Guest Column: What’s Wrong With Short Track Racing – Part 2

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

Visual Appeal and Attractions

Sean Foster

The typical short track facility is a pretty bland sight in the eyes of a non-racing person. There is rarely a feeling of excitement when driving by or pulling into speedway grounds. It is no different when walking through the gates, into the grandstands, and sitting in for a night’s events.

Oftentimes it appears that the track operators simply unlocked the gates from last week’s races, prayed to mother nature for cooperation, and crossed their fingers for the masses to appear. No improvements from the previous week and few improvements over the off-season.

Generally speaking, short track facilities at first glance provide an underwhelming impression without any marvel or awe. The scene is almost identical at tracks across America: some pavement or dirt surface, old battered fencing, rickety grandstands, overgrown plant life, unattractive bathrooms (especially for the ladies), with the concessions and miscellaneous fixtures lacking a fresh coat of paint. At times, I sit in the grandstands saying, “So where does my $20 admission fee go towards in this place?” What mainstream sport allows its facilities or stadiums to stand still and become grown over without improvements? There is little wonder why local towns despise our facilities, they are often eyesores placed directly on main traffic routes.

Now, I am not saying the place should look like a celebrity runway, but a pair of loppers and some light construction every week can be effective and affordable. This can especially be said for the entrance of the speedway, which is meant to lure passing travelers.

First Impressions

Curb appeal is as important as anything else when it comes to the appearance of a racing facility. Start with the entrance area that local people must drive by on a daily basis: an entrance is supposed to pull in guests and decrepit signage just does not do it for most people. Stubborn locals will drive by, notice the unexceptional grounds, and then cringe as they listen to the engine noises from their back porches on a Saturday night. So why not make the view from the street more presentable? Why not improve the landscape, give the entrance an enticing look with something eye-catching, and make passing motorists feel as though they’re missing out on something extraordinary?

Visit Short Track Racer to read the remainder of the column

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


  1. Agree

  2. Viva race fan says

    That s not far off. But they hire sub par employees who are underpaid and work alone with out guidance and milk the cow pretty hard. I blame the management for not micromanaging their employees. They’re too caught up in their office duties and worrying about the bottom dollar then the ambiance that’s presented to the public. I ran an advertisement on a back stretch of a racetrack for so many years and I’m almost 100% sure I never picked up a job from anybody that went to a race track.

    But as the ad read maybe if we clean the place up as they say put lipstick on a hooker. Maybe we could draw some of the locals in who may benefit the people who do put their names on the back stretch. Not the Coca-Cola’s of the world who basically pay a upfront fee and give a discount on their products. So they can put signage everywhere for something that people are already going to drink.

    We have a lot of problems here with our local race tracks fan attendance is falling off. We have a lot of people who have a lot to say about the owners. But if you look at the national size media in the current NASCAR issues it’s a dying thing. It’s very sad but it’s having an all walks of life not just car racing. I think a race car facility should be used for many things. A weekly or bi-weekly car cruise would bring in car enthusiast. Some type of entertainment for the kids and people who are necessarily not race fans but come to support their family. Maybe some sporting events I remember when I was a kid The Waterford Speedbowl had a rodeo for 3 days the place was packed. How about anybody else who has ideas to share with a local tracks at owners. It’s sad for this type of acreage to be just use one or two nights a week for car racing only. The modified division at local tracks erase with people who have good support in some money. What the Support classes have some people who don’t even work they spend every last dollar they have because of the passion of racing. So how does that help a facility other than the put butts in the stands. It really doesn’t but it is fun to watch the passion of those racers they love what they do and their Local Heroes to their fans.

    Track should be very happy that any fans they have they show up on a regular basis. They should be treated better maybe even comp for more participation maybe give him a card every nine races a free entry. Maybe each week pass out 10 or 15 buy one get one free passes to our loyal fans. Let’s get some new people here let’s clean the places up and let’s be thankful for all those who show up.

    That’s what I have to add I hope you all have a very blessed holiday with your families friends and Neighbors. Thanks for all the great racers and their support the mechanics the owners the parents in the wonderful fan base who continues to show through these hard times have a very merry Christmas and God bless you all.

  3. I really don’t think that is a fair assessment of Stafford or Thompson facilities. Even Waterford had been making big strides until this past season.

  4. darealgoodfella says

    Yeah, this all sounds good.

    Stafford did a bunch of renovations, Thompson too. Both are rather good looking facilities, certainly not eyesores. Waterford is a little rough.

    But we are trying to stop the departure of fans, and bring in new fans. I don’t see where the local short track scene is getting the attention of the public. I see no advertising or promotion at all. When I was getting the Courant delivered, I would see the little, tiny ads for local tracks. I stopped getting the Courant about 15 years ago. Haven’t seen a promotion for the local tracks since then. There is no mindshare going on at all.

    I often think that teams could bring their cars to local schools, malls, shopping centers, etc. for a static display, with some schedule information, decals, and track discount coupons. That should get some interest. Many years ago, the Ricky Craven/Tide car was on display here in town, and caused quite the stir. Plenty of people went to see it and brought the kids.

