Tri-Track Modified Series Is Great Idea That Won’t Last Playing To Half-Full Grandstands

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Arguably, it was the best lineup of Modified drivers for one single event in 2015 that was on the track for Sunday’s Dunleavy Truck & Trailer 100 at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

It was a 27-car field that included multiple NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champions, a NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion, a former Valenti Modified Racing Series champion, a Modified Race Of Champions tour champion, two former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series short track national champions and the current point leaders for both the Whelen Modified Tour and Valenti Modified Racing Series.

There was no shortage of Modified racing talent.

Doug Dunleavy, the presenting sponsor behind the event likes to say Modified racers are “No joke” and Sunday’s field definitely fit that description. It was no joke when it came to the stacked competition overflowing the pits at the Speedbowl.

And yet, the grandstands at the Speedbowl were basically half full.

Sure the forecast for the week wasn’t that great, but it wasn’t the worst ever seen either. And the fact is, the level of Modified talent at the track on Sunday in the heart of Modified racing country, should have trumped any questionable forecast at all.

The talent should have trumped cloudy skies, it should have trumped the NFL, it should have brought Modified racing fans flooding to Waterford. It didn’t.

Though it’s been an issue plaguing the Tri-Track Open Modified Series since its inception last year.

Series organizers Jim Schaefer and Dick Williams have done an exceptional job in creating a series that offers strong top to bottom purses that truly give back to racers. But for some reason the formula being used isn’t quite resonating with fans.

Take away the division’s annual event at Seekonk Speedway, which has been around for a decade, and the series events have unfortunately played to crowds far lower than many would expect for the talent on hand.

The 2014 event at Lee USA Speedway in Lee, N.H. played to a sparse crowd, that improved slightly in 2015. The event earlier this season at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H., with another talent laden field, played to a house hardly packed.

The question begged is why aren’t fans showing up?

Some of it surely has to do with playing the pros and cons game of getting such great payouts to competitors. When everything coming in goes right back out into one channeled area, other factors will suffer.

There was hardly a seat to be found at the Speedbowl in June when the track played host to the Whelen Modified Tour, with a field that some might argue lacked the same depth of talent of what the Tri-Track Series put on track Sunday at Waterford.

So why did fans flood the place for the Whelen Modified Tour Mr. Rooter 161? Probably a lot of that had to do with the promotion and backing NASCAR puts behind its regional touring divisions.

The reality is, funneling all the funds coming in right back to the competitors is great for the competitor, but might not be so great for the track looking to sell tickets.

There’s something to be said for the promotional push NASCAR puts behind its divisions and why the Whelen Modified Tour plays to packed grandstands over and over and over again at events at Connecticut short tracks.

Public relations, a game NASCAR knows how to play brilliantly, has hardly been a strong suit for the Tri-Track organizers.

In May Williams said series organizers had made the decision to make most local media outlets covering events pay regular admission into events because the series needed the funds coming in. No local series or local tracks have ever charged admission to media outlets looking to publicize their events. It’s a philosophy that will continue to keep series publicity down.

The series also does not distribute public relations releases to media outlets that regularly cover Modified racing, but instead channels them – quite peculiarly – through a little known short track racing website based in North Carolina.

Advertising is non-existent.

Word of mouth through free social media channels is seemingly the focus of any marketing plan.

And yes, word is getting out to competitors no doubt. We know this about competitors though. If there’s a race that’s paying big money they’ll find out and be there, so it comes as no surprise that they’re showing up for these events. Put the money out and they will come.

But getting fans to watch them compete is another thing. Getting fans in the seats is the lifeblood of the tracks putting on the events. It doesn’t matter if series organizers want to pay a million dollars to win if there aren’t any tracks that want to host events because fans aren’t showing up.

In May series organizers indicated publicly that 2015 would be the last year for the Tri-Track Series format, though Sunday series organizers seemed to indicate that all are ready to put on more events in 2016.

The question is, how long can the series put on amazingly well pursed events in front of sparsely filled grandstands before track operators decide the formula might be working for the competitors, but it’s not working for them?


  1. Jerry Servidio says

    I think the difference between the crowds in June for the WMT race and this one had to do more with it being held on a Sunday vs. Saturday. I bet that if this race was held on a Saturday night it would have gotten a better crowd. Asking fans to go to a Saturday and Sunday race back to back, especially being the opening Sunday of the NFL may have been a reason why.

