Guest Column: Short Track Racing – A Vision Of Our Sport’s Future Concluded

The following is a guest column from local racer Sean Foster, who also operates the website Short Track Racer with Max Collins 

The views and opinions expressed in these columns are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the RaceDayCT staff.


Finish Line Thoughts

Sean Foster

As mentioned in the introduction, the main purpose for sharing this vision statement is to suggest that promoters refocus their approach in improving the state of short track racing.

One of the most important elements in building a better product is respect and communication. We have to keep in mind that we’re in an era where business success is based on long term relationships. It is vital for a speedway’s staff to maintain positive relationships with both its competitors and its fans. Folks involved with race teams aren’t interested in participating in a hobby where appreciation and communication is absent. With the abundance of alternative activities available to partake in nowadays, people will just find something else to do and that’s exactly what is happening.

There is a lot of negative talk in the pits and it most frequently revolves around the lack of unity. The division in our sport is a hindrance. When the business community identifies this they then conclude that the owners and promoters of our sport don’t know how to run their business. We don’t want our sport to crumble from it’s foundation (meaning fan base, race teams, and business partners), therefore we have to create a more unified and positive vibe around the short track racing world.

Sustainability

The word “profitable” isn’t used much in this statement because it’s an end result. Each individual speedway can become a progressive business and maintain financial sustainability if they are able to:

Keep fans returning by creating a cost-effective, friendly, and memorable experience.
Keep racers and teams returning by simplifying divisions, controlling costs, and showing appreciation for their role as the attraction.
Keep sponsors returning by building close, positive, communicative relationships with marketing partners of the speedway.
The disputes

Despite the many obstacles covered in this statement, there are still some frequently seen disputes:

-”There is a lack of mechanical interest. Today’s youths don’t like to tinker. Teenagers don’t rush to get their driver’s licenses anymore. There are no more shade tree mechanics and we no longer live in a car-centric society. America’s love affair with the automobile has died…”

People who argue this aren’t aware of their surroundings. There are plenty of mechanically and technically savvy people in this world, they just aren’t hanging around the short tracks anymore. Look at how big the other motorsports industries are: Mud trucks, motocross, street car racing, drag racing. Also notice the popularity of the television hit “The Grand Tour,” one of Amazon’s most popular reality/documentary series following the automobile traveling adventures of three British car fanatics. The interest is still present but, as mentioned in the introduction, modern day promoters need to highlight the compelling aspects of short track racing while evolving their product to connect with new age fans. If we can grasp the attention of the mechanically inclined folks then we can use that fan base to progressively grow the population of the sport.

-”There is no connection to competitive auto racing anymore, especially in regards to the younger crowd. Youths are stuck on their mobile phones and self-driving cars are no longer science-fiction…”

This is a matter of perception. Take the self-driving cars thought for instance, some will say that self-driving cars creates a connection barrier for fans. One could turn this idea around and use that as a promotional tool to make auto racing appear as more of a phenomenon. Fans will become much more intrigued by the fact that these cars involve real life racers with impeccable abilities to control these vehicles that have no traction control, stability control, or any other driver assisting aids.

It should be noted that the world changes and nobody knows how youths will interact and socialize in ten years. Only predictions can be made. For example, our society may get to a point where the technology fad of handheld entertainment plateaus… Our phones do everything we want them to, everybody becomes familiar with them, and people decide to get more hands-on with their free time. This is only a theory but the main point is we can’t continue to sit and fall further behind in entertainment and marketing trends. There will always be a need for real-life socialization and entertainment in this world.

Visit Short Track Racer to read the remainder of the column

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Comments

  1. Good point. One way to try and get the younger generation involved is this. Start at say Thompson a Limited Sportsman division just for High Schools to compete each other. The idea would be to form teams from MA/CT/RI High Schools can be Voc or regular schools competing against one another for overall championship. This helps get kids involved in the sport and brings new kids to the track. You also bring businesses that support these schools or teams to track along with their families. Drivers cannot be someone already competing in divisions at area tracks. Just a suggestion, but I believe it could work and be successful.

  2. WeldingWonders says:

    Unity. I still find that amusing. Going back to the Danbury RaceArena where my uncle raced then onto the Stafford Street Stocks for a few years I never witness anything remotely resembling unity in the pits. The pits is like a social cauldron of rumors, complaints, grudges, secrecy, individual rivalries and emotion. Racing by it’s very nature is the opposite of unifying. Where unity comes into play is after racers retire and reminisce.
    Thank you for blowing a hole in the common belief there are not enough young people with mechanical skills or racing interest to populate circle track racing. There are they just have way more choices now and have to be fought for.
    Dear Stafford Motor Speedway.
    I love you man. Can’t wait for the season to start. But I respectfully suggest you send a representative out to other tracks during the summer to see what’s new, what works and what doesn’t. At Thunder Road you may see their version of Street Stocks that are 4 cylinder front and rear wheel drive cars. They are more current body styles, easy to get, they had 25 of them taking the green and the stands looked pretty well populated.

  3. Sean and Shawn…

    Nice job on this series, I really enjoyed reading every chapter. I like your use of “sustainable”, and think it’s the perfect term as a goal for the sport. Not only does taste and style change over time, it often follows a sort of pendulum effect.

    I’m excited to see a vintage component at the Spring Sizzler this year. Vintage, or “Historic” as they’re sometimes called, events have been very popular worldwide in road racing. I’ll be watching closely to see how it’s received next month at a short track.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and views, as well as allowing the rest of us to chime in.