  5. with all due respect to Sean, and Shawn, while a professional appearance is always a good idea for any business, peeling, faded paint on a fence, stands, and guard rail, an overflowing trash barrel in a dirt parking lot, and weeds growing in a crack in the pavement midway behind the stands will NOT keep customers away, certainly not the customers who pay money to watch racing (Race fans)… While I agree visual improvements should always be a goal, there are a very large majority of us(and increasing every year) who cannot ignore the 800 pound elephant in the room, that track management won’t dare address(understandably) which is the ever changing demographic of competitors aka the YOUTH MOVEMENT…. while we all support, and applaud our future generation of racers, we also cannot deny that unless there is a direct connection to a particular young driver, as a family member, crew member, or (very well paid) vendor to Daddy, there is a rapidly declining interest in watching local, regional, and national racing anymore because the average adult race fan can no longer relate to the majority of drivers….. sorry, I understand the truth hurts, and I also understand there are some young drivers who are exciting to watch, but between the cruel monotony of SPEC engines, SPEC cars, SPEC bodies, SPEC rules, SPEC appearances, and young drivers, and child drivers, the “Ford fans”, the “Mopar fans”, the “Old timer fans”, the “Adult blue collar fan”, the innovation, and creativity fans” are all left in the dust… and while little daddy shows up every week with his stacker hauler, and a half dozen crew members, a half dozen family members in the stands, and an engine builder, and chassis builder to support their very lucrative child customer, and there are more and more and more teams in all divisions like this, but for every youth team, and every SPEC division, there are HUNDREDS of adult race fans no longer attending races… FACT….. While we all welcome young racers, NO ONE is maintaining the core of the sport, and hence racing is dying…

  6. Their has to be a wild factor when entering a race track. the sound of racing engines , the fumes of engine smoke , screaching of tires, drivers names that go along with the paint colors of their race cars….Race fans always want to have a good guy and a bad guy to root for. We are losing shorts tracks across the country. Even cup racing are losing fans, look at homestead the last race of the year empty seats.why is this happening. I think the bull rings of the racing world put on the best show so where are the fans ………..stay tuned……….. I will have thoughts on that…..

  7. darealgoodfella says

    What that guy Billy said!

    🤗 👏 👍

  8. Bob is right.It’s the sound of the engines, the colors of the cars, the drivers and competition.The fact that race tracks have weeds for me only adds to the experience.Same story when I was a kid and run down tracks on the island were jam packed 3 nites a week.

  9. I’m glad people are commenting and sharing their thoughts. I honestly respect everybody’s opinions and I hope everybody can maintain that in these comment fields.

    Viva race fan- Legitimate points. Multi use facilities, fan entertainment, marketing, and business partnerships are all things I will be addressing in future releases of this statement and I might even reference some of your thoughts in those sections. You mention NASCAR issues… to be honest I’m not too concerned with them. I mean, yes… if NASCAR shows a decline in fan base it doesn’t help local racing. But I think we have the ability to overcome that. Big league NASCAR is a much different product. Fortunately they give local race tracks a lot of freedom in how they operate their facilities and I strongly feel short track racing can thrive without depending on big league NASCAR fan base. I appreciate you sharing thoughts and wish you a Merry Christmas as well.

    Ken- I think a lot of people are getting mixed up with where I’m aiming my blog/statement. Although I attend CT asphalt tracks more than any others I like to travel around. There aren’t many tracks in New England that I haven’t attended. I’ve also been checking out more and more dirt tracks these past few years. My friend Max and I traveled across the country on motorcycles where we visited multiple facilities (we actually attended two short track events in Nevada in one day). The ideas I’ve compiled here are overall discoveries at a variety of tracks. I’ve slowly compiled ideas over the past handful of years. I have multiple notebooks filled with thoughts to create a more popular sport. Sorry for the drawn out response here but I probably should have clarified that I’m not directly writing about the three tracks I’m closest to.

    darealgoodfella- More legitimate points. Advertising, promoting, and marketing are key elements for sure and there are always ways to improve. I will touch on some of my thoughts in a later section of this blog/statement. Here’s my main thought on advertising/promoting… my bigger concern is giving fans an experience to remember, something to brag about to their colleagues, share with their friends online. What I’m saying is even if we get the fans through the front gates for an event… Is it astonishing enough for them to come back the following week? I’m leaning more towards no and in order to grow we have to make the answer: “ABSOLUTELY! YES!” Here’s a thought from my own personal experiences that makes me unsure about gaining new followers… When somebody asks me “Hey I would love to try racing, what do I need to get involved and how much will it cost?” My response is usually “Listen, I don’t think you want to get involved because even beginner divisions aren’t affordable anymore.” I am honestly embarrassed to admit I’m not a great advocate for getting new people involved in the sport. But at the same time I don’t want people to dive in head first then get frustrated. That tidbit is slightly off topic and I will touch on “beginner divisions” in a future section but I just wanted to continue what you mention about the difficulty to bring in new racing enthusiasts. Thank you for sharing your thoughts darealgoodfella.

    Billy- Here’s where I will respectfully disagree with you.. A lot of my statement has to do with luring the next generation of fans. From what I see… the lackluster appearance of a short track DOES keep the next generation fan away. If you look up “characteristics of millenials” (you might not have to even look it up to know) you will see that they are entitled. They’re quick to judge and want to see clean facilities or else they’re turned off. I know it’s frustrating to think we should cater to these types of characters but do we want the sport to grow? Adapt or die, right? Quick story: I took a girl for a first date to a race track I had yet to visit myself. The track upkeep was pretty ugly. I couldn’t help but feel slightly embarrassed when she told me she contemplated “holding it” because of the bathroom situation. This didn’t make me, the track, or the sport all together look like anything special. Should I have just kicked her to the curb right then and there because she can’t handle a dirty bathroom? Maybe LOL. But I’ve come to realize that cleanliness is overlooked at many tracks and I lack confidence in bringing new people into the sport (again, I hate to admit that). Anyway, I understand your thoughts of a disconnection with the average adult. A large issue here is the decreasing population.. a lot of folks are unhappy with the product and are walking away. Right now it seems that the only people holding the sport together are the ones who are invested in it. My whole theory is that it can come back around. We can create a more promising product that will keep the more mature racers on the track because they enjoy it too much. That will help maintain the core of the sport. Hopefully I cover a lot of these topics in future sections. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Billy.

