Just A Kid From The Grandstands: My Time In Auto Racing
Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover
Don's California Racing Recollections: Best Of The Blog And Beyond
Available via print on demand at Lulu in Hard Cover or Paperback
Also, what could be a series of informative books...
Short Track History Project at Gofundme
Yeah, I Love Announcing The Races
I wrote a column for The DCRR. I'm sot sure if I ran it or not back then. I was trying to locate it to post it here, but I'm having no luck finding it. I want to be brief here anyway. The audio is linked at the bottom of this article if you want to skip my ramblings this time. I understand. This is just my thoughts on announcing.
In my auto biography, I spoke of announcing when I was a kid. I'd turn the TV down and announce football games. If I didn't get in the game at recess at school, I'd announce it. Then, there was the hot wheel racing on my coffee table. Yes, I'd run a full program every week from time trials to the Main Events and everything in between.
I'd tape the numbers with masking tape on the roofs of the cars. The Sportsman division and the Street Stocks. I kept points. In my hot wheel world, guys like Allan Nordstrom, Len Mello, Don O'Keefe Jr., Ron Brown, Marion Heaton, Dan Hatfield and others could win. I've always been a fan of the underdog. So, I'd run these races and announce them. Then, I'd go watch the real races.
I didn't think about announcing so much when I stared writing about the races. I got a couple opportunities with the NCMA and at Petaluma, but it was fun. Petaluma happened on somebody's whim, which I write about in my auto biography. I had to go bragging about my knowledge of Petaluma racers. Well, it was true. I kept stat books for Antioch, Merced, Watsonville, Petaluma, San Jose. I think there's some Bakersfield there too.
I cared enough about the NCMA that I jumped at the chance to make sure the guys got the proper coverage. I wrote about those opportunities at Marysville and Antioch and what happened at Antioch then to put an end to it. But now, I had an interest in announcing. It only grew as the next few years passed. I learned some from Butch Althar about the importance of announcing sponsorships. It wasn't being done properly. From what I've heard lately, it's not being done at all now at one track I know of.
Why is that important? Sponsorship is the life blood of this sport. Without that extra money coming in, some drivers can't even afford to race, and tracks need that sponsorship money too. Even if there are signs around the track and sponsors painted on the cars, that's not enough. Announce those names. It means something to those businesses and it makes them owners happy. If they are happy, the sponsorship money comes. If the money comes, more drivers race and the track can do more. Why is this a foreign concept to some people now?
When I got the gig in 1998, I knew I'd be plugging sponsors, so I started gathering them immediately. As car count grew and the track became pressed for time, I'd hear the whole, "we don't have time for sponsors" nonsense. Oh really? Watch me make the time. Drivers had their sponsors announced twice a night, sometimes three times. The track did too. Even with over 100 cars, I made the time. I heard of drivers before I came along who lost sponsors because they weren't being announced. Seriously.
Of course, my extensive knowledge when it comes to track history came into play when I announced. Always present the racers in the best light so the fans learn more about them. This includes history, current facts, sponsors and other interesting details. Those details are learned by walking through the pits. Can you believe some track announcers still read from a piece of paper without walking the pits? That's unacceptable. Set the announcing gear up before the racers sign in and be there at the gate to meet them. That's how it's done.
I brought this same style to Merced and Chowchilla. When, Johnny Sass was at Merced, he knew the value of sponsorships. His skills landed the track many good sponsors and helped keep things going. The fact that he let me call the races at Merced in his booth is something I will never forget. I admired announcers like Sass, Althar, Harry Osbourne and Ron Albright, to name a few. I wanted to be good like them, and think I did okay.
It's a responsibility to announce. You have to keep the crowd informed and entertained. You have to take care all of the drivers and you have to do what the tracks need you to do. I'm proud of the work I did in the six years these tracks had me announcing. I think I added something to the show and helped showcase those racers as the stars of the speedway that they ALL are. Were I to do it again, that's how I would approach it. If the opportunity never arises again, I'm proud of the way I did it before.
Do I still have that ability? I don't know. Maybe I do. I have an audio you can listen to, which is right below this article. It's five divisions of Main Event action at Antioch Speedway from March 21, 2015. What a show and what a hooked up race track. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this. It was certainly fun to watch.
