Is Trackchasing too competitive?
What is competitive?
Editor’s note: I wrote this piece in 2007. From what I can tell I wouldn’t have written it any differently now in 2014. Trackchasing numbers are still way down compared to the hobby’s heyday. That’s probably never going to change. I’ll tell you why below.
I must say that it pains me to hear from folks that “trackchasing isn’t as fun as it used to be”. I guess I would ask the question, “Compared to what?” My experience and view of the topic is not like that at all. I love trackchasing as much today as I did yesterday or as much as I did as far back as I can remember. Somewhere in my learning’s, I came to know that it is important to manage my expectations. If you expect more than something can deliver, then you are likely to be disappointed. Permit me to give you some background on my thinking.
First of all, I separate “racechasing” from “trackchasing”. I loosely define racechasing as going to the racetrack to see the “racing”. Trackchasing, for me, is primarily about going to see the track. To me, there is a difference.
When I was a “racechaser” I went to see the race groups I really liked such as USAC stock cars at Milwaukee, World of Outlaw sprint cars and D.I.R.T. modifieds. I was there to see the cars and drivers. I didn’t care what track they were racing at. I was also lucky to have great local cars and drivers near where I lived at the time at places like Peoria Speedway, Santa Fe Speedway, Rockford Speedway, Manzanita Speedway and Ascot Park. I was really lucky. It would be hard to beat the racing I could see each week at those five tracks. Each location was less than one hour from me at the time I lived in the area.
However, things change. I am pretty sure my “last night at Ascot” t-shirt tells me the track closed after the 1990 season. Its replacement, Perris Auto Speedway, was some 85 miles away from home in heavy traffic. It didn’t take me too long to switch over from being a “racechaser” as defined above to becoming a “trackchaser”.
I found it was more fun to go to ten tracks one time than one track ten times. I believe the leading trackchasers feel the same way. However, the leading racechasers probably don’t. That’s what is great about Burger King; you get to have it your way.
There is no doubt about it, trackchasing numbers are down for many of our members. I did a recent analysis of the top 20 trackchasers from 2002. Although the 2007 numbers are not complete, it’s likely that those trackchasers will see 25-30% fewer tracks than they averaged over a five year period from 2002-2006. There must be something going on. What is it?
I’ll take a moment to comment on some of the reasons other trackchasers seem disappointed in the hobby as well as why trackchasing numbers are down. Just keep in mind, that I’m not disputing their claims, I’m just saying their disappointment in a particular area of trackchasing is not a problem for me.
TRACKCHASING IS TOO EXPENSIVE
Trackchasing can be and is expensive. I begin almost all of my trips by flying to the starting point of the multi-day trip. From there I hop in a rental car and drive. I AVERAGE $38 just for gasoline each and every day I trackchase. I trackchase more than 100 days a year. By the way, I will make numerical references throughout this message. Please don’t waste your time trying to dispute the numbers. I have the data, many times over, to back it up.
THE RACING ISN’T ANY GOOD ANY MORE
I do NOT have a requirement for the racing to be good for me to enjoy the program. This does not mean I don’t want to see good racing, I do. However, I derive enjoyment from trackchasing from the non-racing activities as much or more than the racing activities. Last week I went to the Winchester Speedway (TN) and the Jack Daniels Distillery Tour on the same day. I enjoyed visiting the Jack Daniels site more than I did the Winchester Speedway. I would not have traveled all the way from California to visit Jack Daniels. However, the Winchester Speedway (trackchasing) drew me to something else I enjoyed (Jack Daniels).
I like planning the trip. It’s fun for me to figure out the best way (not just logistically) to get from point A to point B. It’s fun trying to beat the weather. I enjoy seeing a track and its surroundings for the very first time. It’s fun to check out the concession stand and see if they have any unique offerings (usually they don’t). I enjoy seeing the different ways that tracks start their races and run them. I enjoy listening in on the track radio frequency to hear how the promoter is trying to manage the program. I just like observing every last nuance of any track I visit. Often, (usually) one visit satisfies my curiosity.
