Vault Visitor's Voices

A place for the Visitors of the Vault to put their thoughts down here in cybertext!

The opinions presented within the pages of "Vault Visitor's Voices" are not necessarily the opinions of those who bring the Vault to you.. But in some cases they might be!  We do however realize that those who are the most passionate about our sport and who would like to see it thrive in future, are often those with the strongest opinions. 

We hope the "Vault Visitors Voices" will be a good place for those who would like to put their thoughts down in writing and by doing so, make us all think a little more about the past, present and future of short track auto racing.


From:  Barry Hulse - 9/13/06

Well, I finally went to the races on September 9th, 2006. I haven't been to a track since the second time Donny Schatz won at New Egypt with the Outlaws.

I didn't go to see the racing (if that's what they call it today). I went to see the re-created coupes and sedans and Pintos and Gremlins. Seeing the old cars out on the track brought back many memories of my youth attending East Windsor Speedway and seeing the #3 red and white coupe of Wayne Reutiman, the #81 pinto of Sammy Beavers, the Statewide #3 Gremlin of Jimmy Horton, the #00 Dover Brake coupe of Buzzie Reutiman, the #24 coupe of Ken Brenn and too many others etched into my memories to list!

My Saturday night home was Wall Stadium from 1966 at 5 years old until I left my position of tech inspector at the end of 1990. I enjoyed every side of the fence at Wall throughout the years. I sat in the stands during my childhood, I raced in the Sportsman division from 1979 until the money ran out in June of 1983. I played spectator in the pits and helped a few guys for a couple of years until my Dad passed away, and then Tom O'Rorke gave me a job as the tech inspector.

Fan- competitor- track official. I've seen racing from all aspects. The "racing" I saw at New Egypt the other night was the reason I no longer go to the races. A bunch of unidentifiable, identical looking boxes all just as fast as the next and no one can pass anyone unless they wreck or get spun out. When they do wreck, I was waiting for Don Jones' trash hauler to whip a chain through the roll cage and pick it up and get it the heck out of the way and get the green dropped (but they can't do that now because they might scratch the paint)! Sitting down low in the fourth turn, I saw a bunch of square sheet metal all leaning exactly the same as the next, all going by just as fast. I couldn't tell who was who.

When I was young, there were ALOT of children at the tracks. I didn't see too many there on Saturday. I guess now it's all about running karts and quarter midgets for them. What I did see was a dog and a bear mascot and a playground for kids under 6 years old with nothing but 8 to 12 year olds playing there.

I always thought the entertainment was supposed to be on the track? It makes me fully understand why people don't go to the races anymore, and it makes me very sad to see this happening.

All the talk is always about the engines and let's use crate motors and spec motors. I don't feel that is the real problem. The real problem is the chassis and tires. Too much technology is too expensively purchased which allows the car to do all the work which creates follow the leader boredom on the track. All the mascots and bands and other entertainment which are used to try to create interest still don't make up for all the lack of entertainment on the track.

I hear Wall has been drawing some of there best crowds as of late. I can tell you exactly why. It is called having 35 Strictly Stocks show up in the pits to race. A rolling Demo-Derby on wheels with banging and crashing and parts falling off and the fans loving it. Plus,the average of 15-20 people in the stands and pits that come with each car. Until all the promoters of the few remaining tracks understand that cars don't have to all go as fast as they possibly can and creates rules to take away the expensive technology of today that keeps so many potential competitors at home not bringing 15-20 others to the track with them, they are all in grave danger of demise, just as so many others have done in the last decade.

Believe me, the last thing I want to see is all of the tracks close up, but until someone forces the necessary changes to the cars that are put out on the track, I think I'll save my money and just stay home!

Barry Hulse

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(Topic Closed Out 10/20/06 - See Topic Wrap Up at the Bottom of the Page)

3-Wide   09/24/06

Good stuff there from Barry, although I will tell you that on most nights, passing is not a problem at New Egypt Speedway.  On some nights, conditions create a preferred line, but on most, its pretty racy.  I have seen cars at Wall Stadium follow each other lap after lap until the driver who is doing the following decides to use the moveover bumper and give a slight tap at just the right spot in the corner to loosen up the guy in front enough to slip by.

