But They’re Trying Hard: When Did Short Track Racing Become So Soft?

Editors Note: Immediately following the publishing of this column the Facebook posting referenced in the column was removed from Facebook.

Social media. In short track racing – like in all walks of life – it can be something powerful and positive and also evil and devastating.

February 18 marks the 40thanniversary of one of the moments that many point to for helping to put NASCAR on the map and force stock car racing into the lives of many Americans.

Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison wrecking each other in a battle for the lead on the last lap of the 1979 Daytona 500 and then getting in a fight on the track on live television. 

Ever wonder what that moment would be like if it happened today? Wonder what the take would be on social media?

Think Donnie Allison’s mom would get on Facebook to shun the Yarborough defenders? Would there be people on Twitter saying the story shouldn’t be talked about because it brings to much negativity to racing? 

It’s certainly a curious subject to ponder. 

Though it seems, when it comes to the topic of short track racing and social media, it always opens an interesting debate. 

The examination of the supposed ills wrought by social media on short track racing proves to be an all too regular debate that rages endlessly. And it seems that a scary trend has overtaken much of the conversations. 

It feels like short track racing has reached this seemingly painful plateau in its existence where entirely too many people who are deeply involved seem to operate with the philosophy that everything surrounding the sport must be sugarcoated. 

Objective opinions must be sugarcoated. Negative opinions must be sugarcoated. If facts are negative, then they must be hidden. If news isn’t good then it shouldn’t be reported. 

Every topic, every opinion, every observation, they must be positive it seems, and if not, the Sugarcoat Police will scream that someone is hurting short track racing by talking about the negatives. 

The reality is – in everything, not just short track racing – putting a focus on what’s wrong can help serve to fix an issue. 

Screaming that only positive opinions should be shared or disseminated through social media is like putting duct tape on a leaky pipe. It might make the dripping stop for a little while, but the problem isn’t going to be fixed and the effects of that problem will only grow worse. Covering up the negatives and only spewing false positives will only to continue to compound the real issues until they grow to be unfixable. 

Wednesday night at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway, Tour Type Modified division driver Calvin Carroll had his struggles. The 2017 Whelen Modified Tour Rookie of the Year was involved in an inordinate amount of incidents on the track, as was his younger brother Nikki Carroll. 

During the event, on a well trafficked Facebook page focusing on Tour Type Modified Racing, and individual posed the question: “Anyone else think Calvin Carroll is a train wreck?” 

What followed was the masses stampeding to vilify the person that would dare pose such a question. 

By Thursday afternoon the nine word post on Facebook about Calvin Carroll had 148 comments below it, most of them calling out the person for daring to criticize Carroll. 

The fact is, Carroll had a bad night and had a big hand in turning Wednesday’s John Blewett III Memorial 76 into a caution marred ritual. 

The most common response to the original question posed was one that seemingly has become unique to professional short track racing, and one that is just painfully stale. 

The some semblance of the remark: “If you can do better why don’t you try it?” 

Take a look at social media rantings involving other sports and rarely will you see someone responding to someone else’s criticism of a player by saying: “If you can do better why don’t you try it?” 

You know why? Because it doesn’t make any sense. Fans and observers voice opinions about say, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, but nobody sinks to the “If you can do better why don’t you try it?” And why? Because it’s not even a realistic argument. 

And making that statement in regards to a short track racer only cheapens the image of motorsports to somehow figuratively continue to push the notion that anyone can show up and play. No, these are supposed to be the top level best of the best Modified drivers in the world. These are supposed to be the guys that are essentially NASCAR’s equivalent of Single-A professional baseball players. 

Which leads to the next point. 

If you have reached a point in your career where you are competing at the highest level of your division, or with the best competition of said division, you and your family and friends and crew members should be able to absorb pointed criticism without getting involved in a social media cage match to call people big meanies for offering criticism of the talent they are buying tickets to watch. 

Whelen Modified Tour racing – or the equivalent of that like what is on display for the Tour Type Modified division this week at New Smyrna Speedway – isn’t your local tee-ball league. It’s not Quarter Midgets or Go-Karts. So the “But [insert name of struggling driver here] is trying really hard and their family is wonderful and they’re really friendly” argument again only cheapens what the top levels of Modified racing should be. Is that really what it’s coming to? “But They’re Trying Really Hard” participation trophy runners who can’t handle criticism from fans or other teams? 