    Again, thanks everybody for sharing.

  10. there are not many kids who are interested in cars anymore, which is a big part of racing. They are not interested in any sport events. Baseball, football all have attendance problems. Just go to a car show, not a whole lot of teenagers. I always thought a big part my interest was when I was little you would see race cars at gas stations, I would see the cars in bays or towed to the track. I grew up in Norwalk so I would see Jimmy Smiths Danbury car right there. So it is all kind of hidden now.

  11. The younger crowd needs to be engaged and involved; they need an “up close and personal” experience to hook them, much like probably many of us had in some way back in our childhood. Some kids just think it’s cars running in circles and have no concept of the technology, engineering, strategy, and skills involved. Maybe have a busload of kids show up from a local high school on a “race day” field trip. Get them in the pits. Get a driver from each division to make a short presentation about their car and get them asking questions. Talk about horsepower, straightaway and cornering speeds, and how to get involved. Get them hanging out near the fence at the end of a straight to see up close what the cars are doing going through the corners Then the students can view some racing from the stands with a better understanding of what’s happening on the track, and hopefully be interested enough to come back. If you can do some of those every spring, some of them may become regular spectators and future racers.

  12. darealgoodfella says

    Back when many of the commenters here were kids, we had Aurora HO cars, slot cars, and we lived in a high performance car-centric society. The GTO, Challenger, Charger, Camaro, Mustang, Cobra, Cougar, ‘Vette, etc. were CARS! That is gone. That hi-po car-centric mindset is gone, and that is what automatically steered people towards motors sports. Those fans are aging out and the sport needs a way to introduce and attract new fans. But the sport now has to work for it, the toys and street cars are not there like it was to get the kids and families interested to then go to a track.

    The key here is that the sport has to now work for it. That goes all the way up to the sanctioning bodies. NASCAR needs to wield its heft to help the local tracks.

  13. Is this from Billy hitting a nerve with anyone?
    ” between the cruel monotony of SPEC engines, SPEC cars, SPEC bodies, SPEC rules, SPEC appearances, and young drivers, and child drivers, the “Ford fans”, the “Mopar fans”, the “Old timer fans”, the “Adult blue collar fan”, the innovation, and creativity fans” are all left in the dust… and while little daddy shows up every week with his stacker hauler, and a half dozen crew members, a half dozen family members in the stands, and an engine builder, and chassis builder to support their very lucrative child customer, and there are more and more and more teams in all divisions like this, but for every youth team, and every SPEC division, there are HUNDREDS of adult race fans no longer attending races…”

    How about this from SF 22. Myopic stereotyping or challenging reality?

    “If you look up “characteristics of millenials” (you might not have to even look it up to know) you will see that they are entitled. They’re quick to judge and want to see clean facilities or else they’re turned off. I know it’s frustrating to think we should cater to these types of characters but do we want the sport to grow?”

  14. Fast eddie ( rite on )

  15. Old man racer says

    Some kids don’t even try to get a driver’s license at 16 anymore. Imagine that 20 -30 yrs. ago?
    Also, I will never forget the look on my son’s face the first time he went into a bathroom and saw a trough!
    Where else have you seen one of those lately!

  16. Worthwhile topic. Short tracks across the country. Wrong audience. Maybe Speed51.
    This is racedayct, not racedayAmerica. That shabby appearance referred to. First impressions. That’s not in Ct. Not even Waterford. Wrong starting point. The starting point is what do you add on to fairly presentable facilities in Ct to attract a new audience.
    Claiming to want to attract the next generation then basically insulting them. First it sounds like dad complaining about hippies. And as a strategy of insulting those who you are targeting? Doesn’t seem smart especially if they stumble onto the comment. This geezers view is there is absolutely nothing wrong with millennials other then they have different priorities like pretty much every generation.
    Promotion. What is that today? Everyone goes to their respective corners to hear and see what they want and the choices are endless. The Courant, local radio and TV, traditional media outlets. Forget it. Wrong demographic. . You figure out a cost effective strategy for racing that works and you’ll make a ton of money. It doesn’t exist anymore.
    Outreach-always a winner. Number one ban enclosed trailers. If you can’t tell the difference between a lawn service and a modified you just erased a fundamental grass roots and free marketing opportunity. Better visuals at the track as well for kids peering through the fence and imagining what could be.
    Hybrid events. Carnivals, mid show concerts of regional, millennial focused name bands and things to keep to kids happy that don’t like racing. Stafford that means opening up what used to be the ground floor meeting area and fill it full of things kids like today.
    Alternate facility use. Monster trucks, swap and sells, flea markets, enduro’s, demo derby’s, spectator races, road course racing, cars shows. Oh wait they’re doing that already. Circle track racing is only a part of their revenue stream you say and its pulling it’s weight you say. OK then. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  17. The Danbury Racearena was “The most beautiful racing facility in the Northeast”, Paul Baker would welcome the crowd with those words every Saturday night before they tore down the fairgrounds to build a useless mall. Stafford does a nice job with their facility as well as Thompson, Waterford is making strides. We go to Beech Ridge each summer during vacation and its well maintained. All tracks are better with the roar of engines, burning rubber and race fuel exhaust!!
    Merry Christmas everyone

  18. Totally agree with Sean these facilities are not hurting for money by any means Stafford looks the same as it did 20 years ago. But race fans will continue to fill these venues as long as there’s good racing the pealing paint,weeds, and atrocious restrooms aside race fans are race fans.