I do agree with Barry that 8 - 12 yr olds do not go to the races.  And when they do, I don't think most are begging their parents to take them again unless the family is directly associated with a particular team (family).  In fact, I think the sport has totally ignored all kids from 8 to 18 and then some.  Those on the younger side (5 - 14yr) often race Karts and 1/4 Midgets as Barry mentioned and many on the older side of adolescence can be found at Airport Speedway racing Micro Sprints on Saturday Nights.  

Those moms and dad's who would want to bring their kids to sit and watch have a hard time justifying $16 or $18 when they know their kid will probably spend half the night walking around.  Think about it, would you want your kid to spend $9 to watch a movie and spend 1/2 the time walking around the lobby, or hanging out in front of the movie theatre?

In addition to those kids who already have begun their racing, there are a lots of other kids out there who just don't give a rat's azz about refrigerator boxes with splashy graphics going round and round and round...  This is a generation who has grown up with Civic's, IVO's and WRX's...  And if you don't know what an IVO or a WRX is, or more importantly, if your favorite speedway's promoter doesn't know what an IVO or WRX is, that's part of the problem. 

Kids today have grown up with guys doing backflips on motorcycles...  surfboarding in the sky, snowboarding down a mountain...  To them watching a group of similarly painted vehicles going around a track is about as exciting as standing on an overpass over the NJ Turnpike looking down at the passing cars.  Only difference is that at least with the turnpike, they'd eventually see a car that they thought was cool.

If someone really wants to attract kids, they need to put stuff in place that kids like.   Have an import class compete that they can relate to.  Set up a dirt road course in the infield and have them run "Dirt Drifting" events.  Set up a mini "Nopi" event including DJ, Band, Bikini Contest, etc... all directed towards their demographic - NOT MINE..

Another untapped source for our sport in trying to attract younger fans is extreme sports.   For example, unless you have teenagers right now, you may not realize how big skate boarding has become.  Since tracks have play areas for little kids, maybe they should consider having small skate parks for those who are older.  Many townships and shopping centers (malls) now have them as well and it is amazing to watch the sense of community that the kids have at these parks..  There is a very specific, safe procedure that these parks are being run by and the result is kids are flocking to them for the fun of skating and for the social aspect as well.  Kid's like this, who may not be on the school baseball team, or soccer team are probably more reflective of all of us, and are more likely to feel at home at a motorsports event.

Regarding the concern that all cars look alike, BIG changes are needed.  We can either keep following the DIRT Guidelines for bodies until absolutely nobody is left in the stands, or we can begin making changes (first to the support divisions) in an effort to reverse the current trend. 

I'd probably keep the sheet metal bodies on the modifieds for at least the next 2 years, but a change in body styles is necessary for all the support division.  I would make 2007 the last year that competitors are allowed to run a sheet metal body on a Sportsman and on a Super Stock.  Instead, it should be mandatory to run some type of a stock body with stock quarters, stock roof, stock deck lid, stock upper portion of doors, etc.   People need to relate to the cars because when a "new" fan or even a "casual" fan comes to the speedway, they don't know one driver from the next.   They don't know that's the other guys brother.. or that that guys dad used to race... or that that guy was leading last week and he blew his engine...  All they know is that the cars all look the same, and if they don't know anything about the drivers, then they have no reason to pay attention to anyone in particular.  They have no reason to get excited.  They have no reason to return.

With car bodies that the average visitor to the track could identify, there would be a built in interest and excitement level and we could all get back to a time when the cars were cool to look at.  I'm not calling for a return to coupes and sedans.  I'm calling for the introduction of Mustangs and Monte's.... or 200SX's and Probes....   Body styles reflective of what you may see parked in your neighbors yard, or maybe even your high school parking lot...  Not body styles that are convenient to use because they hammer out easy.  (I would be in favor of letting a team have the portion of the body that is most susceptible to damage such as lower door area, area behind rear wheel, etc be replaced with flat pieces for easy repair, but I would require the roof, 1/4's, tops of doors and rear deck to be stock.  When you think about it, the roof, quarters, deck are not damaged as often as one may think.)

