"Something to Think About..."
May 16, 2012

"Local Boys Have at It?"

Last week (05/09/11) I put a question on our Message Vault and asked for your feedback on whether you felt that "Boys Have At It" belongs in local short track racing, and/or if drivers should be allowed to show their displeasure toward another competitor. Admirably, almost everyone that responded took the high road and said that we don’t need it… that its dangerous… that somebody will get hurt… that somebody will get sued…. etc.

But here’s something interesting that I noticed… Not one "fan" responded… Let me explain… Yea, we’re all "fans", but not one "pay your $’s and sit in the spectator stands for the whole show fan" responded… Everyone that responded was either a driver, a crewmember, worked at the track in some capacity or used to be a fan but don't go anymore… etc… and that’s the problem. And while many of you will take in a show "as a fan" from time to time, do you actually sit in the spectator stands all night, or do you go in the pits part of the time… and/or see a bunch of people you know from years back… to offset the true "average fan" experience? When’s the last time you were "just a fan?"

And that’s the problem.

Many that used to go, don't go anymore... Those that do go have all become so "inside" that we have lost touch with what it feels like to put down your $15 or $20 and sit in a bleacher for 4 or 5 hours and watch… and listen… and be "entertained"… and then decide if we’ve seen enough to want to put up the $’s again to come back and see it the following week…

… Yup…, most pretty much agreed that when it comes to local short track racing, there’s NO PLACE for "Boys Have At It." It’s too difficult to deal with and it will cause too many problems.

Yup.. We’re right… We're all right... Letting guys get out of their car and shake their fist at others is difficult to manage, and somebody is always bound to push the limits… Having a guy pull up alongside somebody under yellow and bump them to let them know that they’re pisszed would probably delay the show by a minute or two so we can't have that either right? Maybe letting one driver tell another driver over the PA what he really thinks of their lack of talent and ability might offend somebody too...

Yup… All tough to manage… And yup, it could lead to fines and suspensions if someone goes beyond the limit…. Same is true for every other sport where there’s competition, emotion and something at stake. "Tempers will flare..." and some will go too far and will have to be dealt with.
MLB manages it. Ever see what happens when a batter thinks a pitcher was aiming for him? How about the classic manager arguing an umpire’s call… Google YouTube with "Lou Piniella + "Umpire"... classic stuff. Makes the highlight real every time…

NASCAR manages it. And while they’ll never say they are promoting it, their actions show that for Cup racing to remain primarily a fan based sport, it needs it. Don’t believe me? Did you happen to turn on a TV or read a newspaper this week??? "THE FEUD"…. "HARVICK/BUSCH"… CONSTANT REMINDERS FROM ESPN THIS WEEK… CONSTANT FLASHBACKS OF FEUDS OF THE PAST… YESTERDAY, ESPN RAN A PIECE TALKING ABOUT THE TIME WENDALL SCOTT POINTED A GUN AT ANOTHER COMPETITOR TO LET HIM KNOW HOW HE FELT??? (Even I had never heard of that one...)…AND THIS MORNING, DARRYL WALTRIP DID A SPECIAL PIECE ON ALL TIME NASCAR FEUDS AS A TEASER TO TODAY’S EVENT AT DOVER… ON TRACK RETALIATORY MOVES, DRIVERS SHOVING EACH OTHER, HELMET THROWING, HEAL PAD THROWING, FINGER FLIPPING… All put to dramatic music and recapped nicely for one reason and one reason only: To get those watching to feel compelled to watch today’s race!

The fact is that rivalries and feuds are a necessary part of any sport that relies on unaffiliated fans to attend, and to watch. And that’s unfortunately where we’ve failed our sport.

Over the years we’ve seen changes to make the cars more "even"… to make it easier on the track tech crew to tech cars using templates, to make the cars more dependable… to make the cars and drivers more safer… And while we all loudly applaud the changes that have reduced the chances of injury to both drivers and fans, most of the other changes listed were actually implemented to make the sport easier to manage. (Again, no one can argue that we are all thankful for the safety enhancements to our sport, but historically, a night at the races could always be described as a "Night of Chills and Thrills.") A night at the races also could be described as "Emotions in Motion" (Any Billy Squire fans out there?)