  4. Doug / Welding Wonders – Though I agree with you in principle about Stafford keeping current with what works / new ideas, the one you chose as an example probably is not a good one for Stafford. 4-cyl running on a 1/4 mile bullring is exciting. 4-cyl running on a 1/2 mile horsepower track? Not so much. I have seen the 4-cyl run at Thompson, and though the racing is certainly not BAD per se, with door-to-door action, it is not what I would personally deem exciting. The Pro-4 mods at Stafford are typically a snooze-fest for the fans, and I would not expect it to be different for 4-cyl Street Stocks. With lap times around 3-5 seconds slower than any other division, it just seems like they’re running in molasses.

  5. WeldingWonders says:

    I don’t disagree but I’d expand thus. First are you or me for that matter typical of every fan? Are there layers of fans at tracks looking for different things or is it all just people killing time while they wait for the premier division? Secondly I would suggest seeing 25 mini stocks doing 5 laps at Stafford may be more compelling then 10 LLM’s. How about added bodies that know the drivers gaining access to the pits and stands for greater track income. How about gaining a truly affordable division that hooks more young people and puts a premium on creativity trying to get those front wheel drive cars to go around a corner. Would young folks in the stands seeing their Neon racing and making a connection to the driver perhaps result in a longer term track following? Maybe more women take the plunge in a mini and drive female fan interest.
    As I said I don’t disagree about the mini’s. I’m just trying to make suggestions and do a little thinking outside the box. Is there more to developing a track following then determining the merits of each division on their own? Inspiration provided by Sean Foster and more ideas encouraged.

  6. chris..
    that would be such a cool concept if high schools had auto racing teams like they do football, baseball etc. i know i would have been interested in participating!!
    however, i cant see that as feasible in any respect at all. insurance? taxpayer funded racing for kids? it’s challenging enough to get businesses to fund the actual racing, i dont think businesses would be interested in funding kids in racecars, therefore, it woould be school budgets (taxpayer $) flipping the bill. then on the track, when the competitive juices meet up with immature kids that are inexperienced drivers, the damage and the fallout could and would be irreparable.
    i think it would be cool, but then again i’m a biased a race fan. i cant see high schools ever being directly involved with student activities involving driving race cars. too much real and perceived downside.

  7. Phil – I know that there was a school, I believe from Northampton, MA, that built and raced a late model a few years ago, definitely within the last 10.

  8. I didn’t know that, Rich, that’s great!

    I would love it if an idea like what Chris mentioned actually came to fruition. I was just presenting possible obstacles that would prevent it.

    Thanks for the info…

  9. 4 cylinder mini stocks were part of either the Spring Sizzler or Fall Final maybe five years ago. It was different, but not that exciting.

    If additional divisions are needed, I’d rather see Legends do a roval… It would be better than the mini-mile and give the cars that run the Thompson road course another place to race.

  10. WeldingWonders says:

    Legends vs Mini Stocks. Mail order cookie cutter race cars using fiberglass shells that mimic race cars of long ago. Easy to get, tune the engine and chassis and go racing. So many ways to race them too from ovals to road courses. Very popular for the younger folks and parents enjoying the racing experience together in many cases. Including traveling all over the country and world for that matter since Legends are so standardized. Exhibit I Mike Christopher Sr and Jr. Vs Minis. The ugly step child of weekly racing. Never popular with the folks at racedayct for sure. The opposite of legends with front and rear wheel drive cars, every major manufacturer in play, eclectic, unpredictable and generally some pretty good racing. Probably attractive to the more creative shade tree mechanic sorts that build and race vs buy and race. They seem to be thriving in many tracks up north.
    Hmmm, not that exciting. Indeed. But we aren’t talking about the Sizzler or World Series. We are talking about and relatable entry level division for Friday night at Stafford that has the potential to warm up the crowd with full fields and a little excitement. As opposed to the Legends that were just annoying. Or even Street Stocks now that use classic car bodies that we geezers drive to classic car shows that does not even qualify as a required stepping stone any more to higher divisions.
    Legends, not a fan for weekly racing. To me they are an abomination to the spirit of weekly oval track racing parading widgets with different paint schemes and masquerading them as unique reflections of the the drivers piloting them. As opposed the minis or if you like mid sized front wheel drive cars like they have at Star and Lee. Cars that people can relate to, that foster creativity and individuality .
    But in the end if Rocco and Owen and Fluckiger and all the rest of the builders are going to be supplying the cars for racing in the future so maybe cookie cutter is a trend that is unstoppable.

  11. Fast Eddie says:

    Both categories are fun to watch on the right track. Legends are so similar the racing comes down to driver and setup, not the fattest wallet. Mini’s can be that with Mustangs, or who can make their combo work best when there’s different types of cars. I think both are fun to watch on a small (1/4, 1/3, or3/8) track. Mini’s have fairly good racing at Thompson, in part due to it being a short race. The NEMST’s 50 & 100 lap races, while probably great fun for the participants, can get a little mundane for the fans though.

  12. “I know that there was a school, I believe from Northampton, MA, that built and raced a late model a few years ago, definitely within the last 10”

    The #3 LLM from Westfield Technical Academy. Still active… http://staffordmotorspeedway.com/2018-limited-late-model-teams-listing/

  13. WeldingWonders says:

    Somewhere some guys are swapping out engines in their Honda Civics with something from an Acura. Or playing around with the intake, exhaust, computer chips and so much more I’m sure. They aren’t relating to vintage 1980’s Street Stocks with lumbering V8s. Agreed, no one wants to see 50 lap mini races. Nor should mini’s be much of a part of any big show like the World Series or Sizzler. But on a regular Friday night at Stafford they may just enjoy seeing some cars they can relate to as the opening act for 5 laps. It may spark a whole new younger crowd to watch and get involved. The is precisely what Street Stocks did for Stafford originally. While I may be barking at the moon in this venue given the demographic and seeing it’s modified country and all I know Stafford is considering such things in the future. Pretty sure anyway.

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