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Where have all the trackchasers gone?

missing in action

WHERE HAVE ALL THE TRACKCHASERS GONE?

 

 

Editor’s note:

This post was written in November, 2012.  It is a factual essay on the state of trackchasing.  It asks a very real question, “Where have all the trackchasers gone?”  Please read this and try to come up with your own answers on “Where have all the trackchasers gone?”

 

 

 

The “Top 29”.

According to www.roamingtheraceways.com there are 29 trackchasers who have seen more than 400 lifetime tracks. Of course, there are many trackchasers who have never ever joined this group who have seen more than 400 tracks. Many of those people never took the time to put their “lists” together. Others never wanted to join because they either didn’t like the “politics” of the group and/or didn’t like the people running the show.

 

 

Therefore I will focus on just those twenty-nine trackchasers who are listed as having seen more than 400 lifetime tracks. I wanted to judge how “active” these chasers were today compared to the high points of their trackchasing careers. The answer came back in very clear bold words: NOT VERY ACTIVE!

 

judge 1

Let’s take a look. You be the judge.

Let’s take a look. That’s right. Let’s review the data. I decided to review the results from the year 2000 through this year (2012). Nearly thirteen years seemed like a long enough time period to get the facts straight. First I looked up the very BEST year that each trackchaser has had in terms of new tracks seen. I wanted to compare where each chaser was in 2012 compared to their best year.

 

 

There were a couple of things to think about. First, it’s only mid-November in 2012. The season is not 100% complete but after November 1st trackchasers will add only 2-3% more tracks to their annual totals. Many won’t add any at all. Therefore, looking at 2012 totals in November probably credits a trackchaser with 97-100% of the tracks they will see for the entire year.

 

 

Secondly, I realize that comparing one’s results to their VERY BEST performance comes with it’s own set of limitations. My best ever score in golf is 68. If I had to guess I will never ever shoot 68 again. On a daily basis I don’t come that close to shooting that score. However, if I once shot 68 it’s pretty unlikely I will ever shoot 100. I don’t expect trackchasers to come that close to their very best year but they should probably be “in the neighborhood”.

 

 

What’s the neighborhood in trackchasing? I picked the number “50%”. I figured if a trackchaser was still active then they should be able to come within 50% of their best year ever. Did they?

 

inactive

Very few trackchasers are remaining active.

Only SIX of the twenty-nine trackchasers, who have dominated this hobby saw, in 2012, as many as 50% of the tracks they had seen in their BEST year.

 

 

Why?

Why? First of all, three of the top twenty-nine chasers are now deceased. Of the living trackchasers within the top ten here are the comparisons between their “best year” and “2012”. The ratio of these two results is the last number you see.

 

As an example Gordon Killian’s best ever year yielded 63 tracks. This year he has seen twelve tracks. His ratio of 2012 tracks to his best ever year is 19%.

 

Gordon Killian – 63 – 12 – 19%

Allan Brown – 62 – 14 – 22%

Andy Sivi – 101 – 2 – 2%

Robert Helmick – 72 – 0 – 0%

P.J. Hollebrand – 56 – 4 – 7%

 

In their very best years these chasers saw between 56 and 101 tracks. This year the group averaged LESS THAT TEN tracks each.

 

 

zero 49

Zero!

 

We have several trackchasers who have reported ZERO tracks this year. By the way, two trackchasers are so disenchanted with the hobby’s leadership they refuse to report any tracks whatsoever. Below is a list of people who DO report their tracks but haven’t seen as many as ten tracks in all of 2012.

 

Andy Sivi – 101 – 2 – 2%

Robert Helmick – 72 – 0 – 0%

P.J. Hollebrand – 56 – 4 – 7%

Jack Erdmann – 48 – 0 – 0%

John Moore – 48 – 2 – 4%

Paul Weidman – 11 – 0 – 0%

Eleanor Weidman – 12 – 0 – 0%

Bing Metz – 174 – 8 – 4%

Kevin Eckert – 14 – 2 – 14%

Ken Schrader – 19 – 7 – 37%

 

 

Why?

Why is the trackchasing participation so low? There are many reasons. In some cases more than one reason applies to a single trackchaser. I’ll take a swing at the many and varied reasons of the low and, in some cases, non-existent participation.

