Turn 2 Blog: Deciding When to Postpone & Winter Racing

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The lastest edition of the Turn 2 Blog is presented by the American Crate All-Star Series.

Richard: The Hangover race recently held at 411 Motor Speedway raised an interesting question in my mind. After heavy rain had fallen throughout the week leading up to the event the forecast for race day called for clearing skies. Track owner and promoter Mitch McCarter and his team worked tirelessly to prepare the racing surface with the knowledge that precipitation would likely be part of the equation. As a result, the racing action did go on as scheduled.

But as it turned out, the amount of rain that fell in the days leading up to the event proved overwhelming as the track became tacky and fast at first, but ultimately turned rough and challenging. Only six cars finished the Super Late Model feature eventually won by Scott James.

Following the race, McCarter himself took to Facebook and stated that perhaps he should have cancelled the event.

Here is McCarter’s Facebook statement:

“Thank you to everyone that attended The Hangover. Was it perfect? Absolutely not. I have never been a fan of a hammer down racetrack. Perhaps I should of canceled the event, but I didnt . Thank you to all that helped put the event together.”

We have discussed the policies of tracks when weather interjects itself into the schedule on this forum multiple times but I will again offer my thoughts.

Often times, tracks cancel because they are afraid the forecast will scare away fans. 411 Motor Speedway has developed a reputation for carrying on with their races even when others might not which, in turn, allows fans and competitors to come to the track with the assurance that a race will be run if at all possible. And that was indeed the case for the Hangover as the pit area was packed, the parking lot was full, and the grandstand was at near capacity.

I will always support tracks who make it clear that they will race and then go ahead and race.

As for the racers, I have seen numerous drivers and team members post on social media that they understood the potential for a rough track and they made their own decision to compete. The majority of posts I have read offered support of the track’s decision to carry on. I do know of some who chose not to race, which was well within their right.

Obviously, it is easy for me to make such statements because I have nothing invested in either side of the matter. However, I believe it is in the best interest of tracks to race if at all possible because it will serve their business well later on.

What are your thoughts?

Michael: Like you said, 411 has the reputation of racing if at all possible. That certainly has paid off for them in the past and should continue to pay off in the future.

On the flip side, it will be interesting to see if some racers decide not to show up the next time they are faced with similar conditions. Some have already taken to social media to say they will not be there if it’s like that again. But, if I had a dollar for every time a racer has said they will not be back, I’d probably have enough money to buy one of these tracks.

Richard: I think it all boils down to the fans. If a track builds that reputation and the fans continue to show up, the racing will go on. As I said before, I won’t condemn a track for making the call to race when it’s iffy. On the same note, I won’t condemn one for not racing when it’s not appropriate to do so. Apart from rules decisions, this has to be the toughest call to make for those who run race tracks.

I am not in favor of tracks calling off events days ahead of time simply based on a forecast because we all know the dangers of that. At the same time, if someone brings up a race that is scheduled for months away another person will “helpfully” point out that it’s supposed to rain that day. Fans will then say they aren’t coming to the track but then will complain after the promoter cancels the race and it doesn’t rain.

Social media is one of the great tools in a promoter’s arsenal when it comes to getting information out, but at the same time, this is one of the major drawbacks. If there were some way to actually run the numbers, I bet the number of race cancellations due to weather forecasts has greatly multiplied since the advent of Twitter and Facebook because fans and drivers post that they aren’t coming which ties the promoter’s hands.

Technology is certainly a two-way street, isn’t it?

Michael: It certainly is. I’ve had some recent discussions with a few people about this very topic. Social media is great for getting the message out. But, it’s bad because people are unfiltered when it comes to voicing anything negative.

I have run a message board for almost 20 years. In the early days of it, 4m.net and other message boards were to blame for the negative impact on racing. Over the years, message board owners tried to lessen some of the negative things being said by deleting comments that were nothing but bashing or from some people that only wanted to complain. Unfortunately, with social media taking over, there is no way to edit or delete someone’s comment.

I’m a freedom of speech person. If someone has something to say, then say it. But I also believe what a person says better be on point and be accurate. Even going back to the early days of message boards, promoters were reluctant to address any negative and/or false comments with factual information or explanations as to why something was handled a certain way. It’s still the same today with social media, the promoters are hoping the comments will go away instead of trying to put out the fire.

Going back to 411 and The Hangover, there was a lengthy discussion on a message board about the race and track conditions. Most that posted a response were supportive of the effort the track gave. There were only a few negative comments and more were about the length of the show than the track conditions. Any time a track gets more favorable comments over an event where conditions were not ideal, that should be considered a win.

Richard: As we have said on here many times, the best way for promoters to handle social media is to be consistent, up front, and honest.

To take the discussion in a completely different direction, the 2019 racing season has essentially begun. The Wild West Shootout in Arizona has attracted a very nice field while the Ice Bowl in Alabama has once again kicked off the latest edition of racing in the southeast.

Both of these events have attracted solid fields with well known drivers among those participating. While neither of these races are sanctioned by any series, they can serve as an indicator for the upcoming season.

For example, Ricky Weiss scored a couple of wins in Arizona last year then went on to have the best season of his career highlighted by a $50,000 North-South 100 victory. Two years ago, Bobby Pierce proved to be unbeatable in the Wild West Shootout then went on to have a banner campaign in 2017.

Do you put much stock in these early season events?

Michael: I do, to an extent. It is a good way for drivers to get a jump start on their season, particularly those that go to Arizona because that’s where most of the bigger names will be. As you noted, Pierce and Weiss used good showings there to catapult themselves into strong years.

I don’t put as much into the Ice Bowl simply because that race tends to draw the regional racers. A number of those drivers are pretty much racing year-round when you factor in events like The Gobbler, The Leftover, and The Hangover. A driver like Ray Cook, who has switched chassis, can get some benefit because it is that more seat time in a new car.

Ray Cook recently switched from a Capital Race Car to a Longhorn by Weaver Chassis

Richard: You make a good point regarding Ray Cook. Any driver who has made a major change such as a new chassis or engine combination can use these winter races as a testing session. Scott Bloomquist is even in that boat due to his engine change from Durham to Custom.

And with these races being unsanctioned, there’s not much to lose in terms of points toward a championship.

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