  19. I totally agree here that all businesses should make their product, including appearance, a priority. People really DO notice these things.

    As a part-time Mainer these days and drifting further that direction all the time, you are far more likely to see me at Beech Ridge than at a CT oval these days. As Scott notes, they do an excellent job with their facility and program.

    Perhaps Sean will touch on this, but I notice many here in the comments are noting the need for increased visibility. As a kid, I frequently went to Worcester, MA to visit my family. Virtually every garage along the way had a race car parked OUT in front of the shop – loved the ’57 Chevy race cars! I make my parent’s lives a living hell to get me to a race track. Now, all the cars are locked away and hidden in transport to the track in big white (ugly) boxes. I get the convenience for the teams, but we are missing valuable rolling advertisement for racing with enclosed haulers.

    That said, now get off my damn lawn!

  20. I see a couple of other things going on. Look at the popularity of some of the newer motor sports out ther, like GRC and Formula Drift. Look at the tuner culture that’s out there. To say that the younger generation isn’t involved with cars is not accurate, in my opinion. Autocross attracts many of the younger crowd, who will take 240Z’s and Civic hatches and mod the heck out of them for competitive purposes. Oval track is just one form of motor sports entertainment out there. I feel like we need to look at what is working in some of these other areas and try to adapt. Oval racing as we know it now is probably not oval racing 20 years from now, and if we want it to survive, we’re going to need to adapt.

    Even though our CT tracks are for the most part thriving, we need the vision to insure that they will continue to survive, and I think that this is Sean’s point.

  21. Doug- Didn’t mean to come off as insulting. Remember, I’m a millennial myself so any characteristic I speak about is in reference to myself. I’m writing this because I speak from their prospective. These are the people we have to get to our tracks and these are the people we have to make an appealing product to. I like your mentioning of open trailers. Banning enclosed would be tough lol. But definitely embrace and push for open trailers. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Doug.

    Scott- I hear more and more stories about Danbury and how great it was and plan on referencing the Racearena in future sections of this blog/statement. We’ve pulled out a handful of old programs and they’re enjoyable to flip through. I grew up going to Riverside on Saturday nights and the fair type atmosphere is like no other. Merry Christmas!

  22. I agree that part of the issue is the millennial generation. A good portion of them don’t know what an honest days work is. When I was in high school in the 80’s, I used to work 70-75 hours a week during the summer picking corn, and then be at the races at night. A lot of high school kids used to work with me back then. It was good money and gave you a good work ethic. Today’s kids don’t want to be bothered doing stuff like that. All the farm help nowadays is migrant workers. This kind of segues into this generation of racers. It’s true that a lot of kids are racing, but they’re drivers. You don’t see a lot of kids on pit crews. And when kids wreck their car, it’s usually daddy that’s fixing the car while the kid either walks away or sits in the trailer. Back in the day when a driver wrecked he was right in the middle of it fixing it or help loading it up.

  23. Race fans are race fans and will be until the grandstands fall down beneath them. Would like to see tracks make safety improvements

  24. Several years ago I went to a track in Va and they had a good handle on things. They had a weekly thing going is to get a ride with their favorite driver (Kids only). a different class rotated so it was a new class every 3-4 weeks Most likely can’t do that any more because of insurance rules now.
    The admission tickets were in the 10-12 dollars (adult and kids ticket was 2 dollars). with every kid with an adult they got a ticket that was good for a hot dog or burger, small fries and small soft drink with that and did not matter how many kids with a paying adult. Almost every race the place was nearly sold out .That is the problem as I see it as the tracks over price the tickets and people can’t afford to go to their local track.

  25. darealgoodfella says

    Yeah, the open air trough urinals at Waterford just make me want to go back.

  26. darealgoodfella says

    For those of you complaining that kids don’t know the value of work… think about this. Years ago, a tradesperson (carpenter, electrician, mechanic, ,,,) made a good living. Could afford a house, kids, etc. Now a trade/vocational career doesn’t cut it. Those same trades today do not allow a person to have the same standard of living as the same trades fifty or more years ago. It’s that simple.

  27. The entire focus of this thread and we that write comments in it is oval track racing in and around Ct. It’s our common interest. That doesn’t mean young people are not interested in motorsports as RichC said. Nor does it mean millennials who may have other interests are defective in some way. The goal isn’t generation culture change it’s making inroads at the margins. Sure would be nice to hear from the management of Stafford on some of this. Then again it may turn into one of those, you can’t handle the truth deals.

  28. Is it time to drill down yet? If the area of concern is Ct shouldn’t the suggestions be more focused. Thompson’s made their choice. They have their niche, it’s limited for oval track racing concentrating on big events and the road course crowd. Many of us love the Speedbowl but their worry isn’t expanding their base, it’s whether there base will have a place to go. Aren’t we talking Stafford? And does Stafford want to change anything? I’m thinking they’re satisfied with minimal changes and not straying too far from the status quo. Locally is there really any point to this discussion other then therapy?