  2. In this day and age having back to back large weekend events is risky, I think what Waterford should have done was to have the series run on Satuday night with the duel Sk and the lites. The other divisions should have had the night off. Also Sunday should have been set as the rain date. Sunday was my first tri track event I have seen and well worth every penny. It’s really reminded me of the old open comp shows. Let’s hope going forward that the series and the tracks do a better job promoting these events. I personally had no idea the price was 40 for both nights. Had I known I would have made both. You must have fannies in the stands.

  3. Well, it was announced a while ago that 2015 was the last of the TTOMS, so that may be a cloud overhead.

    Timing is crucial. Fans have budgets. Must take this into account. And other competition for those dollars and time.

  4. I agree with James, two race dates in a row won’t cut it anymore, like I said earlier if the offered $10 off if you brought Friday or sat tix stub they would have done better. But if it was Saturday night they most likley would pack the place. I really like the format of heats and only 3 divisions

  5. Monday Morning QB says

    Waterford didn’t pick the day the series ran, the series did.

    The series didn’t want to go head to head with the Star Classic Saturday night at Star that was to include one of the series biggest names, McKennedy.

    The SK’s run the night before because the series thought SK’s would want to run both as an SK and as a Tri Track car, which would’ve been impossible to do on the same day for a race team.

    A poor showing from the fans at Lee/Monadnock/Waterford is because the series isn’t marketed to the fans, it’s marketed to the race teams. If you “like” the series page on Facebook then you know what’s going on by the marketing being made to the racers, if you don’t then you won’t know what’s going on.

    The series has tons of potential and heart but it desperately needs PR and if someone is already doing that then they should be replaced by someone who knows what they are doing.


  7. Where to begin? Has an an open comp race ever worked in CT in the last 25yrs? I say no. Probably because its just another race in a state that runs modifieds multiple times a week. Going against the NFL Kickoff weekend was just insane. The World Series gets away with it because the NFL is well into the season by mid Oct. Then the series picks non traditional days to run. Sundays at Lee and Waterford? Last year, Lee was on Mother’s Day. Outside of the beginning and end of year shows, Sundays rarely work in these parts. Sure it helps bring in more drivers but not necessarily more fans. People have busy lives. Few have time to make the weekly show plus an additional Sunday show. I know the promoters hearts are in the right place but sometimes when to focus so much on the teams you neglect to factor in whats best for the fans. Tri Track doesn’t rely on the fan’s gate fees to pay the purse so I suppose its somewhat understandable. I thought the Star 125 the last few years was a brilliant concept. Great drivers and solid crowds on a Saturday at a traditional Saturday night track. While they may not have gotten every big name , they got a lot of them just running on an off weekend for the local tours. The Seekonk Open was an absolute home run this year but as mentioned, that’s more of its own event anyway having been around so long. Finally, I think Tri Track got too big. One race turned into three turned into five. The fact that they couldn’t draw fans while both the WMT and MRS are on month long breaks should tell you something. That said, a few tweaks, a few less races and Tri Track could be successful again if they change their minds and return in 2016.

  8. In May Williams said series organizers had made the decision to make most local media outlets covering events pay regular admission into event because the series needed the funds coming in. No local series or local tracks have ever charged admission to media outlets looking to publicize their events. It’s a philosophy that will continue to keep series publicity down.
    This comment I agree totally on and never received ANY e-mail press releases from this tour in the two years that it has been around. I did not even get a invite to the first banquet after volunteering my resources to do ALL the promotion and then posting the story and results to our many listeners. The first three tracks (Tri-Track) should be shaking their heads and pocket books when the 4th event was added on late in 2015 instead of waiting till 2016 and discuss the proposal with the three founders. Wayne G. Barber, Author, Host, Director of the award winning “Race Chatter” radio show on every week.

  9. darealgoodfella says

    What he said,

    “A poor showing from the fans at Lee/Monadnock/Waterford is because the series isn’t marketed to the fans, it’s marketed to the race teams. If you “like” the series page on Facebook then you know what’s going on by the marketing being made to the racers, if you don’t then you won’t know what’s going on.”

  10. Sometimes it may take a few tries before things get better as far as crowds go. I think the Tri-track has tried to add their shows without hurting the other modified divisions. I think this has led to a couple of show dates that they would like to do over. I was at Lee last year and it fell on Mother’s Day. Great turnout of drivers but the crowd was small. This year different date, not perfect (Sunday) but a better turnout. I agree the Saturday night shows seem to draw better than Sundays. The two Seekonk shows on a Wednesday night has drawn very well both years. I also agree they need help in the advertising department. We can also help by spreading the word. Think about it, they have a better product than the Nascar tour and at a better price. This doesn’t mean I want the tour to go away but watching heats & consi’s vs. time trials is not even close. This year I paid $44 per Nascar show compared to $30 for the Tri-track shows. What I got for my Tri-Track dollar was watching teams have pressure just to make it into the feature. Time trials are just not exciting. It’s like watching a cup race on TV. Nowadays the coverage cuts to commercial during the green flag run so they will be back in time for the pit stops. Personnally I don’t care to watch the pit stops. So your favorite drivers loses 5 spots in the pits. OK, now he has to drive his way back to the front and race. Twenty years ago they had the coverage right when they used to go to commercial during the pit stops so you didn’t miss the racing on the track. Anyways I hope the Tri-Track succeeds. Three to four times a year I get to see a great list of drivers that I won’t see anywhere else during the racing season.

