*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: It’s very nearly here. The official end of the dirt racing season is upon us as the traditional finales at Boyd’s Speedway and Cleveland Speedway will be contested on November 14th and 21st respectively. It will be a bittersweet time for racing fans in the east Tennessee region as these two highly anticipated events will bring down the curtain on the 2015 season.
And to add to the excitement regarding these Southern Nationals Bonus Series sanctioned races, the purses are noteworthy. The Boyd’s event will offer $5,000 to the winner while ‘The Gobbler’ in Cleveland boasts a $10,000 payout to the victor. Good money is also available for the other classes that will be competing on these nights.
There is still some racing left in east Tennessee and the area’s drivers have these two final opportunities to score a last big win or to save what might have been a less than stellar campaign. These races may not have quite the national significance they once had but they do have these weekends as their own, which will give someone an opportunity to make some noise that will be heard throughout the country because of their solitary status.
Michael: It will be interesting to see the car counts for both of these events. I saw one person wondering why last week’s National 100 only drew 28 cars for a $20,000 to win race. I predicted Boyd’s may draw close to twice as many. Seems like some of these “smaller” events that have little competition draw more than the bigger paying races.
I was a bit surprised to see Cleveland up the purse for their race. They don’t run Super Late Models on a regular basis now. The Gobbler used to be a big event, but has really lost its luster over the last decade. Maybe the added purse will be the beginning of getting it back to where it once was. One move that should help is splitting up to a 2-day show. Those 1-day Gobblers were brutal because they ran too many classes on a cold night that seemed to go on forever.
Richard: I absolutely agree on the call to split The Gobbler into a two night deal. Some of those shows have dragged out far too long in the past.
In my opinion, it will serve both of these tracks well to end on a high note as both are in a bit of a transition period. Boyd’s began the season by trying to run on Saturday nights with Cleveland racing on Fridays. In a sense, that was a switch in the normal dates between the two. But as the season moved along, both moved back to their old days of the week.
We will have an interview with Boyd’s co-owner Dale McDowell later this week in which he discusses the future plans for that track. But just to preview a bit, he and fellow owner David Duplissey are looking to make it more of a big events track and having a good night on November 14 would go a long way in building momentum toward 2016 and the facility’s first ever Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series race(4-1-2016).
The ownership situation remains a bit of a question mark in Cleveland as that track is listed for sale. So again, a big night on November 21 could possibly raise interest and awareness for the property.
Michael: One thing I am interested in seeing at Boyd’s is how the racing for Super Late Models will be since they removed the inside wall in the corners. It will be interesting to see if the cars fight for the bottom or if things will widen out.
It will also be interesting to see if anybody can step up and beat Randy Weaver in either one of those races. Aside from a few races here and there when someone else did win or when Weaver took a night off, it has been Weaver dominating the competition all season. And he runs really well at both tracks.
Richard: Certainly Weaver will be the favorite in both races going in. However, just how big of a favorite he is will be determined by who else shows up.
Since there are few other races going on during these weekends(Ultimate at County Line being one), both Boyd’s and Cleveland have the potential for excellent car counts in all divisions. Some drivers will no doubt be looking for another payday going into the off season while others may be hoping to rescue what has been a sub par effort to this point.
And that is not only true of the Late Model classes but in the support class races as well.
Michael: I don’t know if they still do it this way or not, but in past Gobblers even the support class winners would get a big check that had Joe Lee Johnson’s photo on it. In past trips there, I saw some of those guys act more excited than the SLM winner just because of that big check. I saw whole teams get excited at the sight of that check. It is cool to see something like that. Those guys certainly enjoy their moment in the spotlight.
Richard: That would indeed be a cool prize.
To take things in an entirely different direction, I have just returned from a trip to the World of Outlaws World Finals held at The Dirt Track in Charlotte. This was my first trip to that track and I very much enjoyed the experience. Having attended numerous races at venues owned by Speedway Motorsports, Inc., I expected everything about the facility to be first rate and it certainly was.
During my drive home, I began to think of some things fans and competitors should expect from all race tracks, not just those owned by big corporations like SMI.
A few things on my list, apart from a good racing surface, included clean restrooms, good concession stand food with fair pricing, a well run show and a good traffic plan.
Nothing will drive customers away quicker than poorly maintained restrooms and I have been to some tracks that fall into this category. A big budget is not needed to assure that fans will have decent place to go to the bathroom.
You mentioned in your recent ‘Quick Six’ about a track(Tri-County) offering soup beans at its concession stand. One thing that several tracks I have been to have done is offer unique and tasty treats for fans at a reasonable price(the track at Charlotte could learn from others regarding concession pricing).
Also, fans should expect and receive a well run show. We have discussed this numerous times on here before but the old way of thinking that dirt tracks should keep people there until the wee hours of the next morning should be a thing of the past. Some tracks, especially near the end of the year, fall into the trap of thinking more is better and attempt to run far too many classes on the same night, and thus, drag the show on for too long. This, in turn, brings about negative social media posts and bad word of mouth publicity.
And lastly, a good traffic plan, which can best be aided by not running the primary class of the night last is something all tracks need to consider. No one wants to have a good night at the track spoiled by sitting for long periods of time waiting to get out of the parking lot.
What are your thoughts?
Michael: In my time at working at Atomic Speedway, then-owner Carson Branum said he wanted clean restrooms because he’d want them clean in case his mother ever came to the racetrack. The track was acknowledged for how clean the restrooms were at that time. I can tell you that leaves a big imprint on the fans, especially female fans. I have seen numerous instances were people have said they will not return to a particular track because the restrooms were just awful.
Thankfully, most tracks in our area run timely shows. A few are aided by curfews. Others are not and still typically do a fine job. But there are some across the country that have problems with this. Not sure if they run too many classes, just don’t have a good concept of time management, or some other issue.
It’s rare for me to visit a concession stand at a race. Being a photographer, I can’t be stuck in line waiting for something to eat and miss the on-track action. But I can use my experiences from other events and say that one thing that will annoy fans the most is slow concession stands, over-priced concession items, and running out of food. Tracks need to make a profit off their concessions. But blatant gouging should not be acceptable. I will say it has been my experience that the food prices at our area tracks are much better than going to a NASCAR race, a college or pro game, and especially a movie theater.
Richard: You make a good point mentioning other forms of entertainment. Hopefully, tracks are beginning to realize that they are in competition with other things outside the racing world. That is especially true of younger fans. As we have said several times on here before, if dirt racing is to continue, new fans are a must. There are fewer and fewer die hard race fans out there and the competition is tough.
Michael: Agreed. That is why tracks need to look into extra activities that will attract young kids, as well as teenagers. I don’t know what the cost is for providing this service, but having Wi-Fi available wouldn’t hurt either.