  29. They have urinals now also idiot. Stafford and Thompson have the troughs too. You don’t go there either I guess.

  30. Thompson and Stafford have had renovations done. But the new catch fence, scoreboard, walls and updated bathrooms at Waterford don’t count genius?

  31. To me it’s pretty obvious that costs (money)is the biggest issue. You want fans to show up – lower the admission. You want teenagers to show up – give them a food item ticket with each lower cost admission. You want more cars – lower the cost of competing or bigger payouts- less divisions would help car counts per divisions. Nobody wants to watch heat races with 6 cars and features averaging 14 cars = Boring long nights for both the fans and competitors – get the races over by 9:00 and then open the pit gates for the fans to see the cars up close before they hide away in the enclosed trailers.

  32. Kid’s 5 and under free at Stafford maxim410. $5 6 to 14 years of age. The fairy ride over, a killer.

  33. Kids are free at Seekonk and Loudon. $5 or so at Thompson and Stafford. I believe kids are still free at Beech Ridge too. Not sure that is the issue.

    Stafford has a new bathroom going in. Seekonk and Thompson have upgraded there’s in recent yrs. Not sure that is the issue. Maybe for the ladies??

    Curb appeal? Not many reasons to be driving through Thompson or Stafford unless you are going to a race. Places like Seekonk, Star and Monadnock are sort of hidden away. All look ok to me though. Not sure that is the issue.

    The modified touring series ticket prices are an issue but still enough fans attend to make it work for the tracks. I mean, Tri Track events costing almost as much as WMT events seems wrong.

    There a generational issues for sure. As mentioned, kids aren’t into cars, have short attention spans and endless entertainment options. Not sure how to fix that. The NFL has the same issues.

  34. Just Wondering says

    Steve, great thoughts, how about taking it one step further by keeping the beer stands and maybe one concession stand open after the events for a couple of hours and a discount? It would give the racers and teams a chance to unwind from the evenings events and mingle with the fans after the races. Maybe a free hot dog or beverage for the drivers would help attendance at the after race festivities. I have been known to by my favorite drivers a beer or two back in the day and think the interaction with the fans, especially the younger ones would go along way in making the racetracks the choice to go instead of the movies. If the tracks could price themselves at a price point below the movie theaters I think they would also have a winner when it come to parents deciding what to do on a Friday or Saturday night. Finally as I have been preaching hard over the last few months, it is time to limit the special high priced shows that IMO keep many families from attending.

  35. Just Wondering says

    NH Mark, I don’t think you have to worry about the Modified Touring Series ticket prices this year. It seems the MTS has been kicked to the curb by every racetrack that has posted their schedule so far. IMO no “single touring series” is worth more than $25 for an adult ticket even if it if God’s gift to modified racing the WMT. There is only one event I can think of that makes sense that has a higher ticket price is the $40 Wings n Wheels ticket at the Speedbowl where you get to see ISMA, VMRS, NEMA and more all on the same night.

  36. Maxim,if your talking Riverhead, the kids tickets come with a coupon for free hot dog, fries and a drink.I know I sound like a broken record but hear we go again.A hundred bucks for a family of four on a Saturday nite is pretty good deal around NY metro.A great dinner for four in a diner in PA is under fifty bucks.At home your lucky to spend $50 for two people.It’ a totally different world.On L.I. its hard enough to pay taxes and other expenses.I’m sure they wrestle with holding prices as best they can.My grandkids have a hoot at the races at Riverhead and so do I.They are already race fans and if they are like many kids they will be for life.They see non stop action all night long and love the legends, figure 8 and the mighty mods.We arrive at 5p.m.and are usually out of there b4 10.They don’t realize there is a problem with mod car counts.At the same time there are 100 cars in the pits.All in all a great summer Saturday nite.I am convinced that pricing is not the issue with the problems we have been talking about.

  37. The simplest explanation to me is that America’s love affair with the automobile is basically over. So unless we start racing German luxury sedans or SUV’s and continue to race cars that look like nothing we love to drive on the road, which is what put the “stock” in stock cars to begin with, people just can’t relate to the product on the track. Let’s add to that the miserable car counts in many divisions, the multiple divisions that fill the pits and prolong racing programs insufferably with meaningless qualifying heats so they make up on the back gate what doesn’t come through the front, and the fact that even street stocks show up with enclosed trailers putting the cost of racing out of reach for many. If anyone can fix all that, racing will thrive. Go to any car cruise on a Friday or Saturday night and you are sure to find gray-hairs like me who left racing a long time ago when we could no longer build what was raced. So now we build hot rods . And you’l also find many former race fans at these event s who became disenchanted with the sport for the very reasons cited here. We all acknowledge that millennials have a short attention span. So why do we insist on continuing to run 3 plus hour racing programs. They don’t care about rest rooms or food concessions, they want to be connected to the event via their phone somehow so they are engaged real time. Yet no one is investing in that technology. Frankly I don’t think this is a weekly spectator sport anymore unless tracks are hosting a variety of series to attract a wider audience. I think Thompson has the right business model for what short track racing is today. Local racing has got to become a hobby sport again to build car counts and a fan following, not a mini version of Cup where the most money wins and you have to buy everything you race to be competitive. Back in the day there was a sense of pride and personal satisfaction in watching what you built kick everyone else’s ass. The days of Lenny Boehler or Bobby Judkins (Preece’s grandfather) are long gone, never to return. I doubt it’s the same feeling today only knowing you can write a bigger check than the next guy. When yo go from 40 plus Modified car counts and 4 -5 thousand people in the stands every week to what local acing has become today, I’d submit it’s hardly a model of progress. Just my 2 cents .

