Turn 2 Blog: Big Events Drew Big Crowds in 2014


*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideDirtRacing.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the dirt racing topics of the day from east Tennessee and beyond.

Richard: I think it’s fair to say that 2014 was a year filled with big events around the east Tennessee region. Of all the races I attended this past season, there were several in which it was announced that attendance was at record levels. Whether it be a national touring series, regional touring series or regular weekly shows, the tracks and drivers put on some great shows for fans.

Virtually every track in the area had at least one event in 2014 which it could advertise to potential customers that this is the kind of action you’ll see if you visit our facility. Obviously, not every week can be record breaking, but there really were some moments for the memory bank this past year, weren’t there?

Michael: It has been a long time since we have seen the amount of huge crowds for so many special events this past season. I can understand the big crowds for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and World of Outlaws Late Models races. Those are almost guaranteed to be a success as long as the weather doesn’t interfere. Some of those you are talking about were regional series races, some were not even on a weekend night. It shows the demand for good racing is still in place for our area.

Richard: The NDRL weekend at Smoky Mountain seemed to get everything off on the right foot in the area. The Friday night crowd for that weekend was pretty good but many said that Saturday’s attendance was perhaps the largest number of people to ever see a race on that historic track.

Then, SMS outdid itself later in the year when the Lucas Oil tour stopped off in Maryville. There was not an empty seat in the house for that race.

And as you pointed out, the record numbers of fans were not limited to the national series shows. The Southern Nationals race at Boyd’s Speedway in July was one of the best sporting event atmospheres I have ever been a part of. The fans turned out in such numbers that the track was almost overwhelmed. And that came one week after 411 Motor Speedway experienced the same type of situation with the Ray Cook promoted series.

Both the 411 and Boyd’s races were held on Tuesday nights. As you pointed out, this region will support great racing. I believe the key is for everyone(tracks, series promoters, drivers and media) to work together in letting fans know these events are too good to miss.

Michael: Good promoting is the key. The days of opening the gates and hoping fans and drivers will just roll in are long gone. There is too much competition from other entertainment venues just to rely on word of mouth or assume people will be regularly checking their web site to see what is going on. The word has to be taken to the people.

And despite some nearby competition, I thought the World of Outlaws race at Tazewell had a good turnout. I know Gary Hall was a bit nervous that whole week because of the unknown on whether the other race would take a big bite out of his race. It looked to have minimal impact on his crowd.

I also think the opening race, and some of the weeks afterward, at I-75 Raceway had outstanding crowds. I was there for the opening race and the stands were nearly full. Angie Kyle told me a few weeks ago they had really good crowds nearly every week up until the weather really started turning cold. There is one example of a weekly program bringing in the fans.

Richard: I would have liked to see what would have happened had the weather not interfered with the World of Outlaws Late Models race at Smoky Mountain. The race that series put on at Duck River Raceway Park the day after SMS had been on the series schedule played out in front of the biggest crowd in the history of that track.

Also, the drop ins into our area by the United Sprint Car Series at 411 and Smoky Mountain did very well in terms of attendance.

The return of Cleveland Speedway was significant to this area in that it is not only a track that hosts several touring series races each year but also has a strong weekly program as well. And the fact that the track ran this fall on Friday nights and intends to do so next season as well was helpful to racers as well as fans.

Again, promotion and offering fans what they want to see appear to be the keys to success in the area, or any area for that matter.

Michael: We have already seen a number of the series schedules for this area. But I’m still anxious to see how many special events Cleveland does in 2015, if I-75 does any at all, and if any of the other tracks not mentioned decide to bring in an outside event.

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