The Plight Of Local Racing
As most of you know from reading my previous articles, some of my fondest memories in racing have occurred during my time as an official at the local tracks I have worked at. From the time I first put on my uniform at Irwindale, I have been passionate about what can easily be described as the lifeblood of our sport. However, as great as the memories I have made are, the future paints a much bleaker picture for a side of racing I have grown to love.
Even though Irwindale is truly a gem of a racetrack, its future is very much in limbo. Rumor has it that after this season it will be torn down and a shopping center built in its place. Unfortunately, this is all too common at the local level. There is even a Facebook group called Lost Speedways that runs many sad stories of beautiful local facilities closing their gates.
In terms of affordable family entertainment, I really don't think there's a better option than a local short track. During my time at Irwindale, kids 12 and under were admitted free, and adult tickets were modestly priced at $15. Where else can you entertain a family of four for under $50?
Even though local racing may be affordable for a family to attend, I understand that it is not affordable to compete, and this high cost of competition has negatively impacted local racing. Despite this, Irwindale had enough cars in most classes to put on a decent show. The progressive banks allowed for plenty of side by side racing and thrilling finishes. Plus, as an added bonus, there was an on-track autograph session before the night's festivities to allow fans young and old to get up close with the drivers and their cars.
With everything being said, I wish I had an easy solution to keep our local tracks in business. The problem is, I don't. When a track does shut down, people can often be quick to point the finger at where they think the blame should be placed. The problem is, even when this blame is warranted, it ultimately accomplishes nothing since in the end, the track is still closed.
What is happening at Irwindale (and at any racetrack which closes for that matter) is truly tragic and will leave a ripple effect in the local community. First of all, young drivers are left with one less place to hone their talents, thus making it even harder to achieve their dreams of racing stardom. An aspiring crew chief has no place to perfect his mechanical skills. Aspiring officials have no place to get their start. Local hotels and restaurants loose money without the teams coming to town to race, and families are left with one less place to enjoy quality time together. Besides, if there's one thing Southern California (and everywhere else) needs, it's another shopping center, right?
Readers, one again, I ask you: please support your local short tracks. Don't just take your family, take your friends and talk them into bringing their families as well. Make a gathering out of it. If you know anyone who owns a business, talk to them about sponsorship. Local tracks and drivers are always in search of sponsors, and every little bit helps. Please do your part to ensure that something we all love will be there to support the next generation of fans and drivers.