Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking For New Ways To Attract Interest In The Race Track

Finding a way to attract the next generation of racers and fans should be important to any track. I recall up in Reno at the Promoter's Workshop that this very issue was discussed. This was ten years ago or so. In 2002, Chuck Griffin and I were talking in Reno and he revealed he was interested in this High School racing program, Campus Motorsports, if I recall correctly. They were doing in at tracks in Southern California.

The idea intrigued me and I was in support of Chuck for this. They were gonna be driving the Pure Stocks at Merced, not to be confused with the Hobby Stocks. This was a non Camaro or Firebird class. Unfortunately, it never really got off the ground. There was at least one car fielded, but it didn't have an impact.

Ideally, you teach these young boys and girls about race cars, building and maintaining them, painting them and maintaining a good appearance for the car, how to race and sportsmanship at the track. Art class at that particular school could be involved in the paint job of the car. The students could ultimately treat it like a High School event, such as football or baseball, meaning they come to the track and cheer their team, bring banners with the school colors and that sort of thing.

In theory, this is a pretty neat deal. I've recently had some conversations with Jim Robbins at Antioch Speedway on this very subject. He's been looking into doing something with Four Bangers, the entry level class. Picture the high schools in Antioch, Pittsburg, Concord and Oakley competing in this thing for what school is the best. It supports school spirit, encourages potential new fans and drivers. It seems like a win-win situation.

It creates more buzz at the schools with the kids. Picture the school newspapers feauring stories on their team cars and pictures at the races, maybe even radio coverage at the school radio station at Clayton Valley. From that, maybe you even get the next writer or track announcer. Well, maybe.

Jim tells me there is concern over liability and that sort of stuff. Yeah, her comes the legal garbage. A student can get hurt playing any sport at school, and seriously at that. These cars are pretty safe, and Four Bangers aren't going that fast compared to the other classes. It's entry level.

If something like this could be pulled off, it further promotes the track as part of the community, but I know it's a long ways from ever becoming reality. I can picture it, though. A few hundred screaming teenagers or so, cheering their school on, and a half dozen or more schools taking part in this thing.

Another problem, though, would be funding. Let's face it, money is tight for many schools these days, and sports and the arts are the programs feeling the axe at the budget meetings. This program would require a coordinator who would keep in touch with all of the schools and would help bring in sponsorship for the school. But, yes, students would be encouraged to take part in fund raising efforts. It's another lesson in life they would need to learn.

Well, it sounds good on paper, but a lot of work would be needed to really make it fly. Will that ever happen? Probably not, but it is one way to attract new interest in the track. That makes it something to at least look at it. Nothing wrong with that. There are other ideas that need to be considered, but that's for another column.