I have been to nearly 1,300 tracks. I have only returned to about 10% of those tracks for a second visit. I started keeping track by track stats of my racing in 1980. The incidence of my returning to tracks has not changed much in 27 years. A track with a mediocre, or worse, program in 1980 didn’t rate a return visit any more than one did in 2007.
The permanent tracks seem to have low car counts and lots of yellow flags. Please remember I am not saying that this is a new aspect of racing. I have seen plenty of low car counts throughout my years as both a racechaser and trackchaser. Also, please do not compare most tracks with your favorite tracks when deciding if car counts are good and the racing is great. Of course, the racing is good at your favorite tracks or they wouldn’t be your favorites.
Nevertheless, it is rarely fun to watch four-car heat races and a nine-car feature, each with multiple stoppages for wrecks and spins. Couple that with programs that start late, have bad food, bad restrooms, bad sound systems, etc. and you have a bad program. However, I usually don’t have high expectations for the racing part of the trip and therefore am rarely disappointed.
Often the temporary tracks (figure 8s and enduro type racing) are not much better for the true racing fan. If they were any better, at least commercially, these tracks would be racing every week and not just once a year.
I cannot compare every track I visit across the country with Ascot Park. That would be like scoring a birdie in golf and comparing every other hole I played with my best and coming to the conclusion that the other (non-birdie) 17 holes were a failure. Remember, it’s important to manage your expectations.
I HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO WITH MY TIME
Of course, this is a very subjective topic. It’s not just happenstance that the majority of trackchasers are single individuals or have been single for many years of their adult life. If you don’t have to take someone else’s interests in mind, then it’s easy to hop in the car and head on down the road.
I consider myself a family man. Carol and I have three children. I have been a soccer dad (three games every Saturday), have coached both youth baseball and basketball and attended more school plays than anyone should be expected too. When I was doing it, I had a blast watching our children grow up to be responsible and productive people.
When our children were smaller, I didn’t go trackchasing very much. For a 16-year period (1980-1995) I averaged just TWELVE new tracks each year. That’s not much considering I have averaged more than ONE HUNDRED FIFTY new tracks for each of the last four years and more than 110 new tracks a year for the past eight years. I can only imagine where I would be, trackchasing wise if I had not had those family commitments for more than 15 years.
Of course, family was and is more important than trackchasing. However, today our kids are grown and off on their own life adventures. Good for them! Now, Carol and I are empty nesters. This means I have the time to go trackchasing without shortchanging anyone else in the family.
Carol enjoys trackchasing about once a month. Maybe I should say that differently. She enjoys supporting me in my hobby about once a month on a cross-country trip. How many spouses do you know that would be willing to hit the airport and battle the crowds twelve or more times a year for a hobby that wasn’t even their own? The best thing about it is that she does not mind me going trackchasing more than that.
Carol has never worked outside of our home much. She has had more important duties in raising our children and managing the family’s most important financial asset, our house. For most of my 30 years in business, I had my office in the house. This meant that we were able to see each other from the time we woke up until the time we went to bed every day since 1972. Most people who work away from home don’t have that luxury with their spouse. It’s the same way for us in retirement. This background gives me a better feeling when I do head out on my own for a trackchasing trip.
THE COMPETITIVENESS OF TRACKCHASING MAKES ME DEPRESSED
For me, trackchasing competitiveness falls somewhere between having open heart surgery and throwing a paper airplane when I was in the fifth grade. It’s not the end of the world, it’s only a hobby.
I am a golfer. If I ever had the opportunity to play golf with Tiger Woods, I can’t imagine myself saying, “Hey Tiger, I’m not going to keep my score today. I’m afraid you might beat me”.
I like to try to improve in the things that I find interesting or important to me. I am a member of a golf club. I normally play on Tuesdays and Thursdays. At age 58, I am one of the younger members of the group. Our oldest member, Farr Porter, is 88 years old. When I look into his eyes I can see the fire that says he wants to play as well as he can and beat the other guys. Mind you he doesn’t want to kill me; he just wants to beat me in golf.