  38. I meant all modified racing tours in general. Not MTS in particular. My bad, I know MTS is dead. I wrote that the wrong way.

    There is also a very distinct fan base. Some are weekly followers of their local track. Others, like me generally follow the tour(s) of their choice.

    I do agree that $25 is about right for an adult ticket. To their credit, Tri Track seems to have fallen back to $25. The WMT for $25 at Loudon is the best deal going. The other events are at or pushing $40 and that makes people think twice.They get the crowds though so it ain’t all broke.

  39. Comes back to the all mighty dollar. The admission prices are too high especially in the pits. If you plan on racing a car you have the price of the car then the cost to run each week hopefully you don’t wreck. But also you need a crew and it’s hard to find guys willing to spend that kind of money knowing they will be working on the car and in most cases the only race they’ll see is their own class. Don’t forget it’s allot of work to field a car and the work don’t end when your checkered flag falls. Also I think the some tracks could use updating like in safety stuff. Maybe have free Wi-Fi for the fansand possibly package deals for the season or certain races to make it affordable

  40. There are a lot of comments about high prices. I’m not seeing it. Stafford’s front gate ticket was around $6.50 in 1980. That’s $19.46 in todays dollars and last year a Friday night show was $17.50. Suggestions to lower prices rank up there with unicorn sightings. Asking any business to take a loss in the short run for a gain in attendance that may or may not happen is unfair when it’s not your money to gamble. If you have a pie chart of all the problems with local racing, the ticket price piece would be the sliver you have at Christmas dinner when you’re on a diet.

  41. In the way of unicorns and fairy dust my vision for Stafford. LLM, SK Lights and SK’s only. After the heats entertainment completely unrelated to racing on a center stage.

  42. In terms of upgrades, tracks are maxed out on ticket prices. Any upgrades comes out of the profit margin. Probably why it took Stafford this long to do bathrooms. Stafford is the crown jewel of short track facilities. Thompson, Seekonk, Beech Ridge are right behind. Star, Monadnock and Lee are all quality facilities. There are some nice ones in VA and NC, New Smyrna is nice too. Point being, these tracks around here are the bar in terms of asphalt racing. We all have it good. Outside of glaring improvements needed, it may be hard for tracks to justify the cost of some improvements. Lights are a big one for me. Seekonk and Star could use new ones but I understand why it hasn’t happened yet.

    Here in NH, Star gets a lot free and at cost help from race teams and their sponsors to upgrade the track and facility. They don’t have the cash flow to go all out so they do what they can. Over the last few years though, the place has really transformed into a nice facility.

    Most tracks have discounted season passes. Teams need to take advantage. I’m usually at a different track every week so I pay full gate price. If i think an event is overpriced, I don’t go. The older I get I see first hand how difficult it is for many to pony up for a tour type event when they have a mortgage and kids to pay for. That’s the part of the fan base the tracks need to work hard to keep.

    I will say this about Cup. There are no personalities or characters anymore. Everyone is dry and boring and politically correct. A kid watching that isn’t inclined to bug his parents to take him to the local track. A kid who watched Gronk play last week might be a whole lot more excited to want to go see him in person. There is a trickle down effect from Cup. Ironically enough, It cost more to see a WMT race in MA or CT than it does a Cup race almost anywhere. The real litmus test for ticket prices will be for a track to actually charge $15 or $20 and see how the crowd compares. Not sure any track would be willing to try it though.

  43. So you’ve been to every track in New England except Waterford?

  44. Yes, I have been to every New England track. I hit most of them at least once a year. That includes Waterford but I don’t see myself going back there.

  45. Then you would know that Waterford is as quality of a track as some you mentioned. If you want to discount it because of the owner fine. How can you deny the various major improvements that have been done the past couple years? Try putting yourself above daidiot. You like to remind us that there are plenty of tracks across New England to see a race. Of course there are. But why would I want to travel out of state when some of the best short track racing is 30 minutes away.

  46. Bottom line we as racers and fans must continue to support our local tracks or they WILL shut down. But maybe some car owners and drivers should meet with the track owners and voice the concerns that face us maybe change will happen then.

  47. That was a great comment from NH Mark giving a perspective on a traveling fan that enjoys seeing events at tracks all across New England. But most of use are local fans and I relate to rich. From my home in Enfield, Stafford is an easy 35 minutes on the back roads and a decades long passion age and finances permitting.
    I imagine being in a position like rich with the possibility of losing my favorite track and it’s hard to accept others being so glib with it’s future. Especially when they have no vested interest. Travel, sure you can do that but most of us don’t. I get the folks that hate the whole Bemer thing but will always come down on the side of track survival as long as justice is being served. In the case of Bemer I’m convinced it is.
    I did go to the final show last year, the track did look great, the racing was outstanding and if you want to scrap all that I disagree.

  48. Doug- I’m hung up on a statement you made. “The goal isn’t generation culture change it’s making inroads at the margins.” When you say generational culture change I see that as adaptation. When you say inroads at the margins I’m guessing you mean profitability, income-expenses. So wouldn’t altering a product to captivate the audience be a direct relationship with increasing profitability? I might not be understanding what you’re saying.

