Michigan Short Track Racing Club: My Short Track Manifesto - Michigan Short Track Racing Club

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My Short Track Manifesto part one

#1 User is offline   fastbackss Icon

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Posted 04 December 2015 - 01:20 PM

During the 2014 season I had something occur to me at a racetrack that frustrated me to the point I couldn’t see straight. It was right then that I vowed to write my “short track” manifesto of what a track should be. I have been keeping a log of these “sound bites” thinking I would eventually compile them.

I have been going to races for over 30 years now, and have attended races at over 70 tracks in 4 countries. I have been racing at least part time for 10 of those years. I bring that up because I know what I like as both a fan and a racer. I think it is always important for racers/track officials to be forever aware of the feelings of the fan.

Recently someone forwarded me this article written by Mandee Pauch, daughter of Billy Pauch (famous NE modified/sprint car driver). She is majoring in sports marketing, working at racetracks, and published her own list. Kaiserfan also previously linked to an article of hers. http://mandeepauch.c...ack-should-try/
This inspired me to pretty up my list and publish it. There are clearly some I overlooked that would be duplicated so I have ignored them. I will also say that I lost some of my list, so I reserve the right to append these at any time. And – the below are presented in no particular order, although I have made an effort to bunch some of them together. (Please note I have not really listed positives – I am listing negatives to work on)

-Not letting fans watch practice – opening the gate after practice is done is silliness. I went to a race recently that had 3 hours of practice. The track opened the gates halfway through practice. The issue? The headline division for the day, a touring division I might add, had finished practice for the day. Ardent fans want to watch every lap while they are out. Many of your people are at the track already, and you are missing an opportunity to sell concessions. If you cannot sell enough concessions to justify the salaries of the people that are already there preparing food anyway, then there is a separate systemic issue.
- At track so long – this was recently discussed on here but good freakin’ grief – why do asphalt tracks “require” you to be at the track so long. If you want to have hours upon hours of practice, split it up. Before a certain hour it is “extra paid” practice which gathers some extra revenue for the track. The time I show up to the time I go home should be less than 8 hours, and even that is pushing it. The track I grew up never had more than 6 hours of activity – and that included 2 hours of practice. Here is what I would implement for a Saturday night show (well – if I was keeping those god-forsaken time trials (preview alert!)
2-4 early paid practise
4:30-5:30 regular practise (2 sessions per division)
4:30 main grandstands open
5:45 time trials
6:45 drivers meeting
7:00 heats
- Once your paying customers are (allowed) in, do not immediately have a lull in the action. I went to a track last year that had a 53 minute gap inbetween time trials and the first heat race. I know because I timed it. That means that a person could show up 60 minutes before the actual racing begins and only see 7 minutes of action. (Incidentally I was one of the first cars to time trial that night. I had a 129 minute gap between on track activity that night – I know because I timed it). If it takes a minimum of 30 minutes to develop heat lineups from time trials – you have a systemic issue that needs to be addressed.

-Speaking of time trials – time trials every division, every night is garbage. It is boring for the fans, and expensive for the racers. It also leads to significant gamesmanship. Ignoring that this occurs is…well…ignorant.
-Invert – did I mention gamesmanship?
- Handicapping – the ideal solution for the first line item is handicapping. I recognize that is particularly tough when there is a transient racing population (i.e. you have a lot of change inbetween drivers on a week-week basis) as you do not want to risk alienating outsiders from coming, but it is certainly feasible. I would be happy to help work through the math of it. It also makes heat races more useful. For example, if the only reward for running a heat race is points for the season total…and I am not running for the season points…what is my incentive for racing hard? But, if you tell me “only the top 3 finishers in each heat get their time back…or get into the invert” – well that is a different item. Oh – and “that is the way we always did it” is apathetic and lazy. There is a promoter somewhere out there that cackled when you said that.