  11. This event has been shown on the Waterford website schedule for a log time and when I went to other tracks in CT this year , and in the past, they had people handing out cards for the Tri Track Series. I often search websites of other tracks beyond CT just to see if they have a show of interest. Searching on a website is free ; judging from others comments on this site that should suit them well. People who choose NFL or other distractions are not race fans and do not know who the stars of modified are so that means nothing. As far as event costs we all make financial decisions; personally I choose to spend $0 at the movies, $0 at ball games of all types and if I need to bring my lunch to adjust to race event costs I do. To me that is what a true race fan does (and the real racers do in their own lives to support their racing hobby to put on a show for us fans). Thanks Wayne for advertising your show, I never heard of it before and think I will give it a listen.

  12. Southern Baptist says

    Lets not complain about the advertising… There is a tight young man up north doing some fine pr for this fine series. Many fine young men are working hard to promote many of these shows. Perhaps if the local media was younger and more supple they would have the inside scoop from the southern sources. If you are not reading racerboychaser-dotcom you will miss out on a lot of these specialty shows….Besides lets face it, we flyer-ed many YMCA’s before this race.

  13. A Sunday after a weekend of racing is just not gonna work . Weather was a big factor for me . Maybe just maybe if they did some kind of discounted ticket from the night before . People were taped out by Sunday . Lots of other things going on .

  14. Y’all are overthinking a bit too much. When I looked around Waterford on Sunday it was people with scanners and tri-track shirts. Nothing wrong with that… but the regular Waterford crowd didn’t show. I saw zero kids on Sunday. Typically I pass more than a dozen in the first few rows playing with toy cars or drawing with chalk in the pathway. They got a bad turnout because they didn’t have enough local division drivers with their families. In a perfect world, Saturday would’ve been a showcase for all the Thursday divisions, plus SK Lites and an SK feature. Sunday would’ve been Tri-Track, Late Models, SK’s, Streets, and Minis. Longer show, but the stands would’ve been packed. Guaranteed. This is similar to the setup for the big October show. The local divisions are also running. If we get lucky with the weather and have 65 degrees with sun all weekend they’ll have to open the overflow lot.

  15. We have to face the truth, Todays modified racing is basicly a club sport. and non diehards will only respond to what they deem to be a worthwhile “BRANDED” event. without a universally recognized brand behind you its very hard to get the masses to respond. I believe that a single event on the right date could work, but pushing this to 4 events was wishful thinking at best.

  16. Last Sunday just doesn’t work against the NFL. It doesn’t matter if its Tri-Track or Whelen Tour. Or for that matter Cup. Do you think it is an accident the Richmond race is a night race? Last weekend was once 300 Weekend, a Tour race, and the last couple of years of the 300 was in front of half full stands against the NFL. It is naive to think the NFL will not have a major impact on your attendance. I saw someone write last weekend that tracks like Stafford and Thompson should reconsider in the future running their big fall races on Sunday for Saturday. I think there would be a pop in the front gate with a switch in day.

  17. Stafford on Friday, The Bowl on Saturday, to go again Sunday was asking alot. Also the Friday forecast for Sunday was for rain. They should have run it Saturday.

    Did they get the scoreboard working on Sunday?

  18. I was happy with just 3 divisions last Sunday at Waterford. First time there. Program moved well. Track crew did a good job. Good place to see a mod race. Length of the show worked for me. A shorter show can be good if your traveling from outside of the CT area on a Sunday. I would be ok though with more divisions as long as they ran some of their features after the mod feature. This way the local fans can still see the young drivers race while others that have a longer drive can make the choice to stay or start their drive home.