    As far as posting this to… I don’t have much to say about that. I told Shawn that I put together a blog, asked if he’d be interested in sharing, and he said sure. I have decided to not directly identify specific race tracks unless it was to commend a speedway for doing something well. If a race track (CT or out of state) is able to pull anything at all from these blogs/statement then thumbs up. If not, well I’ll have to try another approach. I’ve been nervous about publicly posting these because I don’t know if it’s a productive method. I’m in too deep now lol.

    However, I feel strongly about these topics. I’ve spent a lot of time studying trends, reading publications on marketing, talking with people in the industry, and putting together business plans. I have about 9 more releases so I guess we’ll see how it everybody feels at the finish line in 9 weeks.

    Thanks again for all the feedback. If I don’t comment on here until after the holiday I hope everybody has a Merry Christmas!

  49. What is your goal for writing this series Sean? What do you hope to achieve? Does it have anything to do with improving the race programs with any track in or around Connecticut?

  50. It’s a vision statement. Like I mentioned in the first release… I’m suggesting promoters to refocus their approach. I see a popularity decline in the sport and I don’t see enough movement to reverse it. Tracks are in a popularity decline from 15+ years ago. Again, I’m not identifying specific facilities. Would you say some or any of the CT tracks are part of that statistic? If so, then maybe some of my vision could benefit them.

  51. Check out Boman gray ( think I spelled right ) speedway in North Carolina mod show is standing room only on show Nite ……People are rooting for their favorite driver ….great bull ring ; fans love it ….SK mod tour would bring new life to the sport ……

  52. My reference to generational culture change is more a complaint about my generation finding fault with millennials. It’s a cliche and a bad one since virtually every generation finds fault with their successors.
    With regard to the articles topic it’s not for we oldies to wish younger folks take a greater interest in racing genre we value. It’s up to race facilities to make the changes on the margins that the younger set value without turning we old timers away. That’s where you come in.
    Read your article again Sean and it’s pretty terrific. May take several reads to grasp all of what you are laying out. My problem being a yokel with local loyalties it’s too big to grasp. Nautical themes for race track near the ocean. Whoa. Could be but how does that put more fans in the seats of Stafford on Friday night? See, I think too small.
    Please keep your series coming at full speed. It’s expansive yes, perhaps confusing to many of we 1 or 2 track fans but as you can see it generates some really intense interest and insightful comments. Maybe we need a little more vision of what could be and a lot less of wishing it could be what it once was.

  53. Doug I can understand where you’re coming from. I’m sure some of my thoughts may appear strange whether it’s my wording or just untraditional thoughts. I like to think big… I want short track racing to propel far beyond what it was like even in the “golden years”. Many think that’s a stretch, I don’t. Either way I’ll keep at it!

  54. Surely you can’t miss the irony. The critique of millennials is that they routinely cast aside traditional norms and carve a path they think is best for them. Tiny houses and renting vs home ownership with mortgage slavery. Cars and drivers licenses, who needs them? Yes to quality of life and no to employers that could care less about them. Am I getting any of this right?
    And here you are taking on a tradition based sport in this forum dominated by old guys doing exactly what we oldies find annoying. Thinking outside the box, visionary, I like it.
    One request. If you have any knowledge of the success of dirt tracks and what they are doing right vs asphalt and can integrate it into your articles that would be great.
    Happy holidays!

  55. Jerry Fascione says

    When the racing at Stafford is as good as it is, who cares how the place looks. Stafford is no dump by any means they do a nice job of keep the place up. The attraction is a the action on the track not the facility

  56. Viva race fan says

    I think a great experiment would be something similar to they do down in South Carolina. Advertise prior to an event at the Speedbowl or Stafford I don’t think Thompson would be on board. $10 entry to the stands in $2 hot dogs. Try this for 2 weeks the few people that will come will make up for the regulars and it should all equal out but if the experiment works the place will be packed and people will leave there and tell everybody what a wonderful time they had. But you have to have management or owner take a chance and see if this would work. There’s so many other options in my head to try some marketing ideas but I don’t have connections with these people. In the past I reached out to Shawn M. And he didn’t think anything of my opinion. I think somebody needs to go around to all the local car shows, summer camp grounds, the beaches and anywhere else people gather. I don’t know what the rule is being behind putting flyers on people’s cars but I think there’s some stipulations to that. But I think it was good fans with the right work in the right owner slash management this experiment would be neat to try. The crowds are not very well in the beginning of the year do to children in school maybe that would be a good time to try this. Even once a month to see if it’ll catch on. Well that’s just food for thought sitting here watching Talladega Nights waiting to the spring gets here to see what are local short tracks are going to do. Merry Christmas everyone

  57. As a car owner and fan in ct – I must say going to Fonda on a regular Saturday night s few years ago was very entertaining. The track was not pretty but very rich in tradition, 4 heats two Consi’s in each modified division was a breath of fresh air to me. Cheap addmision and food was also nice. I also went to Fulton speedway to see the Outlaws last year – although the admission was $35 it was nice to wait in line to get in, and long lines at the concessions (loved the butter and salted potatoes) – I can’t remember so many fans at a race track in a long time. Another dirt track I liked was Eldora, nothing but cornfields, one blinking light in the town, turn left and there it was – roaring engines, smell of burning fuel, Tony Stewart, Kenny Wallace and Ken Schrader competing was awesome- three concessions guys carrying a cooler of beer through the stands handing out free beer. I say to promoters to visit these thr

  58. Three tracks and take notes

  59. ,Race tracks are losing old fans more than new fans ;a large percent of old fans like myself don’t really care about the sport anymore . I still love the sport but it’s really getting hard to watch. I don’t want to see anymore tracks close but they will ,The sport needs a makeover real quick. Once a track goes there won’t be another to take its place….. R I P riverside park great memories….