 

 

Sadly, during the past couple of years two of our trackchasers, who accounted for nearly 2,000 lifetime tracks have passed away. They are missed.

 

 

Others have simply “dropped off the trail” for lack of interest or family reasons. I predicted more than ten years ago, that when the “travel, time and money” got to be just too much for the “thrill of it” then folks would stop trackchasing. I didn’t think I was going out on a limb with that prediction. Time has told everyone I wasn’t!

 

lack of money

Money?

Trackchasing never has made much financial sense. There is no way a trackchaser could ever justify in “dollars spent” the need to drive cross-country to see a three-hour dirt track event. In 2011 trackchaser Ed Esser drove to New Mexico TWICE from Wisconsin just to see some local short track events. That’s called passion. In situations like that passion cannot be logically or financially justified or explained.

 

 

Free time?

Some trackchasers used the excuse when they were working that work limited their activity. “When I retire” they told us, I’ll hit the road. Looking at the list of recent retirees does not justify this assertion. Many folks have less disposable income in retirement than when they were working. If trackchasing didn’t make financial sense when a paycheck was being drawn it makes even less sense when there is no regular paycheck.

 

old age

Age?

Another limitation on the trackchasing hobby is the aging demographic of the group. Of the 29 chasers listed I don’t know anyone who is less than 45 years old. I would say the vast majority of those folks are north of sixty years old. It makes all the sense in the world that a person is a lot less willing to “beat it up and down the trackchasing highway” at age 65 compared to when they were fifty years old.

 

 

There are no young ‘pups’.

It’s too bad that we cannot count a SINGLE significant new trackchaser under the age of forty in the group. They just don’t exist. By the time I was forty years old (starting the 1990 season) I had seen only 180 tracks. Other trackchasers had seen more than that by the time they were forty. Of the more than seventy listed trackchasers I’m not sure if any of them are under forty years of age. There are simply no younger trackchasers moving into the group.

 

caution men working

No girls allowed?

Trackchasing has always been a “single man’s game”. Yes there are women listed in the “top 29”. However there are NO women on this list who aren’t married to a MAN on the list! Trackchasing is a man’s game.

 

 

Most of the leading trackchasers are single….or they were single when they saw a large number of the tracks they have visited. In trackchasing most are single or marry much later in life. I’m one of the few people who have been married at a young age (23) for a long time (40 years) and have seen most of my tracks (more than 99%) while I was married. Yes, I have had a very understanding wife!

 

 

Meeting girls might be good for your personal life but they are bad for trackchasing.

From time to time these active single male trackchasers discovered something. What did they discover? Girls! When they did finally figure out there were “women in the stands of life” often the girl won out over trackchasing. As I scan the list below I see more than one who “dropped off the trail” to “chase the tail” no offense intended to anyone!

 

office politics

Politics?

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the political aspects of trackchasing. They are significant. I have noticed an extreme amount of jealousy in the trackchasing hobby. Much has come from the “have not’s” toward the perceived “haves” within the hobby.

 

 

In case you have not noticed trackchasing is really all about the “counting”. If a track doesn’t count then it won’t likely be seen. Guy Smith is a good example here. He will virtually never see a track more than a few miles from home if it’s not a new track. He does have a couple of minor exceptions to this. He will go back to a track if it’s a new track for his wife to see. He might also go back to a track if it’s on the way home from a new track he has just seen. During an entire year Guy might not go back to a single track for the purpose of being a “race fan”. This is not really a criticism as much as an observation. Most trackchasers, especially those in the top ten, are not really “race fans”. They enjoy seeing a good race but usually only if it’s at a track they have never visited. They are trackchasers first. Racechasing comes in a distant second.

 

no leadership

Lack of leadership?

Finally, the leadership of the group has not fostered an increase in trackchasing interest. Guy Smith has now taken over every aspect of trackchasing. He moderates the Yahoo! Groups trackchaser list. He runs the trackchasing website that provides the rankings. He decides who is listed and how they are listed. He writes most of the messages in the Yahoo! Groups forum. Guy has assumed the role of “trackchasing commissioner”. It seems the more Guy “takes charge” the less interest more and more people have in trackchasing.

 

 

Guy, is nothing if not a polarizing figure. I have talked to trackchasers who have never posted their trackchasing lists with the group. I asked them why? There simple answer was they didn’t like the group’s leadership or members of the group. Today we have two chasers in the group who won’t report their tracks. We have another who refuses to be part of the group rankings. We have yet another (me!) who is doing his darndest, short of taking legal action, to get removed from the group’s listing all together.