  19. All of the comments above are valid and good points as to why small crowds have hurt the Series.

    No promotions or marketing will hurt any business, but the Brand known as Tri-Track Modifieds has another big fault, in my opinion. The race fans have no real idea what teams or drivers will be showing up to race. Every other Series, especially DIRT, Woo, and NASCAR’s Modifieds have the same drivers each event, give or take one or three. Many fans want to see, and follow their favorites. The Valenti Modified Series doesn’t do a bad job either. When it comes to the consistency of who will be at their events, you know Pasteryak and TC and many other will be in the field.
    I think this contributed to the poor crowds at most Tri-Track races…

  20. darealgoodfella says

    I think if the TTOMS comes back next season, that it exists and continues will demonstrate that this was not a one-trick pony, but is a legit open comp series. Things should get better as far as crowds go. The reports of the racing and old school heat races to get into the main show have been great.

  21. Many fair and accurate comments here; I think the answer is summed up best in the first reply here – what Jerry said.. personally I thought it was going to rain all day and I live about 30 min from the track.

    I’ll add that these guys have done a tremendous job in putting these races together and that was a great entry list – I also agree that keeping this “series” (if that’s even the right term for this) down to 3 events is wise, keep it special and unique. Rick also have a very good point in that this pack of drivers that show up, collectively, lack identity. Now hell, I know who they are as do most modified fans, but from a marketing, promotional perspective who are they? The “Open Comp Pack”, the “Outlaws”, the “Rogue Racers” – I know, corny – but just trying to make a point. The “Tri Trackers” I don’t think cuts it.

    While I agree with Rick that fans want to know who’s showing up – albeit different day and age, but there was noting cooler (as a fan) than sitting in the stands at Stafford on a Friday night and watching guys roll in that you weren’t expecting. I love the fact they were pulling in names not normally seen around here like Jankowiak, Zeiner and Hanbury.

    Good thread..

  22. It’s difficult to decide to drive 100 miles or more to a track when most of the New England weather reports are saying “50% of showers with possible thunderstorms”. However, I drove the 100 miles and saw one of the best races I’ve been to this year.
    Despite all the hard work by Jim Schaefer and co., media advertising with a few names mentioned and ticket prices posted I think would definitely help. The diehards are going to search for events like this to go to, but the casual racegoer needs to be aware of the event. I try to go to as many of the larger modified events as I can and have noticed many people are content to be “regulars” at their local track. Those people also need enticement through advertising to make that “away game” drive.,

  23. The Oct 24/25th weekend will tell the story… if the weather is good(no threat of rain or snow), and the crowds are still small then you will know it isn’t the weather or NFL opening day that is the reason. The price seems slightly lower, but how many race fans can afford 3 big shows in one month, Stafford, Thompson, and Waterford? 4 shows if you go Lee on the 11th. 5 weekends in a row if you go to Loudon. Thank… (I don’t know who to thank) that gas prices are lower this year.

  24. Where was Todd Szegedy in Kevin Stuart’s car? Or Jon McKennedy? Or Rowan Pennink?

    Did they quit the series? Scared of weather? Watched football?

  25. Here’s the problem too many tours:
    WMT, VMRS, Tri-Track, PASS, ACT, GSPSS, NEMST, NESST, NETS, Im probably missing some!

    One modified tour, one LM OR SLM tour would solve all problems

  26. maybe too many tours….but this is the best one for purses

  27. what is clear to me is the amount of fanny’s in the stands is equal to the car count ..meaning I saw MANY “outsiders ” in the grandstand that made up the sparse crowd. in the old days of the bowl the more cars the bigger the crowd.. figure 8 to 10 persons per car ..crew and family.. car counts are HALF what they used to be as is the crowd. double the car count double the crowd .just my opinion. look at the word series.. so many divisions and cars .. good crowd even with football, chilly weather etc. I think the speed bowl could have offered 10.00 off voucher for Sunday at the sat show.. also local TV weather reported rain sat starting after noon and a Sunday washout. I stayed away sat as I had rain in my hometown in Ct. went for it on Sunday and low and behold a good show .. also the NFL of course its a gloomy day. I could attempt going to the track or sit with my kids in front of the tube, watch some football and pig out ..series is great ..better scheduling. support from the participating tracks and weather would help. the product itself is excellent ..some spit and polish. especially liked the respect and thanks given to the teams for participating prior to the feature ..I hope this series thrives and lasts !!!

  28. Shawn,

    You’re an idiot.

  29. Jack,
    Thanks for checking in Jack, or is it “Lou” or is it “Kevin B from Seekonk Speedway”. Really, could you just pick one name and stick to it instead of changing it every time?

  30. Shawn,I enjoy your site immensely,however,I think you are still upset with Dick Williams and company about press access.It appears you have reported the only negative aspect that exists with the Tri-Track series.The weather forecast went from bad to worse.Any golf course owner knows what a rainy forecast will do to attendance.I almost cancelled and live just 25 minutes away!

