This week has been an interesting week in our local racing scene. It seems our local club picked up on my article about the tungsten axle tubes and amended its rule to outlaw all tungsten parts on the car.
It’s a good thing.
We really don’t need to delve into the world of tungsten. Too much added expense just to more separate the haves from the have-nots.
Now, we just need to come to our senses and eliminate creativity in suspension designs. Unless our goal is to recreate NASCAR or IROC on dirt.
But, lets ignore the rising costs of motors, tires, and motor rebuilds. That’s it, let’s clamp down on creativity and imagination.
Before I get to a little more of the tech section, I do want to talk about something else which has been bothering me for years. Something, I think, could change racing in a positive way and bring the crowds back.
When I was young, if we showed up at a track in our area after 6:30 you didn’t get a seat. Or, if you did it was on the bottom two rows where you either had a hard time seeing or got so pelted with dust and dirt, watching the races was difficult.
Now, stroll up the grandstand moments before the feature, and you can pretty much sit where you like. The crowds were so bad at one particular track I went to last year you could have had a bomb go off in the stands and I don’t think anyone would have been hurt.
“Why are crowds declining?” has been a big question over the years. Local tracks have been trying to figure out over the years and can’t seem to figure it out.
The problem is that they don’t make any changes to try and affect the outcome.
I think it was Einstein (pretty smart dude) who said, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘The definition of stupidity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome.’
The racing show put on at our local tracks has pretty much been the same since then, I don’t know, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, maybe.
Yet, crowds keep declining year after year.
Tracks are competing against other entertainment venues for the family entertainment dollar.
Their completion is not other race tracks.
Tracks are competing against things like movie theaters who keep upping the ante; get sound, 3D, table side food service while you watch the movie, comfortable seating, full restaurants and bars inside the theater. A movie has become an evening of entertainment rather than just a movie.
Now, I know there are still good crowds at many tracks in America. And, I know your professional racing special shows will still pack-em in. But, most places I go for a traditional Saturday night show attract sparse crowds. Or, at least, it ain’t what it used to be.
The first, and biggest problem I see, is that tracks hold the average person hostage for an entire night of racing.
They keep adding classes, usually beginner types of cars, just to pump up the admission through the back gate so they can make some money. I’ve been to tracks which offer five or six classes of cars on a Saturday night.
I’m only there to see one or two of them. And I don’t want to sit through the other classes to see what I want to watch. I don’t want to watch a bunch of yellow flag; followed by tons of pace laps while dazed and confused track employees try to line them up for yet another bunch of yellow flags.
This is the equivalent of static on a radio station which just makes it hard to listen through. You know your favorite song might come on soon, so you keep putting up with it so just maybe you might hear that song. If you just bear with it through the fifth yellow flag of the race you might get to see some good action.
I can’t just be a cynic without offering some advice to fix it.
First, why not spread the show out throughout the day or multiple days. Start running you entry level classes at two or three o’clock and run them from start to finish as complete shows.
We go the track now, run all the heat races, then hour long intermission (snooze) to prep the track, then run all the features. The average fan holds out for maybe a glimmer of hope of seeing something worth watching deep into the evening.
Let the fan come watch what they want to see. For example:
- Four cylinders at 2:00 complete show
- intermission and track prep
- hobby stocks at 4:00 complete show
- intermission and track prep
- modifieds at 6:00 complete show
- intermission and track prep
- Late models at 8:00 complete show
Fans can come when they want stay for the classes they want to see and leave feeling satisfied they weren’t forced to watch other things they didn’t want to see.
How about better food? Some tracks have caught on to this offering up some really good stuff!
BBQ made by people who actually give a crap about the food they serve. People working outside grills like a proud father serving up Sundays meal to his family and friends.
I see some good, but most is made by people just manning their post to provide rations to the population with just enough nutrition so the prisoners won’t starve to death.
Bad food attitude.
The point of this is to try and get tracks to think about the show they are providing. Make it an experience. Something people want to come back to week after week.
Tracks concentrate so much on rules and payout to keep the back gate happy. Have they forgotten about the fans?
Look at church festivals, movie theaters, or other entertainment venues for ideas.