  60. The kids are grown, no grandchildren so it’s just me a racedayct with the snow falling on Christmas day.
    In the 60’s we came out of our farm towns in the Litchfield County hills to watch our neighbors race at Danbury Race Arena. With only competition from movie theaters and bowling the excitement of racing had no equal. It was electric and the stands were usually full. Maybe that’s why that track in the middle of a corn field Steve mentions is so successful. But here in Ct the amount of choices we have on a weekend for entertainment is staggering. Not to mention the entertainment most carry in their pockets that they can bring out any time they want and watch anything they want.

  61. Charge $10 as an experiment to expose more people to an exciting sport. Sounds good but here’s why it’s a bad idea. I’ve said before the Friday night show ticket compared to 1980 is already undervalued considering inflation. Generally speaking undervaluing your products costs, creating false expectations and impossible value then taking it away is rarely a good marketing strategy in the long run.
    In 1987 Stafford eliminated the modifieds and elevated the SK’s to the premier division. It wasn’t some extraordinary vision Jack Arute had it was survival. The cost of modifieds was out of control and the handwriting was on the wall. As a season ticket holder for the new format that included SK’s and Late Models i can testify that it was a fiasco at the start with endless wrecks on the track and empty stands. Stafford will never make a wholesale change like that again or experiment with a $10 ticket price simply because they are fearful of bold moves and rightfully so. They’ve tapped into something with the SK’s and Lights that works so why mess with what’s working.

  62. “I think a great experiment would be something similar to they do down in South Carolina. Advertise prior to an event at the Speedbowl or Stafford I don’t think Thompson would be on board. $10 entry to the stands in $2 hot dogs.”

    Discounts are offered at Stafford all the time.

    On a regular basis, Stafford has promotions for $10 or less tickets. Including:
    – BFF Night. Buy one get one free. That’s $8.75 each for adults!
    – Military Appreciation Night – $10 to anyone with proof of service
    – Uniform Night (Month?) – Kids in in any sort of sport, scout, etc… uniform get in free. I can remember it lasting the entire month of May at least once.
    – First Responders Night – $10 admission to PD, FD, EMS, etc…

    They also have recently had bands on the midway, BBQ’s, food specials, fireworks… The fireworks displays are far longer and better than I might have expected, too.

    Let’s also remember that Stafford hosts the Wicked Big Meet, Monster Jam, mud bogs, and several marketplaces.

    Maybe the cheap ticket should include prepaid Uber to and from the track?

  63. Alright Steve’s back! The guy stuck in 1970!

    Free beer at Eldora? Get Real! Maybe you had one to many and forgot you paid for them…

  64. Yes free beer – not all night, just one pass through….nice of Tony to do that.

  65. Pretty sure Barry wins this round for most timely and informative comment. Other events including the two Ty-Rods swap meets that are hugely popular.

  66. Many great ideas and comments expressed here. Three of the most successful weekly tracks I have ever attended (Danbury, Bowman Gray in NC, and Grandview in Pa) encouraged something during their shows that no one has touched on yet i believe. They encouraged both the drivers and the fans to mingle AFTER the night’s races. Much like the much ballyhooed semi-annual “pit parties” at Stafford and Waterford, but those tracks encouraged it after every race. At Danbury, all the cars would park in a designated area of the Fairgrounds after the races and fans were able to meet and greet all their heroes. Chick Stockwell and Don Lajoie and Jimmy Smith, etc. all there to talk to their fans and give autographs to the youngsters. When the checkered flag fell on the feature, the night was just beginning for the hundreds of fans who looked forward to the post-race mingling. Today, Bowman Gray allows fans into the pits post-race and the fans fill the pits each night as if it is an important part of the night’s race program. Likewise, Grandview. from the start of the first heat race of the evening, has the announcer encouraging the fans to stick around after the races and meet their favorite drivers. So much more interesting for the fans than seeing the drivers in the mad dash to leave the track after their race is complete. What do these three tracks have in common? Huge weekly crowds. Rabid fans who don’t want to miss a single race. It was once remarked about Danbury that if a Cup race with Petty and Yarborough or an Indy Car race with Foyt and Andretti were being held on a Saturday night a mile down the road, the fans would still pack Danbury that night rather than miss a 25 lap feature battle between Stockwell, Lajoie, Jimmy Smith, Webb, and Giardina.
    Just my two cents, thanks for listening.

  67. Mike- Absolutely agree with you. As a youth I remember Riverside Speedway was that way. Not sure if racers were encouraged to stick around or if it’s just what they did. But nobody would load up their cars. They’d hang out and converse. I mentioned towards the end of the blog about some race tracks experimenting with “no trailer move” rules which prohibits teams from loading up and leaving until a certain amount of time goes by after the final checkered. But I like your thoughts of the encouragement… The announcer actually pushing for people to mingle after the races. Excellent points. Thank you for sharing.

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