Ask any race promoter or track owner and you’ll hear the same term again and again… “car count.” Auto racing lives and dies by car count. Show me a track or series that gets 100 cars every night and I’ll show you a successful enterprise. If a series or track cannot attract cars, it cannot survive.
Race fans don’t show up to see an empty track. It’s competition that fills the grandstands. And each car entered in the night’s races also represents a separate revenue opportunity that track owners call the “back gate.” The back gate profits come from selling pit passes to crewmen, assistants, wives and girlfriends in addition to the car’s entry fees. Car count means revenue and revenue means life to a racing organization.
So while I was preparing for my first dirt track race in years – the CRS Super Truck Series “Dirty 40” at Beckley Motorsports Park in West Virginia next week – I got a call from Chris and Cindy at JR Fastener Corporation of Bensenville, Illinois. I didn’t contact them, they called me and said, “What does it take to sponsor your truck at the next event?” The owners have a breathtaking Shelby GT350. They love classic cars and racing and car shows and everything associated with it. They’re just good ol’ car people. We found a very reasonable deal that made everyone happy.
What’s the trickle-down from JR Fastener’s decision? A truck that would have remained in the garage is now entered in the wonderfully entertaining CRS Super Truck field next week. The series is now more attractive to Beckley Motorsports Park which is more likely to book the series again next season.
Repeatedly booking the series builds name familiarity, which draws more fans at the next CRS event. The track makes money not only on those fans, but on the back gate crew and entourage that the additional truck brings to the race. This multiplies into several hundred dollars of revenue from just a single new entry.
Virginia’s Southside Speedway just closed after 60 years of racing. Texas World Speedway is gone. Washington’s Yakima Speedway, where Evel Knievel famously jumped in May of 1970, is on the rocks. We are losing our racing history. How many times do mega-corporations have to buy up our historic race tracks and turn them into shopping malls before we realize that they are not on our side?
So the rest is up to us. When we need tires, will we take the extra time to call our local speedway and ask who their tire sponsor is so we can patronize their local business… or will we take the easy way out and help Jeff Bezos of Amazon make (another) billion dollars?
Can you remember the name of JR Fastener Corporation and pass their web site along to whoever you know in the contracting and construction business with a note that says, “Hey, these guys are not a mega-corporation. They’re real people hustling to run a family business and they support motorsports?”
If you’re a small business owner, please consider doing what JR Fastener has done. You’d be surprised how affordable short track racing can be and how much just one small sponsorship deal helps the whole sport. If you’re a car owner or driver, make the extra effort to get your sponsor’s name out there. You can’t perform miracles, but you can do your part.
Fans, please take your kids to a race this weekend. If you can’t come to my race at Beckley, just go somewhere. The history of the American automobile was forged on small ovals all across the continent and they are worth preserving.
Driver, CRS Truck Series, FIA’s EGT Championship & Grid Life Touring Cup
Co-host, Mecum Auctions on NBCSN