New fans and making them feel welcome

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I rarely post on personal experiences in racing because I feel like it’s my job to bring the fans the news, the images, and the inside of the sport. Today, I want to change that and share a personal experience (of sorts) and how it relates to all of us who love this sport.

A co-worker informed me on Monday that a friend of his called him Saturday and asked him if he wanted to go to one of our local tracks to see some racing. The co-worker said he would like to go. He later admitted to me he hadn’t been to a race in a number of years. He obviously didn’t know what to expect, I don’t know if the friend knew what to expect either.

The crowd at a recent event at Tazewell Speedway.

In telling me about his experience, something stood out to me that most of us in the sport are guilty of. As someone who had been to only a few dirt races in his life, he knew very little as to what was going on. He asked me about all the classes that looked so much alike. After explaining to him some of the differences, he asked if anybody still runs a four cylinder class. He just happened to be at a track on the night the four cylinders were off. He asked if they still run classes where cars look like something you see on the street.

Deeper into the conversation, he tells me he wasn’t sure what was going on most of the night since he didn’t know the differences between the late model classes. Maybe he couldn’t hear the P.A. system or maybe just didn’t understand what was being said without some deeper explanation.

After our converstion, I made a post on Twitter saying dirt track announcers should do a better job of explaining the different classes, format, etc. It seemed to have gotten a lot of attention and all of it positive.

Later on, I got to thinking maybe the whole blame shouldn’t be placed on the P.A. announcers. It’s basically each track’s duty to educate and inform any new fan that comes through their gates. The easiest way is for the announcer to inform any new fans what is taking place or about to take place. After all, they are the ones speaking directly to the fans in the stands. Since most tracks in our area run 2-3 late model classes each week, explain the differences. Like my co-worker said, he had no idea that each one was different.

The large crowd at Smoky Mountain Speedway’s Lucas Oil race.

My comment was not intended to speak badly of any announcer. I have never been one and probably wouldn’t be good at it if someone asked me to do it. All of us need to keep in mind there may be people in attendance that don’t know as much about the sport as we do. In some cases, they may know nothing at all. We need to do all we can to inform them and hope they will come back again and again.

It shouldn’t only be up to the P.A. announcer to inform the new fans. In some cases, many fans cannot hear what is being said because the system is inadequate or the noise drowns out the announcer. Tracks should look into an information booth somewhere near the front gate that has a flyer with various pieces of information such as the season schedule, classes, difference in classes, and even the schedule for that night. Years ago, tracks used to print programs, even if they were simple programs.

All tracks are struggling at bringing in new fans. The last thing any of them need to is lose the interest of new fans because they have no idea what is going on or don’t feel welcome. Remember, all of us were a new fan at one time. Most of us had someone to tell us what was going on and we’re still part of the sport. Let’s do what we can to make new fans and keep the sport alive.

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