And finally, one last thought:  "The event has to be Fun, Unpredictable and Compelling.  If you were to ask yourself about each of these categories, and rate them on a scale of 1 - 10 each night while driving home from your favorite speedway, how well do they score?  To further complicate this little exercise, once you assign your scores, now ask yourself what would the score in each catagory be if it was your first time to the track? 

I suspect on most nights, the numbers (especially to a new fan) would be below 5 across the board.  Until that changes, this sport will die.

With the promoters of New Egypt and at Bridgeport announcing that they are retiring at season's end, I can only hope that those who step up are given the authority to make the kind of major changes that is needed to bring much needed life to a sport that is dying.

3-Wide
Scott Pacich  09/25/06

All pretty familiar thoughts.

One thing I will disagree with is Barry's seeming concern that a playground area should not exist because the "entertainment is on the track". Think back to when we used to go to the drive in movies. Wasn't one of the things that they all had (at least the ones I went to) was a playground up by the screen? It didn't seem to detract from the people who were there to watch the movies, and in fact may have brought out more families as there was a place for the smaller kids to remain entertained. I think we need more of that type of stuff at tracks to bring out families.

Then, we have to provide a more entertaining form of racing. It will start with new body styles, but new and innovative measures are needed to draw new fans. True, the fan base is old, and getting older. True, most kids today are into the little pocket rocket cars. Why not a weekly class of something that resembles them? Why not a drifting event scheduled WITH a modified show? We've got to think really outside the box to fix a broken sport. Like Barry, I don't like to actually go to the races anymore. I'm not entertained, and that's the bottom line.

Scott Pacich

Barry Pursell  09/29/06 


Back in the day at Nazareth we had shows such as Jack Kochman Hurricane Hell Drivers. Joey Chitwoods Thrill Show.  Imagine a car going around a half mile track on two wheels.  What kid would not like that?   How about a night at intermission let your child take a trip around the track in there favorite drivers car.  My driver as a kid was Rags Carter.  His car was so packed I could not get in.  I looked over to Will Cagle's #24 and there was lots of room.  Talk about gaining respect for a driver.  He could not have been nicer to me.

These are the things that kept me wanting to go back week after week.  I have two boys 16 &18.  They love racing..  I also have a daughter 34 who loves Nascar and who kept score for Kevin Lepage in the Busch series a few years ago. 

My point is you have to keep going week after week. But you also have to keep the fans interest.  How about a monster truck show or a pick up truck demolition derby.   I saw this at the Allentown Fair.  Talk about different. Times have changed and so has the fan.  Has any one noticed lately at the drags - Mazda, Honda, Toyota, Nissan is turning 8 sec. or better on the quarter mile.  Let's put a class on the track at our home town speedways   I work on cars for a living.  I talk to a lot of the younger crowd.  This is what they're into.  If they can go this fast on the quarter mile imagine what they can do on the all mighty oval.  Its just a thought. 

Thanks,
Barry Pursell
TIC  09/29/06 

I've read the various opinions and comments above on what needs to happen if there's any chance of saving this sport. And, of course, doing so reinforces a couple of the related and recurring themes about which I've often harped.

1) There are just so damn many different constituencies* -- many of them with interests and priorities diametrically opposed to each other -- to which track owners/managers/promoters need to try to appeal these days.

2) There's certainly no one big solution to the problem -- there might, if we're lucky, be a lot of little, partial remedies -- but members of one constituency are waaay too intolerant of remedies targeted not at them but at others.

I've bent your ear (when I could get a word in edgewise!) with these theories plenty over the years. So I won't go on at length now. But it's interesting and a bit frustrating, and I think it reinforces both points pretty well, to look at the different and somewhat conflicting opinions expressed by just a handful of you guys in what, at first glance, might be considered part of just a single constituency -- long-time, diehard, fans. I won't bother to recap them here, but take a look at varying and often at-odds views on "this is what needs to be done" and "this is what's being done wrong" in just the handful of commentaries above.