It was unpredictable... it was compelling. And "display of emotions" was sometimes part of it. Many of us can still remember "feuds" from decades ago… It was all part of the show.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen some of the most amazing side by side short track racing and I can’t wait to go back the following week!… But here’s the question: "Is it because I’m an insider?" "Is it because I know a lot of the competitors so I watch a race with a whole lot more interest and storylines than the guy who happened to stop by with his wife and 2 kids?" Are there enough "Chills and Thrills" to make "fans" want to comeback? Where’s the emotion? Can the average fan really "feel" that there are real people somewhere inside of those cars… Real drivers that are brave… that take chances… that are skilled… and yes, drivers that actually get upset with each other once in a while?

What happened? How did we end up here?

How many of you remember this: "IT IS A NEW JERSEY STATE LAW THAT IF YOU GET OUT OF YOUR CAR, YOU WILL BE THROWN OUT!"…. Well, truth is that it’s not, and it was never a NJ state law… It’s a "rule" that East Windsor Speedway put in place to make it easier to manage their show. This way, they didn’t have to deal with guys getting out of their cars… shaking their fists… pushing and shoving (like you’ve seen all week on ESPN). Looks to me like other tracks saw how this perceived "law" made it easier to manage, so they continued the myth.

So anyhow, that’s why I say that we’re wrong. Yes the sport of local short track racing can survive at its current state without the "Boys Have At It" piece (on and off the track)… But I think the fan base will continue to decline. It will continue to be a show that relies 80% on its back gate... maybe eventually 85 - 90%. Unfortunately, it will continue to not look to the "emotions of the sport" to replenish those fans that it has lost.

Sadly, I see a day in the not so far future where short tracks will only have one small section of spectator bleachers open for families and friends of drivers who had to stay spectator side to watch the kids that were too young to go in the pits… The other sections will be roped off - not needed.... Everyone else interested enough to be at the races that night will already be in the pits... driving a racecar, working on a car… or maybe driving a tow truck... or talking on the mic... or taking pictures...

Final thought: As the keeper of the flame here in The Vault, I know a thing or two about "Boys Have At It", and those who are loyal to the site know that I have and will always continue to choose not to allow it here. Surprised? You shouldn’t be…

Just like most local short tracks have realize, it’s EASIER TO MANAGE things if you don’t have to deal with people arguing… and showing how mad they are… I decided a long time ago that I didn’t want to deal with it, so I don’t. My moderators and I don't put up with it. It's cleaner that way... Does it make it a little boring around here? Does it keep our site from growing faster than it already is?… Yea, maybe, but I’m fine with that. So why would I think "Boys Have At It" has a place in local racing when I won’t event allow it on my own website?

Here’s the difference: I run my website for fun, and for enjoyment. I do not depend on the amount of visitors or hits to decide whether to keep the lights on around here or not. I have that option. I can take the easy way and do what’s the least hassle for me.

NASCAR knows what they are doing… ESPN knows what they are doing. They are in the entertainment business. They know how to fan the flames with one hand, while holding a fire extinguisher in the other…

They know what’s at stake and they will continue to allow "Boys Have At It" on and off the track. They know that it is a necessary and important part of the sport, and that their future fan base depends on it. It will ALWAYS be promoted as part of their show from here on out, and it will help put more fans in the seat, and in front of the TV.

And right or wrong, we’ll all continue to take the high road….


Visitor's Comments To add your comments  - Click Here
Date: Visitor's  Name:


05.14.11 Uncloose1 I've been involved in this sport in various levels for almost 40 years, and from a fans perspective it's gone vanilla. Plain , simple , and getting rather boring. Years ago I thought of a novel way to stir the pot ,and keep the actions off the track.

If you have two guys that really want to go at ,it let them. After he races are over that night, put them in a boxing ring in the infield for about 2 minutes. The fans also stick around to watch the show. After the first time this happens though, the drivers will realize they'd be better off sticking to racing. It would also make them think twice about getting stupid
05.14.11 3Wide We'll I don't agree with the boxing ring, but I do like the idea of having the 2 guys have a match race...  Maybe they each have to put up $100 bucks and square off in a grudge match with the winner taking the $200 and the bragging rights.  At least this way if there's a little on track beatin and bangin', no other cars will get caught up in it...
05.16.11 Gary LaFetra I have been a fan of local short track racing in central Jersey since 1965. I remember plunking down $2.75 for a 4 to 5 hour show. The rivalries on the track kept me coming back Also "back in the day" guys built their own stuff so that made the show exciting to see who had an edge. I'm sure guys confronted each other from time to time in the pits but the bleacher creatures didn't see it. I've heard the stories about Parker Bohn chasing guys through the pits with a tire iron and I'm sure there's some truth in them.

