It's been interesting looking at the names on the list and recalling a few times from the past as I go. I am seriously considering the creation of a California Racing History Preservation effort. I estimate I have at least ten books just on the information I have in my records. This includes several tracks, and of course Antioch Speedway is one of them
Is anybody interested at this point? That I don't know as I type away on a busted keyboard. In the meantime, the Best Of The Blog And Beyond book has a nice taste of some of the history I have.
Don's California Racing Recollections: Best Of The Blog And Beyond
Available via print on demand at Lulu in Hard Cover or Paperback
Just A Kid From The Grandstands: My Time In Auto Racing
Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover
The loss of Four Bangers at Antioch Speedway got me thinking about things, and this may be an unpopular opinion for certain people. Of course, it is my opinion on promoting racing and also the subject of hobby classes.
The Four Bangers are a "hobby class" as were the Street Stocks once upon a time. No pay. The Hobby Stocks themselves were the same, but they have a purse these days. I don't think of them as a hobby division so much these days, and I'm not really fond of the negative connotation the hobby term gives a division. Even the headline divisions are hobby classes when you consider most of them aren't racing for a living, but that weekly purse helps keep them coming back.
But, what is a hobby class? You base that on the treatment of the class, the lack of purse money, receiving trophies only and the fact that they take whatever they get and like it. In many cases through the years, they were/are the class with the bigger car count that puts money in the promoter's pockets. Promoters like to use these classes for various reasons, which may range from padding their own pockets to paying other classes.
Now, some people will say these classes don't deserve a purse, but I'd like you to at least consider a few things.
1: Hobby classes pay to get into the track.
2: Hobby classes help pack and bring in the race track.
3: Hobby classes produce future stars to the other classes.
4: Hobby classes have been known to have the race of the night when the upper classes were not as exciting that night.
5: Hobby classes are on the card that a fan pays money to watch. These fans may not always be there to see them (sometimes they are), but often times a race in a hobby class was a positive memory a fan may take with them when they go home.
Are they deserving of a purse? If so, mow much? Will it encourage money drivers in the class? Well, money drivers enter every division and win their share of races. That is the way it has always been. Do they deserve a purse? Yes. How much? Maybe the winner and/or second can recoup their entry fee but perhaps a little something for the remainder of the field? Will it happen? Depends on the promoter.
Now, I was watching the forums in 2004 when an interesting little debate began over Four Bangers and pay at Antioch. Car count reached into the high teens and seemed poised to need B Mains a year later. I don't think they ever had a B Main, though Watsonville's class did. What happened?
Well, there were one or two racers who noticed they had a good car count, better than most at the track that year. They dared speak up about it and the need for a purse. They probably grandstanded a little in the process and one was kicked out due to running a couple Sprint 100 races.
So, as a punishment, the division received no points in 2005, and all of that momentum was lost. The track gave them points a year later, but the damage was done by then. To me, the decisions here rank up there with merging Street Stocks and Limited Late Models as questionable decisions that backfired at the track. It's interesting to me that Street Stocks and Four Bangers are no longer there.
I was against Four Bangers. I respect that Lance Cline was putting cars together to get this thing going in 2003, but I still ask why on two levels? First, there was already a Mini Truck division that served as an entry level class. This divided the entry level car base, rather than focusing on building the Mini Truck class. Secondly, why do a different Mini Stock class than everybody else in the state had? Given the traveling nature of the Mini Stock guys up north, Antioch could have had some big shows.
In the end, there are no Four Bangers or Mini Trucks at Antioch, and that's a shame. Mini Trucks sort of faded away, while Four Bangers can enjoy "the flat tow" to Merced now or talk to promoters at Dixon Speedway about finally starting that program there. Either way, they won't be racing at Antioch. I feel for the guys who may have built cars this year with the understanding that they had Antioch races, only to find out a week ago that this is not the case.
I'm not sure what the thought process is with some of these recent decisions, but perhaps management knows something I don't. Maybe there are lots of racers on the way, and the web page will be buzzing from all of the hype and excitement created. Time will tell, but I hope it works out for them.
Now, George Steitz was considered the master of the open show in California. Racers loved him and flocked to his races. However, there was a little secret about George. Now, he had the money to back up the purse he advertised, but I doubt he had to dig into it too much. You see, George had a secret that not every racer knew. Not everybody knows how to count the money. I was already waking up to all of that when a wise man showed me the way.
George's races had huge entry fees, and that was what the drivers raced for. That's not a knock on George, because he knew how to do it. He was successful and I respect what he was trying to do. Those races were kind of like an annual family reunion. They also upset a promoter or two who in turn tried to book over his races.
Once upon a time, the racers were running for the money from the front gate. The fans paid the purse and sponsorship paid the rest. So, a promoter actually promoted with fan attendance in mind. They made sure the word got out through the various outlets. They made sure the racers wanted to race for them every week. They did what they needed to do. They promoted. It took effort or at least hiring people who knew how to do what needed to be done.
Sponsorship is a factor. There are various ways to get money. Billboards and program adds and an announcer who plugs those sponsors a few times every week is just one thing. That money is not insignificant either, and let's just say I know a few things about that. It's gravy to a promoter. Some use that money and the money they make on running playdays to closed grandstands before the real season begins to pad their pockets. I get that, because you make up for losses, such as races run in very cold weather with almost no attendance, rainouts, bad nights or what have you.
It all takes effort, but there are ways to do this stuff. What's my point here? Oh, I don't know. I just had a thought process going today, started typing and this is what I came up with. It's a difficult time to promote racing these days. It's not the 70's, 80's or even the 90's. However, with the right effort, it can still be very productive and rewarding for all involved. I hope that turns out to be the case this year.