As is often the case, I use poll questions from my Twitter account(@RichardAllenIDR) to gauge the feelings of race fans regarding various issues within the sport. I do this to not only see what the concerns of fans are but also to give everyone involved in the sport some form of feedback that will hopefully provide assistance toward improving an already good product. This short off-season will be no different as I have already begun to take the temperature of my followers by asking what I believe to be pertinent questions.
As many who regularly visit this site know, I attend a significant number(50-60) of races each year. With a few exceptions, the tracks I visit are typically within a two to three hour or so radius of my Seymour, Tenn. home but I believe the content of this and other columns can be of benefit to any racing facility. Most often, the shows I take in include a special event such as a touring series or an increased purse for one or more of the local classes that compete on that particular track.
One issue that drew my attention on several occasions this season was that of prolonged support class races leading up to what was supposed to be the primary class running on that night. Understand that I am considering this issue from a bit of a selfish point of view in that I typically have a two to three hour drive home from the track with a post-race story to write that can sometimes take another hour or so. That said, however, there are still what I believe to be some legitimate concerns faced by tracks regarding the length of the shows they promote.
In virtually all cases, any given track will have a larger crowd on hand when there is a special event rather than when it runs its weekly classes only. That larger crowd is most likely the result of fans who have travelled some distance to get there to watch the “big show”. The later the start and finish of said show, the later those folks will get home. And if their arrival time back home is too late, they may decide to limit or completely eliminate their return trips to that facility.
To that end, I recently posed a Twitter poll question regarding the use of time and/or caution limits on the classes running along with a special event. The question posted read like this:
Poll Question: When there is a special event such as a travelling series racing at a particular track should there be time/caution limits placed on the other classes racing that night?
The response was overwhelmingly one-sided. Of the 537 fans who responded to the question, 77% answered ‘yes‘ with only 23% choosing the ‘no‘ option.
While these results may seem clear cut, they actually put promoters and track owners in somewhat of a difficult spot. Obviously, those who run these facilities want every fan in attendance to come back to their track as often as possible, but they also have the needs of the competitors to take into consideration.
As stated earlier, those spectators who have ventured from longer distances have, in all likelihood, made the journey with the primary intention of watching the featured class race in the main event of the night. Should those folks have to stay for long periods of time then face a multi-hour drive home, they might not want to come back. That’s not what any promoter wants.
At the same time, promoters who gear their entire show around the traveling series and push their regular racers to the side by cutting their laps or having them race later in the evening than usual might face the risk of alienating those who are counted on each week.
I’ve said many times that I am thankful for the track owners and promoters who make these type of decisions. And further, I’m glad I’m not one of them because calls such as these are very difficult.
That said, I always try to offer suggestions regarding what I would do if I were in that position.
My first suggestion would be that there should be designated time for the primary feature to begin. It would be reassuring to fans in attendance, especially those who have travelled from long distances, to know that the race they came to see will begin at a specific time(10:00 or 10:30 for example). However, this may require the night’s schedule to be readjusted as events play out in order for this to happen.
As the title of this piece suggests, fans seem to be in favor of time limits and/or caution limits being placed on classes preceding the main event. Many tracks already place time or caution limits on their regular classes even when there are no special events scheduled. If those rules are adhered to, the show should progress at a reasonable pace.
Along those lines, I have previously made the argument that the featured class of the night should not be run last in the racing program.
Further, tracks could limit the number of classes running on nights when there is a special event on tap. Many already do this but some run their full shows along with the special. This can be done if the track runs a concise show and doesn’t allow time to be wasted.
Limiting the number of classes can in fact create problems for the promoter. The reduction in classes results in fewer people coming through the pit gate, which in turn means less money for the track. Less money for the track means there is the possibility of not making a profit on that night and thus reduces the likelihood of the promoter taking the risk of paying a larger purse again.
It’s a real catch-22 to be sure.
Another possibility could be to allow the classes to run in the order previously planned, if the main feature is to be later in the program, but once a certain number of cautions have occurred the cars in that race could be sent off track with the idea that they could return later in the night to complete their event. In so doing, the division got the chance to complete their feature in front of the full audience assembled at the track but exceeded a reasonable amount of time to complete the race.
On more than one instance this season, I attended races in which there would be so many cautions during a support class feature that it took away from the enjoyment of the experience. Such a circumstance isn’t good for anyone – track, fans or competitors.
Whatever the case, fans have clearly voiced the opinion that they would like to see tracks employ time limits or caution limits on other classes competing on the same night as a special event and for those limits to be adhered to.
The key to remember is that this is not the same world it used to be. Attention spans have gotten shorter and there are so many other things fr people to do out there now that didn’t used to be there. Often times, race tracks and all other entertainment venues only have one shot to get it right or they lose customers forever. It is vitally important to get these types of things right for the overall health of the sport.
*To add a note, I do not want this to come off sounding like I don’t care for the support classes because that is not true. I enjoy all forms of racing and those classes are essential ingredients in making all of this thing work. What I am simply saying is that there are times in which other considerations must be made.