And yes, another crux of all this. Racing at this level is supposed to be entertainment. Part of the sport surviving is ensuring that fans continue to want to buy tickets to watch it. When those fans are basically told by the participants that they’re taking part in destroying the sport for offering negative criticism of the talent on display, you’re treading to a dangerous area of chasing away the people that keep the sport as entertainment and not a club.

Too many people deeply involved in short track racing think being positive about everything is the only way to help the sport in these tough times. Here’s the reality, making everything sound positive and gagging anyone that brings up the negative only means the problems aren’t going to get fixed and short track racing will only continue to struggle to regain its footing as a strong entertainment choice in the marketplace.  


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Comments

  1. I think it has a lot to do with the “everyone is a winner here’s your trophy generation”. It’s everywhere. I have nephews in there late 20’s. If they don’t like what is said to them they just walk away rather than debate or use it as a learning lesson. They have to be right! It’s become to easy for someone to have tunnel vision within a small group of like-minded individuals. By doing so they feel powerful but threatened by anyone with a different view. If J. Doe is on the other team and is successful he must be doing it by cheating etc. Whereas, if their team is successful it’s because of being smarter and working harder. I don’t think it’s going to go away anytime soon either! 🙁

  2. william j sloboda says

    Excellent article. You told it like it is. Too bad that people get hated fpr expressing their oplnion.

  3. Ooh, I have an analogy. Try this on for size.
    1965, Danbury RaceArena. At the time groups supporting different drivers clustered together in groups. Team jackets were all the rage and the rivalries with other cars was spirited.
    My question: I don’t pretend to understand social media that well. But is it like this person went into the section of the stands where all the Calvin Carroll fans congregated and basically said he sucks. That’s what Facebook is, isn’t it. Groups of like minded people. Figuratively speaking wasn’t it like getting a beer thrown at him?
    The announcers said as much about Carroll during the race. Give it up for the night, stop being a hindrance, fix it and try again tomorrow.
    Love racedayct opinion pieces.

  4. “Objective opinions must be sugarcoated. Negative opinions must be sugarcoated. If facts are negative, then they must be hidden. If news isn’t good then it shouldn’t be reported. ”

    Well said.

    So does this mean we can stop being nice to Melissa Fifield? We all know she tries so hard.

    It isn’t about trying, it’s about achieving.

    I’m sure all the back marker cars have wonderful people working on those teams and they are trying so hard. But it clearly doesn’t matter when those cars are causing the vast majority of accidents and yellow flags. I don’t even consider those cars in the car counts.

  5. Back fillers are what keeps this sport going. As much as racers like Wade Cole or Melissa Fifield are filling fields, they are also supporting the division and adding money into the division. They pay for licenses, registrations, tires, fuel, pit passes, food at the tracks, etc which adds money into the business of racing. The difference with them for the most part is they tend to stay out of the way and not cause many cautions.

    Guys like Woody Pitkat, Timmy Solomito, and Justin Bonsignore wrecked plenty of cars during their time in learning how to become the top guys in their division. Does the #25 Carroll suck right now? Yes. He’s been racing a tour car for two years. Give him time to get better. He needs time to get better and the only way to do that is by putting in laps. He, his family, and fans have to realize that nobody is putting down their effort or their character. What they are putting down is his lack of success. Sometimes you have to realize it isn’t your night and park it before ruining someone else’s night. People want to defend a driver and team for their time, effort, and character but those same teams don’t realize that they aren’t the only ones doing it. Constantly crashing and wrecking other people are hurting them just as much as you.

  6. Kj when did tour types become a training wheel car? If he needs more time he should be doing it in a lower tier division.

  7. So you don’t like the back markers. If they didn’t show up, you’d have races with about 10 cars. Then you’d be bitchin about the lack of cars. Can’t have it both ways.

  8. Excellent post Kj. Can I add a couple footnotes
    Fifield over the years has been brutalized routinely for her poor results and more importantly lack of progress. Some was well deserved but in many cases it went to far and in my view was based on her sex. At New Smyrna Amy Catalano has completely outperformed expectations with great finishes against outstanding competition and no one is saying boo about her as far as I can see.
    Regarding back markers or field fillers there is no such thing in my view. Those very teams paid their way as you said but more importantly they are competing as well. Not for the podium but against the other cars in their tier. Those races are every bit as important to them as for the win and money paying ticket holders are there to watch and support them.
    The fact that they should dial it down when they are becoming a nuisance is on them and most get that. When they don’t they need to be mocked like the Caroll’s and a couple others as well.
    “Field filler” is a pejorative, demeaning expression that in my view shows a complete lack of understanding of the very nature of competitive auto racing on any level and the commitment involved. We all want strong fields but when cars show up that can’t win we marginalize their importance. It’s ignorant and self defeating.