DCRR Racing Radio Audio Calls From Antioch Speedway
March 21, 2015
Being A Good Publicity Director
Many times, my conversations with my friend Don O'Keefe Jr. lead my mind to interesting creative areas. He has a good mind for racing and he knows the value of looking ahead at where things are going and plotting courses for a better future. This is something that is needed in the sport desperately in some places. One area you can start with is Publicity Director.
This leads me to an area which was inspired by one of Don's old News & Rumors columns that I've linked HERE.
Let's Look At Websters Dictionary, shall we.
noun pub·lic·i·ty \(ˌ)pə-ˈbli-sə-tē, -ˈblis-tē\
: something that attracts the attention of the public
: attention that is given to someone or something by newspapers, magazines, television news programs, etc.
: the activity or business of getting people to give attention to someone or something
noun di·rec·tor \də-ˈrek-tər, dī-\
: a person who manages an organized group of people or a part of an organization (such as a school or business)
: one of a group of managers who control a company or corporation
: a person who directs a play, movie, etc.
Okay, the definition of the role is obvious. You handle the publicity (the hype) for the track, and you direct it to all of the appropriate media and social outlets. You should use any and all angles, because your success will have an effect on the success of the race track. I believe I played a part in successes at multiple race tracks.
One thing missing from some tracks is a proper news release of what happened at the previous race. It's lacking names, a race summary and even timeliness. Waiting all week to put something out there is not good. Put that word out there immediately. There are many ways to accomplish this.
Social media is important. Use Twitter, Facebook and whatever. It's free and people see it. You can just put up a few sentences and a picture, a few paragraphs or whatever. On Twitter, you get in and out in 140 characters. Put up the winners and a link to the web site. Do live updates. Social media matters.
Now, there's also the newspapers and news sites. You need to hit them and hit them hard. Really, you should have a laptop at the track and get to work as soon as possible. I did that at Chowchilla, and it made a difference. And, here's another thing to try. If newspapers have a writer they are willing to send, embrace that. It can lead to more space in the paper.
As the track's PR person, you see to it that the big papers in the area are invited. You have a media guide booklet in the press box for them, full pit access as needed, internet connection and even food and drink. Yes, food and drink. The big sports do it. Altamont Raceway even did it for their weekly races. If they have guys willing to come from the newspaper and write articles for the track, welcome them and be helpful to them.
The PR person will give the newspaper reporters a phone number so if any questions arise, you can answer them. I did this at Antioch for the previous management. All too frequently, they had the reporters calling me for the information on track history and that sort of thing, and I helped new reporters learn the ropes. So, the PR person might need to help break in a novice reporter, because that's who the paper is likely to send unless the paper has a veteran reporter who loves racing. That's okay, though, because that new reporter can turn into a friend and ally for the race track
Now, as PR person, you still issue a press release race review for the newspapers, and you send it to any paper within 30-40 miles of the track. It doesn't matter if it all gets used, some of it gets used or you get ignored. Get them used to the fact that they have information coming in, and eventually they will pay attention. That's how it worked for me at Chowchilla. Newspapers still matter. A press release on Wednesday that hypes up the coming event should be a part of the job too. Hype up the point battles and that sort of thing.
Then, you can get into individual driver stories. Those matter too, but some PR people rely on them as a crutch. If you are mainly doing those types of stories, then many drivers aren't getting any mention at all. They get discouraged and start thinking they don't matter to the track at all. These are basic fundamentals, but only some of them. Technology has changed, but the need for an effort has not.
The Publicity Director is responsible for presenting the track in the best light and attracting fans to the races each week. Why should they want to come? Here's a news flash. It's not to "save racing" because that's not a fan's responsibility. They are responsible for spending their hard earned dollars on things that entertain them. It's up to the race track to entertain the fans and make them want to spend money there on a regular basis.
So, the PR person needs to have prompt news releases that hype the important details. They should be a part of making sure the web site has relevant information for the fans. They should engage in social media in a friendly manner, whch doesn't always happen. They should keep an eye on the pulse of the internet and social media and give people a reason to get excited about the races.
I don't think it's a stretch to say this person can have a big impact on whether fans come to watch or whether some racers come to race. They can help make or break a race track. If they aren't doing their job right, the track can suffer for it. Anyway, this is just something to think about. It would be nice to see some Publicity Directors that can direct publicity in the right way. Fortunately, there are some tracks that have one.