Keeping Up Appearances: Community Outreach Becoming Lost Art In Local Racing

Larry Goss' No. 88 SK Light Modified and Kelsey Rotino's No. 36 Limited Late Model at an appearance in Willimantic Wednesday.

Larry Goss’ No. 88 SK Light Modified and Kelsey Rottino’s No. 36 Limited Late Model at an appearance in Willimantic Wednesday.

WILLIMANTIC – It’s a familiar refrain heard from many directly involved in team ownership or driving in local short track racing.

The complaint that NASCAR and the racetracks they compete at don’t do enough to promote them in racing.

And yet their team’s car never sees the light of day beyond being in the pits or on track at a racetrack all season long.

And year after year the crowds in the grandstands at local short tracks grow thinner and thinner.

The idea that sometimes if you need help you’ve got to help yourself seems lost on many teams involved in local racing today.

There was a time in this area when you couldn’t drive a 10-mile radius around a local track on a weekend day without seeing multiple race teams out making an appearance at a local gas station or other types of business and reaching out – hand to hand directly – with the community.

These days the appearance for local race teams has become a lost art, and with that fact, local teams are losing the chance to connect with the next generation that will help perpetuate the sport.

Wednesday night in Willimantic some race teams were trying to break the trend by participating in a community open house at the Willimantic Chronicle.

Ginny Gayton, daughter of legendary Modified driver Bob Potter and an advertising account executive with The Chronicle, organized a racing portion of the open house and welcomed local racers to participate to help promote growing coverage of local racing by the paper.

On hand with their cars were Waterford Speedbowl SK Light Modified driver Larry Goss of North Windham and Stafford Speedway Limited Late Model division driver Kelsey Rottino of Willimantic. Also on hand were be POWRi Outlet Midget Series driver Lauryn Burd and local JR Honda Quarter Midget driver Hailey Desaulniers.

“Events like this are very important for us,” said Goss, a longtime veteran of the local racing scene as a driver, car owner and crew member. “I’ve been in Willimantic for 53 years. This is my hometown. We get The Chronicle. I really wish they would put more in The Chronicle about our local tracks. But I’ll go anywhere with my car. You tell me when and I’ll deliver the car. Landon Tire, my sponsor, he lets me get out of work to do things like this and he pays me for it. Its helping me and it’s helping me get out there in the open. I wish a lot of other teams would get out.”

Asked if he feels like many local teams have lost touch with the outreach factor away from the track, Goss said yes.

“A lot of teams they just don’t want to be bothered, because they spend so much money on their cars and this and that.” Goss said. “But, how are you going to get the younger crowd into the racetrack? I’m 53 years old, but I’m dealing with a lot of kids at these shows that want to know what this car is. These little things help. It really does help. I wish a lot more teams would get involved.”

Rottino said he’ll do everything from public appearances to kids birthday parties if it means putting his racecar in front of the eyes of people that might be turned into new race fans.

“You wouldn’t believe how many times you bring a car out to somewhere that you’ve never been before and you hear probably about a third of the people say ‘Wow, I didn’t even know there was still racing around here, I want to go see that’” Rottino said. “The exposure aspect of it, us as drivers for the most part, we really aren’t doing our job.

“The whole point of this is to bring fresh faces in. That’s the only way that we’re still going to be racing 10 years, or 20 years or 30 years from now. It’s all about bringing people in and we need to help ourselves and do that.”

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  1. Great article. I have had this conversation a number of times. People need to see the cars. When I was small you would go to the gas station and in a bay would be a stock car. My dad would walk me in to take a look. Or a neighbor worked out of his house. This is the situation for racing cars as well as karting.

  2. Ginny Gayton says

    Excellent! Thank you!! We all had a great time!

  3. Doug DiPisa says

    Personally I think tracks should start doing promotions outside their so called racing area. Usually everyone where they have an event people already know the tracks are there, and racing happens there. How about doing something outside the box like in my area, Fairfield County. Get new interest and blood into the sport. That’s my 2 cents, but what do I know.

  4. This is something that really should be done more. There is no real excuse not to in my eyes. Go display the cars at your sponsors place of business, fairs and festivals or other events. It won’t happen over night, but the impact will be seen for sure. People rely too much on social media to get the word out about racing these days but honestly, with social media you are not reaching a new audience. You are only reaching the same people over and over. Get out in the public eye. Everyone complains about low car counts and lack of fans in the stands but they do not realize the low car counts begin with fans in the stands. Lack of fans equates to lack of new drivers to me.

  5. Bob Freeman says

    Another flaw of the enclosed haulers – as a kid, I used to love seeing a race car being towed down the highway. I would make my parents lives miserable until they got me to a race track. Unless one actually goes to a race track, there is NO exposure to the mainstream. And I totally agree about seeing a race car at a business. Push the thing out to the street while the business is open. The door needs to be opened here! People who know about racing are already there.

  6. Do they even have the cars on display at the crystal mall anymore? In the past they would be there like a week or so before opening day.

  7. Hi , I have been going to the Waterford speed Bowl seance the age of 5 and im now 48 . I have alot of friends that races there still . My brother raced for a few years. My couson Larry Goss has raced for years at the speed bowl . This is what i have enjoyed for years on my saturdays nights . I have 2 boys of my own that are really getting into working on my cousen race car for the past few years and thay enjoy it just as much as I did at my age . What I would like to see more of is young girls racing .There was a time that thay had the POWDER PUFF races and as a woman talking and always wanted to race its importtent for theses track to hold more pit partys and have both sexs racing at there tracks to bring in the younger crowd to keep theeses sports alive.

  8. While they don’t have the powder puff races anymore, there are young girls racing at the bowl on a regular basis. Nichole in the sk’s crystal and victoria in the sk lites, cassie and kendall in the trucks, a couple girls in the legends, kaitlyn in the street stocks. I think it’s better to see them race with the “big boys” rather than a powder puff race.

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