-Tow trucks need to be quick to the scene. Barring a safety situation they should be at the scene before the field completes one yellow lap.
-Let’s just say I could be swayed to get rid of the “get 3 laps to fix a flat” unless it is caused by deemed avoidable contact.
-We all have radios – there is no need on every yellow to give a white flag saying one more lap till green (everytime). (Think about it – at one minute per lap per yellow you likely just added 30 minutes to your show over the course of a night)
-Speaking of radios – one warning for not getting in position – you don’t get in position you get the black flag
- stopping so you can go to the pits means you get to stay in the pits. Stopping when you spin or partially spin means you get a black flag. No exception.
-If it is a quick yellow, say an aborted start or a jumped start – it goes green immediately thereafter, no lollygagging going single file and re-aligning (and especially no choice of cone if a madhouse restart).
-If there is a yellow, save for an aborted start, somebody needs to go to the rear.
-Unless the track is completely blocked, if you come to a stop during a yellow flag causing incident you go to the back. This is black and white and prevents judgment calls .
-The tap-out rule is garbage. Racing has gray areas. This rule allows it to be aggravating both ways. It allows officials to not make a decision, and worse, then have something to lean back on for doing nothing. It also means that too often a car that was involved in a hard racing incident gets the spot back.

-If you are running a headline division at your track you do not need to have a back gate mentality. The three best tracks I have ever been to run either 2 divisions or 3 only. Hard work in promotion (with what sets your track apart by not having a plethora of classes) will overcome the shortfall of 100 pit passes.
-Your support divisions – they support the track just like the headliners. Give them a break a handful of times per season instead of adding them to every show including extracurricular stuff not on the normal race night.
-Have a drop or two. Your teams need to be happy and healthy at home (and with their wallets) to avoid getting burned out.
-The schedule for the night should be ready, at the latest, by the time teams start arriving. Waiting to see how many cars show up means that you do not know what you are doing.
-Speaking of that, care should be given to contingency plans and those should be made readily available beforehand. “If we have less than 15 cars 5 laps will be shortened from the feature.” “A time limit of one minute per lap will be enforced.”
-Change formats of races/race nights through the season. Switch it up – one night have double features inverting all lead-lap cars and add up positions/poker nights (5 race series best poker hand wins)/non-winner feature (always good to get a new face to victory lane).
-Every division should have at least one extra length race during the regular season.
-Every division should get extra laps in a season-ending special race
-If you are running a special race – do what it is known for and do that one thing right. That is why people came from out of town.
-It is not acceptable to not have trophies. They are the ultimate talking point

-A promoter should follow the 1-2-3-4-5-6 rule. Each week he/she should talk to:
1 fellow promoter (group or track) for 15 minutes
2 existing sponsors for 10 minutes each
3 vendors for 5 minutes each
4 race officials for 5 minutes each
5 drivers/car owners for 10 minutes each
6 fans for 5 minutes each
This totals up to 2.5 hours per week. If this is not done the promoter should not bother showing up. He or she will not have an accurate feel for the pulse of the facility. This can occur if he always talks to the same person too. You have the phone numbers of the drivers – reach out.
-EVERY contact should be acknowledged, regardless of how inane or asinine it is. “Thank you for taking the time to write/call” is pretty simple to do. Plus – it will make them feel that their opinion is valued which will make them more likely to come back.
-Only sending social media updates instead of updating the actual website. The notion that tracks should only conduct themselves on social media is laughable. It is great when used as a supplement to an already existing website. It is fantastic for getting raceday news, updates, results out - but should never be at the expense of the regular website. That is lazy.
-Other examples of social media induced laziness? Not updating the results on the website because it is on social media, not publishing news/information to the website, not amending the schedule on the website, having private groups on social media and then not making available to others. By the way, telling someone “well you just need to get a facebook account” for required information is probably not a sound business idea.
-For the love of God, list the full results. Unless every car is listed, it is not race results. There are friends/family/sponsors that will be checking. It is fine to post the top 5 the night of, but after that everyone who made the effort to show up should be on there.
-Results and points need to go up in a timely matter. Points not being updated before the next race is a disservice to the teams that support you.
-Have an archive section on your website
-Leave the whole schedule up for the year. Deleting it does no good. I have never been annoyed because I have to scroll down to see the current date. I have been plenty annoyed when I go back and can’t figure out the date a race was, or can’t figure out what were some other races that had been on the calendar. “I wonder if the late models already ran this year – if I knew the date it would make it easier to find…”
-The question that you should ask yourself: "If a potential first time track visitor or a team sponsor were looking up information, how difficult would it be to get said information?" Is it too complicated? Is it even on there? If someone on this board, who is clearly already a race fan, has to go to a "third level" to get the information the track is creating an issue that doesn’t need to be created. Bring up the website for a person who doesn’t know much about racing and ask them if they can find all the information they would need for a night. Can you bring coolers, pets, can you re-enter if you go to your car, what is the raincheck policy, etc?
-Have you or your web designer debug on smart phones as well.
-Reward your teams - one free pass every 10 races, or drawing for a special slab, or whatever – be creative
-Reward your (stalwart) fans – give a pit pass for one race to your season ticket holders, have a drawing each week for a special parking spot, a special autograph session, a season ticket basket each week with sponsor hat and track stickers. Is there anything more frustrating that finding out “new subscribers” are getting a better deal than you who has been dedicated for 10 years?