  9. Bob,no one would bitch if those 10 cars were all top front running teams.

  10. Did I miss something? Did the announcers bash Carroll during the race?

  11. What you want a publishers commentary to do is evoke thought on a topic. This did in spades.
    Often I will go on social media to get information on people and in many cases race related teams and individuals to see what they are saying. Sometimes what pops up sadly is the person passing on ignorant memes, tropes, negative stereotypes and misinformation about political figures and/or minorities.
    A couple of times I’ve called the person out on something they posted. What usually follows is a barrage of the most vile, vicious responses saying the most horrible things about me, my mother and every other nasty thing you can imagine. What subsequently happens is I respond with more facts avoiding name calling as much as possible until I am eventually shut out from the web page.
    I accept it all since it was others space I invaded with things they did not want to hear. I prefer they leave it up. Not to change the minds of people that responded but for people seeing the responses that may question the associations they’ve made. Or reinforce them I suppose.
    So what is my point. Social media isn’t about truth, it’s about the truths that different groups want to believe and everyone’s page is a fiefdom controlled by the page owner.
    My view it isn’t age related either since I get trashed by people 30 to 70. Increased sensitivity is in play but I’d suggest it’s more about division.
    Social media at it’s best is coming together and sharing useful information like in racing.
    At it’s worse it is a vehicle to promote ignorance and divisiveness and to reinforce our preconceptions including those that are dark and narrow minded.

  12. I dont think the “participation trophy generation” has anything to do with this. I think that is used as an excuse. What I do think causes this is the “PC” generation we have all become. I also blame it on the “thin skinned” generation we have also become. Free speech has both positives and negatives just like everything else in the world. Words only have meaning if we let them. Sure, they can hurt, but only if we let it. It’s much different when someone puts a noose around your neck and hangs you from a tree, then say, calling you a derogatory name. People can be ignorant, even the most intelligent of us. However, free speech gives all of us the right to express our opinion, for better or for worse. It’s up to the individual, in how they proceed from there. When it comes to words, people need to grow thick skin. A lot of people it seems, on social media, just like to start trouble and really they could care less about the subject. They are more interested in the ensuing riot their words cause, than what was said. We call those people trolls. They only have power, if we let them.

    In the #25’s case, in my opinion, he should have parked it. Personally, caution filled races are not good. Does that mean Carroll should never step into a modified again? Of course not. Could it have been the set up and not the driver? Sure, most likely that was the case. I’ve seen Calvin race many times and he, to me, had a bad race. It happens. Back in the day, Charlie J, and Jungle Jim Spencer had a reputation as “checker or wrecker” type guys. Whether that was actually true or not, depended on the particular night. Not everybody can be Richie Evans.

    In Fifield’s case, in her defense, I can say at least she doesn’t wreck the field, but I never understood the whole start and park version of racing. I would like to know if she can race or not. At the current rate, we may never know. I was a part of a low budget race team at one time, and our goal was to make the show and not to win, especially with a new driver and less than optimum equipment. Over time, we got better and there was nothing better than having the opportunity to not only make the race but to have a chance to win it. Ultimately, everyone has a right to their opinion even if it sucks. We need to grow thick skin, especially when it comes to opinions we don’t like. Though, I would recommend if we express our opinion, we should try to not be insulting or derogatory. It should be done in a constructive way, and not done in a way that is demeaning, though it may be harsh. Also there’s nothing wrong with arguing against an opinion as long as we do it with a modicum of respect.

    Happy Racing Season!