 

 

Is anyone out there?

There has been a dramatic decrease in the interest in the Yahoo! Groups trackchasing forum. There are fewer members in this group than I have subscribers on YouTube. The group’s numbers have stagnated over the past few years. More than 90% of the messages come from just a handful of people in the entire group.

 

 

During the “heyday” of the group (2002-2006) the group averaged nearly 150 messages every month. During the first ten months of 2012 the average number of monthly messages is only sixty-one, nearly a 60% decline.

 

 

I still read the messages in the trackchaser Yahoo! Groups forum. From time to time I get valuable information about upcoming racing dates. However, far too many of the messages are really “non-messages”. If one person, who rarely posts a message does post they will invariably get a thank you message from Mr. Smith. Then that person might very well thank Mr. Smith for thanking them. Even though the quantity of messages has declined some sixty percent the quality has probably declined even more.

 

 

Folks just aren’t interested in track lists and rankings.

A couple of years ago, Mr. Smith developed a website that detailed all kinds of rankings within the trackchasing hobby. Most of the data came from Will White’s trackchasing website, the now defunct www.trackchaser.net site.

 

 

Despite being on line for the better part of two years, www.roamingtheraceways.com has less than 4,000 total hits. By comparison I, as a single trackchaser, will get more than 10,000 views PER MONTH on YouTube.  My website gets well over 10,000 hits per month.

 

 

I have discovered as I have traveled the country and the world that people are not interested in rankings or even track lists. Most people I meet don’t even KNOW there are other people doing what I do! They want to know what my favorite track is, how long I have been doing this and where I’m going next. NOBODY asks me about trackchasing rankings.

 

 

Does the data prove my assertions?

At the beginning of this analysis I told you I was going to give you “data” regarding the declining participation and interest in my hobby of trackchasing. Did I do that? You will have to decide. The statistical highlights show:

 

  • Only six of the top twenty-nine trackchasers, in 2012, have seen as many as 50% of the tracks they saw in their best years. A large group of the very highest ranked trackchasers have seen less than ten tracks in 2012.
  • The number of messages sent in the Yahoo Groups! trackchaser forum has declined by roughly 60% compared to the peak years from 2002-2006. The quality of input in the messages is far less today as well.
  • Membership in the forum is stagnant.
  • Interest in the group’s website that lists trackchasing rankings is low.

 

 

It would be difficult to argue with the data provided. Interest and participation is at an all-time low since the group’s origination in the late 1990s.

 

future 9

How about the future?

However, it would never be a good idea to simply list the negatives without discussing some of the positives. I will tell you this the “positives” are hard to come by.

 

 

First of all, I want to give Guy Smith credit for doing his best to keep the group going. Unfortunately, they don’t see to want to follow his leadership.

 

 

The game has changed.

Trackchasing was a game most people were interested in when they could pull the Chevy out of the garage in the morning and drive to the track that evening. However, many of the leading trackchasers soon (in the past 15-20 years!) ended up seeing all of the tracks that were within a day’s driving distance.

 

 

To see more meant more gasoline expense, maybe a hotel and for sure a worn out personal automobile at the end of the year. One trackchaser once told me he budgeted “$135 each month” for trackchasing. I ran into this very same trackchaser in 2012 and he told me “he budgets $400 per month” for his trackchasing expenses. Neither of those amounts will take you very far down the trackchasing trail these days.

 

bank for the buck

Not much ‘bang for the buck’.

I had one trackchasing friend tell me “I can spend $10,000 on the road and not have too much to show for it or I can spend the same amount of money around the house and have a lot to show for it”. That seemed to make sense to me.

 

 

If the tracks are not nearby and there are more and more things to do at home at a much lesser expense I don’t think the aging trackchasers will ever hit the road like they did over the past twenty years. I don’t see youngsters stepping up to take their places either.

 

 

Some might say that short track racing isn’t as entertaining as it once was. On some days I would agree with that line of thinking.  On other days I would not. Racing at the very best tracks is still very entertaining. However, the trackchasing base has already seen racing at most of the best tracks.

 

 

The hobby has morphed into seeing ‘novelty’ events.