The rest of the group probably averages about seventy years of age. At the start of the day, we put everyone’s ball in a hat. We separate the “A” players from the Bs, Cs and Ds. This way every foursome gets a similar amount of “talent” such as it is. As far as I can tell EVERY player on EVERY team hits the best shot he can on EVERY hole. They want their team to win.
When golf is over, we go in and have lunch. We each throw twenty bucks in the pot and compare our scores in many more ways than Will White tracks our trackchasing stats. Someone is declared a winner and the rest of us are losers (“participants” for the politically correct). We then go back to eating lunch and explaining that if this or that had happened on the golf course, we would have gotten a much better result. In two days, we do it all over again, but with different partners.
In trackchasing, I enjoy trying to improve in the rankings where I am not a leader. For the past several years, I have beaten the competition in the annual rankings by an average of 40 tracks or more. I now lead the overall standing by more than 150 tracks. So what am I focusing on? I’m trying to improve my state ranking in Tennessee!
I am not intimidated by any competition that goes on in trackchasing whatsoever. As Will used to say, there are enough categories in trackchasing that everyone can get to be #1 in something if they want too.
Do I think removing rankings will change anything, for the good or bad, in trackchasing? Not a chance. Heck, I’d rather get a ribbon that says “third place” than one that says “participant”. If this was not a monitored message I would make the point in even stronger language.
BECAUSE PEOPLE DON’T SHARE RACE DATES, I’M DEPRESSED
How’s this for a news flash? As I look down the list of the top 40 trackchasers I see just four names (Guy, Allan, Will and Randy) who have ever routinely shared race dates. I suspect that the other 36 people have not shared 100 dates in total since the trackchaser forum was started in 1999.
At one time or another Allan, Will and I have even provided websites with track dates. People have NEVER broadly shared race dates; this is not some sort of new phenomenon.
If someone thinks that because their fellow trackchaser did not share a race date with them, they are being “competitive” is some kind of negative way, I could not disagree more. Heck, in golf, it is forbidden by rule to help your fellow competitor in any manner. The war in Iraq is COMPETITIVE.
By way of example regarding the sharing of trackchaser dates, let me use Ed Esser to reinforce this point. Ed is a very nice guy and has one of the best race date research departments of any trackchaser going. Has Ed shared many dates on the trackchaser forum? The short answer is no. Do I begrudge Ed for not sharing dates? Never! He found ‘em, he can share them if he wants or not. Once he does visit a track, I will learn about it on trackchaser.net in the “recent new track visits” section. This is one of my favorite sections of trackchaser.net. I will then place that track in my own future tracks to see the database. When the track runs again, I’ll go see it if I want.
Trackchasing numbers are down for the long-time trackchasers because the tracks they still need to see are getting further and further from home. The further a track is from home the more expensive it is to get there. The further a track is from home the more time it takes to get there. Racing at many small-time tracks isn’t really that good. It doesn’t help that the traveling trackchaser doesn’t know any of the drivers that are racing at these local tracks. I suspect if they did, they might think the racing was better.
It costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time to go trackchasing on a frequent basis. If you have other folks in your life who are not into trackchasing or racing, then it’s important to spend your time and money with those folks away from the races.
Don’t hang your hat on the racing needing to be “good”. It likely won’t be. Enjoy the trip and the adventure. If the racing is good, then it’s all the better.
Don’t walk around in life as if there’s a rock in your shoe. Don’t act as if OTHER PEOPLE are preventing you from enjoying life or in this case your hobby. My enjoyment of this hobby is not dependent in any way on what any other trackchaser does or does not do. Do you mind if I repeat that? My enjoyment of this hobby is not dependent in any way on what any other trackchaser does or does not do. I hate to say it, but I believe that the folks who complain about how others affect their enjoyment of trackchasing probably complain the most in their everyday lives about their jobs, other people and their life in general.
That’s what he said.
Alberta’s #1 Trackchaser (and proud of it)