  13. Holy smokes, people. Get a grip here. There is a distinct difference between field fillers and folks that need to get a clue. I don’t think anyone would argue that a car that is COMPETING in the bottom half of the field is useless or shouldn’t be there. The key word here is COMPETING. When a car / driver is so slow as to be a hazard to the rest of the field, or if the car / driver is consistently causing better cars to get wrecked or causing yellows interrupting the show, then they NEED TO GET A CLUE. I don’t care of it’s Wade Cole, Calvin Carroll, Melissa Fifield, Woody Pitkat, Ryan Preece, or anyone else. If they’re stinking up the show, they need to re-evaluate what they’re doing. Guys that are battling 3 wide for 12th? Good racing. Guys that are spinning the leader as they’re being lapped for the 2nd time? Get a Clue. Calvin Carroll THIS WEEK fell in to the Get a Clue category in my opinion.

  14. Liz Cherokee says

    Hey darealwidget! Watch it big boy! My Melissa does not cause a ‘vast majority of accidents and yellow flags’. I’m so upset right not that I think I’ll have a few drinks just to calm down…

  15. There is still a learning curve going from lower tier divisions such as an SK to a tour mod. Still need seat time in both. I don’t know what his previous driving history is.

  16. Liz, Liz, Liz, … flavored ethanol is not the answer.

    Not just causing accidents, but being in the way in the racing groove. Forcing the competitive cars to go high in turns because there’s a slow car in the way. Being used as a pick and interfering with the racing. It all alters the results of the race.

    At Bristol, a slow car just can’t get out of the way.

  17. Bystander, who you kidding? Very few people would be happy if they had to pay 40 or 50 bucks to watch a 10 car race. Probably would hurt attendance in the long run.

  18. I am going to agree with at least one person’s commentary here. Part of the problem is that currently in short track racing the teams, tracks, sanctioning bodies, and media outlets so are much into doing business with each other that you cannot say one thing that is not super positive without getting jumped on for “being negative”. And I am not even talking about making rude remarks. I have seen people (including myself)try to make constructive on how something could be done better for the benefit of everyone. But you know what happens? It gets turned into 1 of 2 things. You either get the “fans on social media are ruining everything for the drivers, tracks, and series” or the “Your not paying the bills, so keep out of it.” One good example is this past years Snowball Derby. People started to notice that the amount of entries had gone way down over the past couple seasons. Fans, veteran journalists, and even some drivers started making suggestions that could save money so teams who stopped going could enter again. And as soon as that happened, people involved with the media outlet covering the race started shooting back that everyone else was wrong and that everything with Snowball Derby was great. But other races could uses changes. And of course they pulled the line of “people being negative was hurting a great event that needed no changes.” Guess what, the race did need changes and the track itself announced a cost cutting rule for the upcoming. season.
    And after all the teams, media outlets, tracks, sanctioning bodies etc. complaining about the fans on social media “ruining it for everyone”, they turn around and do something just as dumb or worse themselves. I can count several short track drivers, journalists, plus a couple short track sanctioning bodies who have no problem liking or retweeting divisive political social media posts. That is a great way to turn off many fans or sponsors. Here is a quick question what is worse way to bring attention to short track racing:
    A) Fans saying maybe a track should not have run a consolation race when every car was going start the feature and rain is approaching the area.
    B) A short track sanctioning body liking Trumps tweet of “We’re building the wall.”

  19. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    When there is advocating, selling, hiding, obfuscating, trickery, deceit, etc., it is impossible to have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And let’s be real, this is racing where there are plenty of people trying to get over with something.

    The problem is that there is a lot of crazy, nasty, bad, or malicious truth. And there is a population that doesn’t want that negative truths to be exposed, much less discussed. Just look at the NLWSB/Bemer situation… there are so many that want to make like that never happened and nobody ever talks about. Well, to damn bad. The problem is that it happened, not that anyone knows about it or talks about it. Knowing about what happened at the NLWSB/Bemer or talking about it is not going to affect what happens to the place. What happened at the NLWSB/Bemer is what is going to determine what happens with the NLWSB.

    There is very little, if anything, that everyone agrees on.

    There is way too much advocating and playing of the proverbial victim card.

  20. Hillary 2020 says

    Speaking of Bemer jury selection is tomorrow according to the news on the radio I heard today. I thought the trial started weeks ago. They also called him the former owner of the speedbowl. Fake news I’m sure.

  21. Hilary 2020,
    Yes, things are moving forward with Bemer trial and at this point the actual trial is expected to start in March. And yes, there are quite a few local news outlets that have termed Bemer as the previous owner, based on some incorrect information that had been shared with them through a previous management group. Bemer is indeed still the owner of the Speedbowl.

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