My point is I was there for the competition on the track not fights. Maybe I'm too old to fit in with today's fans because every where you go someone seems to want to fight. Road rage
comes to mind. Racing is fun but not like it used to be.
05.16.11 3-Wide Gary - Thanks for the comment on the subject.

I started going to the races right around the same time (East Windsor - Sunday afternoon shows around 1966 or 67, along with Trenton and Langhorne).  Do you still go to the races and if not, why did you stop, and what would it take to get you to go to a short track race this weekend?  Not trying to interrogate you, but I find a lot of people that used to go all the time that now have a different routine and rarely if ever go to the local short track...  Thanks.
05.17.11 Gary LaFetra  To answer your question, I still go to Wall Stadium and New Egypt a couple of times a year. I worked in the office at New Egypt the last 2 years it was paved. I had fun doing that.Since it became a dirt track the racing is fantastic but the cars are ugly as sin. No originality.

Started to go to Flemington after it was paved and was there for the last race. That was "the day the music died" for me. Nothing matches the atmosphere that was there.

Back in the early 70's would go to Windsor on Fri., Wall on Sat. and Windsor again on Sun. Nothing will equal those times for me. I don't like the whining and belly aching. Guys like Ray Liss, Joe Hall, and Les Katona didn't whine, they raced each other and had fun. The stories Ray tells are funny yet no bad mouthing.

Car counts are down. You need more cars in a division than you start in the feature to have real heat races. At Wall 8 cars is a division???

I know I sound like sour grapes but if we could go back and make it like it was in the70's and 80's I'd go a lot more often. Not every week 'cause I'molder and somewhat handicapped. It sure is nice to dream.
05.18.11 Terry Fick Your column addressed two points, so I am not sure what your focus is. I have comments on both points, for what they are worth.

Boys have at it is fine to an extent. We have a local track here where the joke is what if they had a fight and a race broke out. Around Clarksville, TN they would rather fight than race.

When I drove sprint cars I drilled a high dollar car in the left side headers when he spin directly in front of me. He was out, I continued. As soon as I got back in the pits I looked for the other driver to apologize even though it was not my fault, sprint cars don't have the best brakes. Robbie, the other driver, also said it was not my fault, he spin right in front of me, there was nothing I could do, I had nowhere to go. At this point his owner started on me. I would be mad too if my brand new Gerate engine had just taken a shot. I looked at Robbie and said I didn't care what Jay thought, the two of us would be "out there" later on, were we okay? Again Robbie said yeah.

As I walked away a water bottle just missed my head. I knew who threw it, Jay. I walked up to our pit steward, told the story, he said he thought highly of me for walking away.

At the next show Jay hit the promoter, earning an invitation to not run with us anymore. My point to this is if boys have at it means talking it over in the pits, maybe with supervision from officials, then I am for it. The nonsense Kyle Busch pulled just tears up expensive race cars and endangers drivers. But the air must be cleared. The organization running the event must make the parties face each other. Often it is much harder to punch a man in the nose than to destroy his car on the track.

As far as attendance, mine has dropped off to none. Cup has been ruined, a guy like Bill Elliott or Alan Kulwicki would never have a chance today, and that is a shame. There is no local track since Birmingham was demolished. I held a season pass there for years even though late models are not my favorite. What we have here in the South is some late model racing, usually short fields, supported by circle track demo derbys, also known as street stock, bomber, thunder and lightning. Not very entertaining.

You folks in the NE do not understand just how lucky you are. Within a two hour drive, just how many tracks, with good car counts, can you visit each weekend? Again, when I drove with USCS, I towed a minimum two hours to most shows, the Memphis area shows four hours. The current situation is just as bad if not worse. As a guy who grew up a mile from the Reading Fairgrounds and attended regularly from the flathead days through the mods, I long for decent open wheel dirt racing. My current favorite, sprints, will not please you but I just do not like the current crop of modifieds.

The late sixties, when Tobias and others were beginning to weld up purpose built chassis but the sheetmetal remained unique, in my opinion, was the best of times. Chamberlain, Tobias,
Gerhart, Krietz, Blatt, Williams, Kepley, Brightbill, those were shows. As more and more shelf built cars appeared (read that money) the show declined. Bob Wertz, a neighbor, built cars for $4000.00 and could win $1000.00 on any given Friday at Reading. Now you take a $60,000.00 car to win $1500.00. What has gone wrong?

Terry Fick
Hoover, AL
05.18.11 3-Wide I'm not sure what my focus is, and to tell you the truth, "focus" sounds a lot like work...  This website 'aint supposed to feel like work, so keep your expectations low and maybe, just maybe, once and while we might surpass them. 