  31. Too many tours..this always makes me laugh. Just why is that a problem? IF you love Modified racing
    you might have made your way to Waterford. Now we can’t race against the NFL? The Flats played Thursday
    (as I said) so I don’t buy that. The weather …yeah sure I’ll bet that kept a bunch away. 3rd night of
    consecutive racing…yeah maybe that too. Rick Raducha said ” The race fans have no real idea what teams or drivers will be showing up to race. Every other Series, especially DIRT, Woo, and NASCAR’s Modifieds have the same drivers each event, give or take one or three.” Huh???

    Tri-Track sent out multiples of updated entry lists to racing sites , social media and emails so I don’t get that statement. I live in upstate NY and have no problem following the racing scene in NE . Rich that info is out there if you look. Now..not everybody on the list showed but the racing was pretty damn good by most accounts and no promoter can guarantee who may or may not show.

    The subject of who doesn’t show is the subject for another day but Tri-Track racing has been for the most part pretty good. Look for another 40+ car count again in Oct.

  32. old observer says

    A Great race, enjoyed myself the whole day! The track could have helped attendance with shaky weather but the answering machine was still on a a thur/fri schedule until at least 9:30 AM Sun.
    Made a 130 mile one way trip & it was well worth it. Enjoy every possible race date because before long we will be racing on the white stuff!!!

  33. Shawn,

    No I won’t. Thanks though.

  34. I went on Saturday to Waterford. Hour drive to the track. I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back on Sunday so I bought a one day admission. I asked the ticket booth person if I decide to come back tomorrow, can I show my Saturday ticket and get the two day price? She said no.

    Even so, after watching the happy half hour tri-track practice, I decided I had to come back Sunday and see this great field race. Having never been to a tri-track event, I assumed the stands would be packed. I arrived early to get a good seat and was shocked how few people were there. If the weather were any more threatening I would likely have passed. It was such a great race.

    There needs to be more publicity for the series and the Speedbowl outside of social media. As popular as social media is, you are only reaching a small portion of potential paying customers. Give some tickets away to Hartford radio to give away to listeners. Get on those electronic bulletin boards on the highway.

  35. How do you think the promotion should be better Shawn? Do they need a new PR person? New organizers?

  36. Shawn

    Do you honestly believe in the stuff you write

  37. Jack (or “Lou” or “Kevin B from Seekonk” or whatever other names you’re using this week),

    Yes, I do. What’s sad is someone like you, a supposed professional and official representative of not only a racetrack but also a racing series, continually coming on here and using fake names and trying purport to be other known people in the sport.

  38. Jack (or “Lou” or “Kevin B from Seekonk” or whatever other names you’re using this week), your animosity toward Shawn and ReceDayCT, is blinding you to the tremendous benefit you would provide to the Tri-Track Series by sending out press releases to this and all race related media outlets.
    Whether you like it or not, this site is a regular news source for many of us race fans. Limiting your distribution of press releases, (if you have any) makes no logical sense. It is free advertising, and good public relations. Just like providing media access to events, including competitors and owners can only help the series and it’s partners. This too is free advertising.
    Even if you do not like Shawn or the coverage he provides, you are limiting yourself to news outlets that will not reach a significant amount of potential race attendees.
    There is a significant portion of the public that does not do Facebook, both young and old. Even Facebook users would have to know where to find you.
    Location, location,location. You need to get the word out to all media outlets, print, radio, TV and on-line. Only effort needed is typing an e-mail address and attaching a press release. Media outlets can not use what they do not have.

  39. I am a regular Waterford Speedbowl fan and I attended both Saturday and Sunday races. I thought that the Tri-Track Series raceday was fantastic , with excellent racing. I was very impressed BUT…. it was hard for me to justify the expense and time of both days. Its not only the admission but the cost of getting there and the cost of food. I try to get friends to go on a Saturday but to get them to go both days is impossible. Real avid racefans are a small percentage of people. I saw VERY FEW regulars there on Sunday and when I asked if they were going there on Sunday, they said going two days was too expensive and they had to do the chores of the week on Sunday. I truly believe if they ran that race on Saturday, the stands would have been packed. Introducing people to racing can be very hard, its not like we live in the South. Bringing a first timer to the track with racing like it was on Sunday, would probably get them to come back again BUT it needed to be on Saturday. PS. Bruce Beemer and his staff are doing an excellent job on bringing the Speed bowl back to life again. I can not say enough about my appreciation for all that they are doing for the racing community. And don’t forget Sid’s Vault who is a great asset to the racing community.

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