Just some thoughts to provide discussion this off-season…

#2 User is offline   FanInTheStands Icon

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Posted 04 December 2015 - 07:17 PM

There are several good ideas here, and some that should be paid attention to. There are plenty of things that ought to cause discussion, too many for me to reply to in one burst, but I'll stick my oar in the water:

The thing that really irritates me more than anything else is long, draggy shows with long breaks between the action. I have to drive an hour to all but one track I normally go to, and that means an hour drive home, so it can easily get too late for me if the promoter doesn't try to move the show along. In my opinion, unless something goofy happens the final checker should fly within three hours after the first green flag. Granted, sometimes things happen, but if they happen every week somebody needs to do some re-evaluation and reorganizing.

I was at one race at one of my regular tracks last year where I was told that the final show of the season went seven hours! There were a lot of wrecks, and endless yellow laps. Finally, after four hours my wife and I picked up and took off, and even then it was later than we should have been on the road. At that point the track was only about a third of the way through the features.

Some things that could be done to help move things along:

-- A strict one minute per lap limit. If a twenty lap race goes over twenty minutes for whatever reason, either end it on the spot or make yellow laps count.

-- Make it clear to special shows that the one-minute per lap rule extends to them, and the time includes driver introductions and such. They waste a huge amount of time for races that are usually pretty boring and hard to follow, at least partly because of no inverts. If a track schedules a Top Speed Mod race next year I will be elsewhere that night.

-- Limit driver/family celebrations between races. I have seen those eat up ten to fifteen minutes between races -- and that includes heats as well as features. I like the way Spartan does it, with the victory lane under the grandstand. The next race is pulling onto the field within a minute after the previous checker.

-- If a driver is not ready to go when his race is called, he doesn't race. No holding things up because someone can't get their act together.

I'd be interested in hearing comments on this, or on anything else in the original post.

But what do I know? After all, I'm just a

#3 User is offline   racer6 Icon

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Posted 04 December 2015 - 08:23 PM

I appreciate tracks that run the SLM feature earlier in the show and not save it to the end. That way I don't have to fight traffic getting out of the track and can leave early since it's usually a 1-2 hour drive home. Berlin ran the Outlaw show next to the last this past year and it was great. Kazoo always saves the Outlaw feature to the end and for that reason I choose not to attend as many shows there. They have 6 classes to run so it can be a late night.

#4 User is offline   MSTRC_CEO88 Icon

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Posted 06 December 2015 - 12:42 PM

Very excellent points!
Chuck " The Flounder" Darling

Common sense is not so common anymore!- Me
I can't control stupidity...it's everywhere!- Me

Sometimes you just have to drive it. You don't ask, you just drive. If you want to make excuses for not being successful you can do that, or you can just go out there and put it all on the line for the win.– Brad Keselowski

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#5 User is offline   GavinHunyady187 Icon

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Posted 07 December 2015 - 07:22 AM

I say get rid of practice all together, but instead have a fenced off path where fans can walk through the pits and see the action in the pits throughout the night. (they can then interact with drivers and teams and get autographs on hero cards or T-shirts that are passed through the fence)

This is no small task and its a lot of expense for an already built racetrack, but it can be done.
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