with enclosed trailers. With no fault to them wanted to do this is did not attract new fans to the race track. Fans then did not know who was going to be racing until they got there and saw the cars outside the trailers. Another issue is with the expensive equipment drivers were hoping it would result in higher purses from the race tracks. Without that drivers were force to go where the money was. Weekly regulars were declining at the track putting more pressure on the race track.
The social media boom was a way track could get either well known or destroyed but what people comment about. It allowed the message of if the races were cancelled drivers could make the trip to another track so drivers were not wasting travel time going to a track not racing. Race results would be posted online as well as photos and even live feeds from the racetrack of the events so people now feel they get the whole experience for free at home from a variety of different tracks. Souvenir programs are also now becoming obsolete as the Internet shows all that information. Fans of drivers that had a rough night can bash that track and give it a bad reputation turning new race teams off from attending.
So what is actually attracting fans now? Well if you head to the races its usually comprised of family and friends of the drivers and sponsors. The excitement of getting to the track is all but lost and the only think attracting racers to tracks is the money. The expense of racing to the money made from racing is so high people are getting out of it. The relics and souvenirs of racetracks are becoming obsolete so what will the race fan of tomorrow remember? Race tracks are closing and tracks that are open have very small support in car counts unless they have a strong purse. Travelling series are hurting the weekly tracks as people do not want to risk racing weekly and damage the car so rather opt out and just race the travelling series where more money is on the line. Fans follow the travelling series because the know the big names in racing will be there. Can dirt racing be saved? That is a debatable question with many opinions from some dirt historians and fans alike. I do believe it can be saved but for that to happen the dirt racing scene must take a step backwards. Racing is not all about how fast you can go. We need to build smaller tracks so people can afford to race again. If you talk to many of the great dirt drivers from the past they will all say they learned how to drive and understand their car on the smaller tracks which then propelled them to success on the big tracks.
Support from local municipalities and the local communities. Build the fan base and provide a safe and race friendly track to attract drivers. Have drivers commit to after the races meet and greets and autograph sessions. It will help the fans grow and when the attendance grows the purse grows. Feld entertainment which is Monster Jam has a free autograph session after each show for the kids to get something autographed and have a picture taken. The fans feel more a part of the experience then. Not everyone has the money to race but they all have the ability to enjoy the race.
Where dirt racing ends up is up to us to figure out whether we want to continue to leave that trail of dirt to the next generation or just have it become dust in the wind.
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