Some of the concepts that "might" have been found in my ramblings in no particular order are as follows:

- You can have great racing on the track and still not attract and/or maintain an unaffiliated fan base.

- We're probably approaching  the point where on a marginal weather night, 75 - 80% of the people in the spectator stands are associated with a particular raceteam (wife, sister, aunt, cousin, grandfather, etc of one of the participants.)

- The sport needs fans... Not allowing upset drivers out of their cars makes a perfect sense from a track management perspective, but it is in direct contradiction to what NASCAR is using to keep their head above water during these difficult times....  They are maximizing these moments while we locally make sure that they

- Nascar utilizes the competition, rivalries, emotion, and yes, the pushing and shoving to generate excitement for all their upcoming events in all of their 3 major series (Trucks, Nationwide, Cup).  We on the other hand (locally) forbid drivers from getting out of their cars and discourage all displays of emotion when it comes to one driver being upset with another

That's all...  Thanks for your comments - Excellent stuff and I do agree about its easier to hit somebody with your car than to get in their face.  And like many, you don't go to the races anymore either....  I do.  And I have a hard time sitting back and watching it get more and more difficult every year for the casual fan to find something worth returning another night for....  This is especially difficult to watch because the actual green flag, side by side racing has never been better around these parts...
05.18.11 JMR5135 I started going to the Stock Car Races at East Windsor, and Flemington back in 67. As an 11 year old kid it was some show. 30 plus cars going around a half mile dirt track. Racing each other wheel to wheel and sometimes with guys coming to blows. I bet a few guys still remember Pee Wee Griffin getting chased out of the pits at East Windsor by Don Stives and driving all the way to his garage at the Cranbury Circle. Joe Kelly and Pee Wee getting in each other's grill in 68, and believe you me my list is quite long and really would take to much time to list everyone.

The cars at that time we mostly home built beauties sometimes ugly creations but they were all interesting and different. Today I really can't say what is racing on the track. It kind of reminds me of a bunch of really fast fancy toasters and we all know toasters are boring. I miss the old days and wish the kids today could go back just for one night and see what racing was really like.
05.20.11 Uncloose1 Terry, I have done everything on a race car but drive it. I live in Indy , and fortunately have about 8 tracks within 2.5 hours away at the most. I do photography now , because I can at least make gas money. It's just that if you want to race 3 nights a week in a sprinter, this is the place to be.

I have noticed this season though that the fan count is down every where I go. It has nothing to do with on track action, as much as it has to do with no job action. No job, no racing.

The key is how to get kids to the track. Make one a fan, their a fan for life. We just need to get them there.
12.03.11 Ray Miles I competed at Pleasantville Speedway, a few times at Wall, New Egypt and once at Bridgeport.

When I was a "fan" in the stands, I never went for the hope of seeing accidents or fights, but they happened.

When I drove, I think that I had 2 altercations and I don't remember how many accidents I had in the 10 years that I ran, but as long as there is racing, there's going to be bumping and thrashing around, it just goes with the sport. Some guys have shorter fuses than others and I also believe this, If you're on a very limited budget and you have no sponsor, you will definitely drive differently than someone who drives for a car owner that has big bucks.

As far as eliminating the "Boys have at it", the slamming and banging, it will always be there. I always thought, "Gee, what if I intentionally put someone in the boards and they died as a result of what I did", I wouldn't be able to handle that and that's how I conducted myself on the track. If someone were to lose their life or a limb because of an unintentional incident, that's an entirely different circumstance. I had a lot of good friends who were drivers and I'd never want anything bad to happen to them. We have lost too many good drivers over the years to unfortunate accidents that weren't intentional, so why compound the problem by intentionally fencing someone, just go out there and have fun and be thankful that you're able to be part of the great sport of auto racing.

I have to agree with JMR 5135, racing was a lot more fun in the 50's, 60's and 70's and the cars were neater then. (Yes, I like the coupes and sedans) I'm not fond of the cars of today.

I also wish the younger guys could go back in time so they could see the difference and how much fun we had, Hell, I know I had a blast!

All Previous Editions of: "Something to Think About..."
"Putting Competition Back into Qualifying - The "Top Half Advance" Qualifying Method"
"This Time, It's an Inside Job"
"What Are We They Expecting?"
"Is The Problem Really Under the Hood?"
"The Best View..."
"Local Boys Have at It?"
'Are You Going to the Races Tonight?"
"The Bigger The Bodies, The Smaller The Attendance?"

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