Then add in all the other constituencies -- new fans, owners, drivers, crews, sponsors, etc. -- and then factor in all the sub-constituencies within each of them -- weekly fans, occasional fans, fans with or without kids, low-buck owner-drivers, big-buck teams, novices, veterans, premier-division guys, support-division guys, etc., etc., etc. -- and it's enough to make one wonder why anyone would take on the often thankless and no-win job of trying to run a track in this area in this day and age.

Just some food for thought. (Gawd save us from ourselves!)...


*A constituency, in this context is a sub-group of individuals (within a larger group) who share common characteristics, outlooks and/or opinions

TIC
3-Wide  09/30/06

I totally agree with all of the above...   And one of many reasons why I don't throw my hat anywhere near the ring when it comes to promoting is that I'm honest enough to tell anyone who will listen that I don't even know where to start.

Maybe that's just it...  Start with a what is really there.. I mean what is really "Physically There".  Not what it was, not what it should be, but just start with what is there.  (A dirt surfaced speedway with a guardrail, seating for a few thousand, lights, a sound system, a few buildings and parking areas. 

No history... No competitors, no race teams, no sanctioning bodies, no engine builders, no speedshops... nothing.  Nothing is grandfathered in... 

Using that approach, what do you put on the playing field, and who do you try to attract?   Will it resemble anything that we've seen in the past?

3-Wide
TIC   10/02/06

Hey, Joe. Of course, in reality, we agree on faaar more than we disagree on with regard to this topic. And we both enjoy discussing and debating and challenging each other on it. You know that I'm not attacking you. I just hope those reading along will recognize that, too. ('Cause th'ain't no way I wanna TIC off, an' risk gettin' on the bad side of, the huge, devoted, an' rabid constituency of 3-Wide loyalists!). So, onward into the fray.

The clean-slate/blue-sky brainstorming exercise you're suggesting -- and I understand that it's merely an attempt to get folks to look at the problem(s) from a different perspective -- seems to be asking "How do we save the (current) tracks?" and not "How do we save (some semblance of the past/present of) the sport as we know it?". 'Cause I'm pretty sure that any logical progression from your opening scenario would NOT yield anything that would much resemble anything we've seen in the past.

Let's just add one assumption to your scenario -- that the owner of the property in question is committed to trying to maintain it as a dirt racetrack. Without that stipulation, it seems to me, there's not much use proceeding with the brainstorming. 'Cause any intelligent and rational person owning such a property in this day and age in Jersey, without having an innate desire to keep it as a racetrack (and unless they've got a screw or two loose) surely wouldn't. Of course, one could argue that trying to maintain such a property as a racetrack is clear EVIDENCE of having a coupla screws loose, but let's not go there quite yet. That'll no-doubt be an outcome of this little brainstorming exercise.

So, let's just assume that I now control the property in question and I want to "think outside the box" about how to keep it alive indefinitely as a dirt track (with or without attractions/events in addition to racing). And I want to at least break even, and to be en-route to beginning to turn a small annual profit, by the end of a three-year "revitalization" plan that I'm now about to create.

First, it occurs to me, I'm all but inevitably gonna alienate in a biiig way that 3-Wide guy and all the rest of the old-timers who fondly remember the coupes and sedans, the Michalchuks and Tasnadys, the Readings and Flemingtons, the Pintos and Gremlins, and virtually anything from the glory days of the past. 'Cause they're a dying breed. It's only their memories that die hard; they themselves die every bit as easily and inevitably as anyone else. They're an aging and shrinking demographic who won't be around to help pay the bills and keep the lights on much longer. Their interests will have to take a back seat, in my calculations, to those of the majority of present and future fans.

I open the desk drawer, take out that piece of cold steel to which my thoughts always seem to drift whenever I start to think about the future of my track, and I lay it in front of me.

Next, I turn my attention to the idea of just exactly who, aside from those who already attend my track at least somewhat regularly, are the present fans of "racing" of one sort or another whom I might look to attract. My thoughts turn to present-day NASCAR, to TV racing, to "Booogity, booogity booogity!" and to the wearers of garish leather "Juuunior!" jackets.

