The Frontstretch: Potts' Shots: The Future of Local Short Tracks by John Potts -- Thursday May 26, 2011

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Potts' Shots: The Future of Local Short Tracks

John Potts · Thursday May 26, 2011

 

Angie in Kentucky comments on the fact that so many short tracks are experiencing difficulties and wants to know what can be done about it. She notes that Ponderosa Speedway at Junction City is taking a month-long break, and Riverview Speedway in Carthage, Tenn. has closed the gates until further notice. Angie wonders what we can do to get the younger set interested, and compete against all the technology they have today?

Well, I’m not real sure. I certainly don’t have all the answers. We’re having problems at Corbin Speedway as well (Kentucky) when it comes to car counts and crowds. Some people seem to think it’s just the economy, and no doubt it’s affecting the situation. Running a race car is an expensive proposition, and as I’ve tried to point out before, very few people make money at it on the local level. It’s a labor of love.

Sometimes you just can’t afford to pursue what is, after all, a hobby. Our least expensive class to run has the largest car counts and has for the last three years, so it makes sense that the economy is having an effect.

It’s no different for the track operator. Most of them are having problems making ends meet. For some, they are similar to the racers in that they love the sport and just want to be a part of providing it to the people of their area.

How do we attract the younger set?

Stewart Doty of Racing Promotion Monthly says we have to adapt to them, using Facebook, Twitter and all the technology available in an attempt to communicate. I’m using Facebook, but I haven’t mastered the tweeting yet. However, I’m willing to learn.

The parents of the youngsters we have competing and attending our events tell me that they’re extremely happy that the kids are interested in racing rather than some of the other things that aren’t really so good for them. A great number of tracks have included a front-wheel drive class, mostly for smaller cars. Let’s face it – that’s what most of the kids are most familiar with.

At our place, we’ve tried to include one of the area’s oldest classes, Chevettes, by adjusting the rules and trying to make the competition even and allowing them to run with the front-wheelers. To be honest, when we incorporated the front-wheel drive class a few years back, we did it as a hedge of sorts. We knew we were going to run out of Chevettes sooner or later.

Maybe I’ve gotten off track a little here, but I’m trying to point out that this class of smaller cars is one of our most popular, and the younger people identify with it. Does Papyrus, Sierra, or any of those game makers produce one for small cars on short tracks? Maybe that would help attract the kids when they find out how much fun it can be. Get ‘em to come out and see the real thing.

- – - – - – -

After my notes about Louis Clements’ book and my own recent effort, Brian comments: Dave Argabright is amazing. If he could get Chris Economaki to remember all the great stuff in “Let ‘Em All Go!” he can help you! Can’t wait to read it. One of my other all-time favorites is “Supercars” the story of the Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird by Frank Moriarty with illustrations by my friend Steve Mirabelli. Any others to recommend?

I’m not sure if I can remember all the titles. Dave’s book on Earl Baltes was outstanding, and he’s done an update of his tremendous volume on Brad Doty, Still Wide Open.

Maybe it’s because he was another friend of mine, but I enjoyed Fate Guides My Destiny by the late Crocky Wright, detailing his adventures as a midget driver, motorcycle racer and stunt man. He called him self “the world’s oldest living stunt driver.” I recall one night at Indianapolis Raceway Park when we let him drive a motorcycle through a flaming wall of plywood. Crocky was in his 80s at the time, and the insurance man happened to be on hand that night. He wasn’t real happy about it.

Interesting story about Crocky. He got a job driving one of the tour buses at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but eventually lost that position because he didn’t take enough time driving groups around the track and explaining things as he went. Crocky had business cards printed up that proudly stated, “The only man ever fired by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for driving too fast.”

Speaking of stunt men, I also enjoyed Joey Chitwood’s Safe At Any Speed. Joey had an outstanding racing career that included a top-5 finish in the Indy 500. Being a Corvair fan, I got a kick out of his chapter on the ramp-to-ramp jump. When they brought out the second Corvair body style in 1965, Chevrolet asked Joey to do the ramp-to-ramp with it to help promote the car.

Joey said the car not only worked well in that role, it was the first time he used the same car for two consecutive years without having to scrap it.

Another friend of mine who has passed away, Ed Watson, also wrote some good racing books, including Tattersall, The Legend, about one of the best midget drivers ever, and Dirt Road To A Silver Crown, about the USAC “big cars.”

I would also recommend that you check out Coastal 181’s outstanding collection. Bud Moore, Man and Machine, is one of their latest, I believe.

Editor’s Note: John’s new book, Driven To The Past which includes a collection of stories started here at the Frontstretch is hot off the presses! A lot of the book is columns you’ve read here, rewritten to fit the book format, and there are some other tales as well. Racing stories about ASA, ARCA, NASCAR, open wheel racing, the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville, the facility formerly known as Indianapolis Raceway Park, some of the personalities he’s met, and so much more. Contact John through the email address below to order your copy today!

Contact John Potts

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Matt
05/26/2011 01:29 PM
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It all comes from the top. What’s the most visible racing series in the U.S.? NASCAR. What is the most popular sports show? SportsCenter. How often is NASCAR covered? Rarely. ESPN is a stick & ball world. NASCAR Now is in its own little island at ESPN. If ESPN doesn’t give a crap about NASCAR and considers it nothing more than rednecks driving in circles, the younger audience will share that attitude and not be interested in any racing, including local racing.

A better presentation of the racing on top can make a big difference for the racing at the bottom.

Conelly
05/26/2011 01:32 PM
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Kudos to Kevin Piercy at Hickory Motor Speedway, a true racer, who struggles to make HMS go for the love of the sport.