Sadly, trackchasing at the highest levels has now resorted to “novelty” events. This includes figure 8 tracks, enduro racing and racing on “marginally countable” tracks where using the term “racing” might be stretching it.

 

keep calm don't kill the messenger

I’m just the messenger.

Folks, I wish I had better news. I’m a pretty creative guy.  I try to stay positive.  I just can’t see a bright future for the hobby of trackchasing if a person is in it for the racing.

 

 

I’m lucky in that sense. For me, at this stage in my trackchasing career, the racing is incidental. Of course, I would love to see a good race break out. But if it doesn’t I will be just as happy. Every day I’m on the trackchasing trail has 24 hours in it. I’m only at the track for 2-3 hours. There is plenty of time for me to enjoy the sights and scenery of New Orleans or New Oxford or North Platte. In fact, the #1 reason I enjoy trackchasing is just having the opportunity to see a place that’s a long way (in so many ways) from where I pay my property taxes.

 

 

I’m lucky in another sense. I’ve discovered the international racing community. Now THAT is really fun. Every trip averages 5-10 days. I’m at the track for one afternoon. That leaves plenty of time to see the country.

 

 

I’ll keep doing it.

I’ll keep going trackchasing as long as my health and money hold out. I hope that’s a long time because there is still so much to see. I wish the “state of trackchasing” was in a little better shape. However, I think I began to notice that the people at the top were a little shaky several years ago. The jealousy that existed amongst some members when fellow competitors “could see and do more” brought out a bad side of some folk’s personalities. Of course, the personalities of the people I’ve met in trackchasing are not really any different than the people I meet in everyday life. There are some folks you just can’t wait to see again and others who you would just as soon never have to run into again.

 

 

In closing.

In closing I will make these comments. Some might ask why I would want to bring up this subject at all. Hasn’t trackchasing been good to me? Yes it has. However, I don’t think it ever hurts to take an objective look at the facts. You can never get hurt by reading and understanding another’s analysis.

 

 

Others might simply have the comment, “Ya…and your mother wears combat boots”. That comment would prove one point. Not everyone is well suited to understand and interpret data based analysis and conclusions.

 

your mother wears combat boots

Still others will read what is written and come to similar conclusions that I have made. Others, might have their own “data” to somehow show how my conclusions are invalid. If they do I would love to see it!

 

 

The overall summary.

Here is a complete summary of the current trackchasers who have seen more than 400 lifetime tracks as reported by www.roamingtheraceways.com. Here’s how to read the numbers. As an example Guy Smith’s best trackchasing year ever netted 87 tracks. In 2012 he has seen 56 tracks. Therefore, in 2012, he has seen 64% of his very best year’s total.

 

 

Guy Smith – 87 – 56 – 64%

Ed Esser – 132 – deceased – 0%

Gordon Killian – 63 – 12 – 19%

Allan Brown – 62 – 14 – 22%

Rick Schneider – 79 – does not report – n/a

Andy Sivi – 101 – 2 – 2%

Robert Helmick – 72 – 0 – 0%

Roland Vanden Eynde – 105 – 58 – 55%

Mike Knappenberger – 167 – 101 – 60%

P.J. Hollebrand – 56 – 4 – 7%

Jack Erdmann – 48 – 0 – 0%

John Moore – 48 – 2 – 4%

Paul Weisel – 121 – 15 – 12%

Pam Smith – 76 – 47 – 61%

Norm Wagner – 43 – 23 – 53%

Dale O’Brien – 49 – 15 – 30%

Roger Ferrell – 71 – 16 – 22%

Paul Weidman – 11 – 0 – 0%

Bruce Eckel – 37 – 16 – 43%

Pat Eckel – 37 – 15 – 40%

Nancy Brown – 31 – 19 – 61%

Pappy Hough – n/a – deceased – 0%

Eleanor Weidman – 12 – 0 – 0%

Bing Metz – 174 – 8 – 4%

John Osowski – 17 – deceased – 0%

Kevin Eckert – 14 – 2 – 14%

Carol Lewis – 63 – does not report – n/a

Brian Hickey – 92 – 40 – 43%

Ken Schrader – 19 – 7 – 37%

 

 

 

 


Comments

  1. An idea: include the Yahoo Groups! trackchaser forum url in all of your reports. Perhaps someone will occasionally click on it.

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