Instinctively, almost without conscious thought, I pick up that familiar lump of blued steel and give its cylinder an idle spin.

Next, I think of the internet. And racing message boards.  And the kind, intelligent, understanding, far-sighted, and tolerant folks who frequent them.


I inhale deeply the comforting scent of age and oil from the trusty old friend in my hand.

I force my thoughts to a new topic. To the myriad and competing interests and agendas of the folks currently interested and/or involved in this sport I love. And to the prospect of needing, in order to keep my track alive, to attract and then to try to balance the desires of countless new and different breeds of fans and competitors.


My mouth almost reflexively begins to open.


You get the picture, Joe. An' it ain't a purty one...

TIC

3-Wide  10/02/06


Well, TIC just pinned the meter on creativity and content...  Nice writing there "TICkey Spillane"

There's only one problem with it.  It's probably 100% correct.

Many of the Visitors of the Vault do not go to the races anymore and as a result, many of us are still filled with the optimistic notion that just a few little adjustments here, and a few little tweaks there and it would be Flemington, 1970 all over again.

The cold hard truth is that Dirt Track Modified Racing as we knew if is dead.  What Dirt Track Modified Racing has morphed into in NJ over the last decade or 2 has become a playground for a few, with little appeal to those who are not directly involved with a race team, or for those without history to local short track racing.

While I still go to the races, I go hoping to catch a glimmer of what I once knew...   The reality is that like many of us, I leave at the end of the night feeling like I've watched an event, but I've experienced very little.

When discussing the state of the sport, I once had a promoter tell me, "If you've been going to the races for a few years, there aint nothing you're gonna see that you aint seen before."  But is it that I, like so many, have gotten intolerant of change?   Am I that far out of step with what's "in step" today?  Is it too much to expect to go to a short track and see some remnants of what we once knew?

I don't want to lead the well traveled road of, "Well it's not like it used to be, so I'm not going at all" road...  And I also do not want to see what remains go away, even if it is only a shadow of its former self.  But I do believe that if it wasn't for one successful family in the Building Business who's son enjoys racing a dirt modified... one owner of a successful Poultry Building Business who enjoys seeing his car compete against others... and if it wasn't for the dedicated group of township officials down by the shore who refused to budge on the "variance" to allow for the building of retirement and retail buildings , this state would have NO SHORT TRACK RACING, and wouldn't have had it for the past 5 or so years. (Grosso's took over NES around 1998, Jay James took over Bridgeport within the last 3 years or so, and Wall Township fended of the advances of MKL Builders about 2 or 3 years ago).

Fragile.  Absolutely fragile.

We can't continue to blame it on body styles, and on concession stand food, and on high ticket prices.  Eventually we need to look at it in the same way that people eventually had to look at Drive In Movie Theatres.


A great idea at its time...  A place where great memories were created....  A place where there was something for every member of the family regardless of age.  A place who's excitement seemed inextinguishable... A place that could never die. 

But as time past and areas and priorities and communities changed...  that place eventually no longer fit in with the mainstream, with the new...   And eventually, caught the eye of those who saw the value in what it had BECOME, not in what it once WAS. 

And as a result, a new Wal-Mart... or a new Home Depot... or a new housing development became an even better idea to all except those few who clung to the memories of what once was.

#292 Forever.

3-Wide

TIC   10/04/06

Hey, Joe. I'll keep this one relatively short. (And far less "TICkey Spillane"esque!). 'Cause I'm really looking forward to seeing other Vault regulars, and even irregulars, chime in with their perspectives. I couldn't fail to mention, though, how much your point about the utter fragility of the last remaining vestiges of dirt track racing in Jersey really struck me. What a sobering and depressing thought. (Almos' had me reachin' for the ol' gat in the drawer again!)...

I've also got to mention the competing lines of thought that inevitably crash around in my head whenever I read about guys who've given up, or nearly so, on going to the tracks because of what racing has become. I'm REALLY torn on this issue.