Here are a couple more.
- sell tables or booths to local craft people or artisans to come sell their wares during the races. We could have mini craft fares to entertain people during intermission.
- Craft beer or wine tasting events with the locals being able to sell what they brew. Craft beer is a big business in America and many hobbyists are making small batches in their home.
- Roving microphone in the pits or in the stands doing interviews. I see this some, but it should be half of amount of the entertainment coming out of the loud speaker. We really don’t need a track announcer telling us the play by play of what we can see on the track. What we need is interesting things we can’t see.
- Fenced in walk through areas in the pits so the fans can get closer to the drivers. NASCAR, has it right on this one with their ‘fan experiences’ at several of the tracks.
- Intermission entertainment like jugglers, circus acts, whatever. Anything to keep the people entertained through the long drawn out intermission.
- More ‘give-aways’. Quit being so cheap. Give away a dozen t-shirts a night to fans who will wear them to the movies. People will ask them, “Hey, where is that at?”
Have more meetings with people to come up with more ideas to attract all types of people to the races. You don’t want just the race fans who will sit through tornado warnings just to see that last lap. You want to attract the person who looks out their window at 5 o’clock and says,” nah, not tonight.”
If racing wants to survive it needs to concentrate on the customer. Unless?
The customer is no longer the ones who sit in the stands. That’s a rant for another time.
Alright, let’s move on.
I want to give you a little preview from my latest book.
This is from the section on crash repair. Here I talk about how to check ball joints and spindles after a crash.
Ball Joints and Spindles
Damaged ball joints are pretty easy to spot and are the most likely item to bend in a crash.
A bent ball joint can cause all sorts of steering problems which will seem like gremlins taking over your car. When I hear, a driver complains about inconsistencies, the first place I look is the ball joints.
The easiest way to check ball joints, besides just looking at them, is to take the shocks and springs out of the car and let the front end hang free on jack stands. Steer the car back and forth. If the spindle moves up and down as you steer, you most likely have a bent ball joint.
It also helps to un-bolt the tie rods from the front end and just have the upper control arm, lower control arm and spindle hanging there as a unit.
Just steer it back and forth by hand. You’ll easily see or feel the suspension move if there is a bent ball joint.
Sometimes the spindle can bend too. This is a little harder to detect.
Take the spindle off the car and look it over.
Turn it on end and look through the ball joint bores. Since these taper, they will look like concentric circles stacked evenly on top of each other. If the spindle is bent the ball joint bores won’t line up from top to bottom.
Many companies also make spindle checkers which consists of two inserts which fit inside of the spindle bores and have the center drilled out to run a rod from bottom to top.
There are different ball joint tapers, so when ordering the checkers make sure you know what ball joints your car runs.
One area that many people, and even I myself, have ignored over the years has been the steering arm.
Years ago, if the steering arm got tweaked a little, we would just adjust the toe on that particular side and keep running it. If the steering arm got too bad, we would replace the spindle. For the most part, though, we’d give the tie rod a quarter or a half turn and keep running the spindle.
Then, a couple years ago, I really got investigating the front ends and Ackerman steering. Having the proper Ackerman in your front end can be a huge advantage. And, tweaked spindles can greatly affect the Ackermann. Now, unless I can figure the Ackermann didn’t get affected by that bent spindle, it gets replaced.
When you start running tweaked steering arms, handling will start to degrade over time.
This is often a common scenario I see.
You’ll have a great handling car.
Get into a crash.
Replace a bunch of stuff and adjust for the tweaked steering arm.
The car will still be ok, but maybe will have lost a little something. You’ll adjust for it someplace else and keep racing.
A few weeks later you’ll get into another crash and go through the same routine. Replace other parts and adjust for that bent steering arm.
Soon you’ll have adjusted for that steering arm too many times and it’s now way out of whack.
Your car has fallen off and you really don’t know why.
Those small tweaks slowly caught up with you and now you’ve adjusted for them in so many other areas, you really don’t know the way back to that original great handling car.
Spindles can be expensive, but I think they are essential to a good handling consistent car.
If you are interested in reading more you can get my book on Amazon here.
Thanks for listening.