Author: Doug Cook
Doom and Gloom exists all over in our world, especially thanks to the evil Mainstream Media. If you read magazine articles today in most racing oriented publications you would be lead to believe that Drag Racing (and racing as a whole is dying). You must remember, just like the hack job Mainstream media, these magazines are using this pessimism and drama to sell magazines, thats all. Nothing could be further from reality, however!
The TRUTH will set you free... If they were reporting unbias and in a non click baity way they would focus on the GROWTH of racing in so many avenues, but since they will not I will. To go along with that growth there is a recentering or a redistribution of racers to many new grass roots tracks all around the country! While its difficult to quantify this data, there are mentions of the drag racing world being net positive over 10 new tracks (taking into account closed tracks) in the last two years.
But why isn't this being reported? Well there is a culture shift that is happening, and it is not popular among large racing organizations, nor is it being capitalized on.
Let's circle back to closures to make sure that we are not ignoring them. There has been a huge shift in large facilities closing in the past few years. Atlanta, Chicago Motor Speedway, Houston, Palm Beach, etc. While these tracks were mainstays and host to large events and history in the past, they have become more and more irrelevant over the past decades. The reason they have become irrelevant is often times the same reason they sold. They are not or were not being operated by enthusiasts. Owned and operated by greedy opportunists was the reason they closed, but also the reason they were not good for the motorsports community. Most of these tracks are known as being open but a few times a year, not catering to racers needs, being about the profit (not the prep, the program, the payouts) and living for a few big events. Often times they were not open to small events and weekend test and tunes, and if they were they surely didn't care about you being there. That is certainly not what is good for the sport and local populations. Keep in mind racing is here because of the hundreds and thousands of grass roots folks, not the few dozen elitists who show up once a year. Let me expand. The grass roots folks buy parts, they show up to watch, they show up to race, they own small companies which make parts and push technology forward, they inspire the next generation on a Friday night test and tune, they work hard and are the soul of this lifestyle.
Pardon my french, but I could give a shit less about these greedy tracks, let me explain. If they are after a few high profit events, they're in it for the wrong reason. Don't get me wrong capitalism mixed with passion is a great thing, but that is not what many of these facilities are about.
One caveat to this is large metropolitans imposing strict local laws, rezoning, and ordinances. This seems to be unavoidable and tragic. However, I think many tracks use this as an easy out. It just so happens when they sell they get a huge paycheck and do not reopen elsewhere (read between the lines).
Lets get back to the positive! Because there is a heck of a lot of it.
A short drive from the recent Chicagoland Motor Speedway closure is Greatlakes Dragaway in Union Grove, WI. The owners invested in new racing surface and race nearly everynight of the week. They host dozens of events throughout the year catering to grass roots of all different styles! Go an hour or two in any other direction there are several other grass roots tracks under new ownership whom are hungry to gain the racers business, a few examples are Cordova Raceway (recently saved from the corporate IRG nightmare), Central Illinois Raceway (Havana, IL with new ownership).
If we are talking about Houston, and more importantly Texas, there are tracks all over just waiting for you to stop in and host events on the regular.
New Series and Events
While we are on the subject of events lets talk about the new ones and some old thriving ones!
Bracket Racing: There are literally dozens of big dollar bracket races popping up all over the country. One of the biggest racing events I've ever seen from a racer participation level happened on New Years Eve at Bradenton, FL. There were over 700 formidable opponents who absolutely packed the place. As I look at schedules there are races such as this all over the country all year.
No Prep: This is the biggest explosion of racing I have ever seen. It has inspired the common man and grass roots types. There are house packing no preps happening at race tracks I have never even heard of almost every weekend! They are exciting, they are achievable by hard working folks, they are an event that doesn't require a huge investment in glue and track prep, and they are exciting to watch (King of the Streets no prep is one of the racing events that got me excited about small tire racing).
Back Track Racing: Racing from the back of the track to the front taking all of the timing system out of it and prep. These are exploding almost as fast as the No Prep stuff. People like "Spooled Media" are tossing up a bunch of these events this year at Darlington and other tracks.
Promod: This is the biggest semi professional racing the world has ever seen I think. When Bradenton hosts a Promod race they are getting 50-70 cars showing up for qualifying. We are talking $250k+ cars. There are organizations down south, out east, PDRA, upper north east, plus NMCA/NMRA and NHRA to fill in the gaps.
Radial Racing: A racing series that was twice a year is starting to pop up all over. People like Barrett Green are having more regional events in Texas, also the Radial Outlaws series is branching out to new tracks and not just South Georgia Motorsports Park.
Drag and Drive: This one is of course near and dear to my heart as I compete often in these events. However, they are literally popping up everywhere and packing the events. These events sell out in minutes. The best and most heartwarming part of these events is they often stop at PRIMARILY the home grown, grass roots tracks. This brings out spectators on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, hell everyday. Rocky Mountain Raceweek and Dragweek have empowered tracks and local enthusiasts for years. More cars have been built regionally due to seeing these events at a grass roots track than arguably any other events, ever...
Big Wheel Racing: This is a new one for me, but not new in general. You are talking about one of the most obscure forms of racing but also the most intriguing. This is a racing style that has brought an entire new group of people to racing. The cars are absolutely outrageous, the personalities are huge, the rivalries are what we need, and the cars keep getting faster. These events live at grass roots places, and I watch for this to explode even more in the next few years!
Ok lets move on. The cars and the racing are great, but what about the people.
These new small tracks and grass roots racing is the birthplace of new characters and figureheads in the sports. These people become accessible, their personalities have a chance to flourish thanks to seeing them a lot as well as youtube (and other social media). These folks are not slave to big brand and politically correct crap the rest of the world lives under.
These smaller, less corporate and grassroots tracks are happy to have you. Everytime we go to a small track for a drag and drive the owners and employees are almost the most excited. They ask how you are, they want to tell you the story of the track, they accomodate, they celebrate when cars go fast, and they love to reinvest back in the tracks. More importantly they invite you to come back. When is the last time you felt that at a big facility?
Need I say anymore? While the big racing news outlets call everything doom and gloom, I call bullshit. I am seeing racing explode and offer opportunity for grassroots and the small guy. Good riddance to the elitist tracks and the events that go with them.
Spectator Benefits to Small Tracks
Cost... You go to a small facility you can still afford to take a family. You can often times back your truck up to the fence and tailgate, camp, hang out with your buddies. It feels like a Friday night football game, not an NFL event.
As a spectator at these small tracks you can access the pits, you can stand close to the racing, and you can be a part of it all. Food doesn't cost an arm and a leg, and beers aren't $8 each!
Not everyone is an industry person or seeing the business side of things like I do. However, I see these small booming tracks as a big opportunity. These small and upcoming grass roots facilities are accessible for sponsorship and support by an industry business, rather than a big soda company or cell phone provider. This means we have opportunities to connect with our customer base on even more levels.
Another notable here that is great about grass roots racing and these new tracks is sponsorship during events. Many big events are simply cost prohibitive to support for small businesses like Motion. With sponsorship packages costing 20, 50, 100k for one event it is simply unthinkable and impossible to have a ROI.
In closing... I hate to see any track close. However, if it is about greed and not the love for the sport, I say good riddance suckers. Nobody needed a track owner or ownership who was bad for the sport like the greedy folks who sellout. We all love this sport, we all could find ourselves in better financial positions by doing something else. A greedy and corporate track is not going to grow the sport in the end of the day anyways.