On the one hand, I want to say, "Good for them". No-one should be expected to continue to patronize an institution that no longer provides them with enjoyment. It's their right to stay away. It's only sensible. And we're all better off if they're home or elsewhere and happy than at a track getting depressed and bitter and grousing about what they're seeing or not seeing. The best all-around thing is for them to stay away and to live out the rest of their lives content with their memories of the golden days of the past.

On the other hand, though, I want to tell them they're making a big mistake. That, if they can just accept that "it is what it is" -- and that, as sad as it may be to realize, it'll NEVER again be what it was -- there's still some enjoyment to be had at the tracks. And that today's fans and competitors desperately NEED the support and attendance of the diehards in order to keep the sport from dying away in the very midsts of THEIR glory days. And that I'm sure that even at Flemington in 1970 there were plenty of crotchety old-timers around decrying the "modern" state of the sport and how horrible it had become compared to that of the great days and tracks and cars and drivers of the 40's and 50's. And that -- although continuing to attend (and continuing to regularly remind management in constructive, civil, reasonable, and appropriate ways what they'd like to be seeing) might NOT in the end do much to improve and revitalize, or even to save, the sport -- boycotting the tracks is certain to help GUARANTEE that the sport will be dead and gone within the decade (and that they'll never again have a chance to even see a vintage car turn another lap in the state of New Jersey!)...

That's it for now, Joe. Once again, as seems to be my wont, I've rambled on far longer than intended. I'm really looking forward to seeing more of your thoughts and those of other Vault visitors. Take care. And keep up the great work!.

TIC

Kevin Eyres 10/04/06

We all have to realize that life changes every day. Just like life, racing changes. Racing is a big part of our lives and I'm damm glad for that. We have seen racing change (some good or some bad) but I don't think we could live without it. Everyone needs to try to move on and learn to enjoy all the good people involved in racing. You know you just can't show up once in a while and give your opinion on the state of racing and compare it to thirty years ago.

Sure it may have been better, but will your son or daughter look back in thirty years and say racing "sucked" because someone told him so? I don't think so. He is building his memories now, just like we did.

Those who don't give today's racing a chance are really missing out because they don't seem to know the people that make it so great.

Nuts, bolts, cars are all the same...all people are different.

Additional Note from Kevin:
(I had an amazing racing conversation the other night with my daughter. She asked all the right questions, gave all the right answers. Shows she' s building those great memories. I'm sure you've had these with your son.  CHERISH THEM. What's really good is they remember little things about a night or race , that as we get older we forget and they are there to remind us.)   Keep up the GREAT work!!! - Kevin..

Scott Pacich     10/04/06

Ok, I'll bite (just a small piece on this one).

I'm not THAT old (49) so I plan on being around a while longer to help
preserve some memories.

That being said, I've tried the "clean slate" approach several times. At various times I've stopped watching most, or all types of racing that I grew up with. I drifted from dirt to asphalt for a time, replaced the NASCAR series with CART, and stopped watching entirely for years at a time. When I returned, I tried to return with an open mind. I tried to NOT relate what I was watching currently to what I had seen in the past. I really did. And what I found was that for a time it excited me. It was good to see the cars again. Good to hear the racing talk. I actually looked forward to the next week's races.

And then it died out again. I honestly do NOT see the excitement in any form of oval track racing today. The cars are too generic, the drivers are too generic, the tracks are too generic and there are far too many forms of racing vying for my attention. I admit that I do hold a soft spot for the dirt modifieds, but they too simply do not excite met. Now let me explain a little that at 49 I still consider my self somewhat "outside the box" in the aspect that I listen to modern music, love a nicely done street car and work in a technology field that changes weekly. So it's not that I'm stuck in some time warp, wishing that things could be like they were.

I understand that coupes, sedans, Gremlins and Pintos are gone, relegated to Vintage clubs. I know they'll never return, and I really don't want them to. What I want is some progression to something that allows a little creativity. Will it help save dirt track racing? I don't know, I can't see the future. But for me personally I need that "that's what I'm talking about" effect when I see a race. I haven't had it for years...

As for running a track...I have no idea what it would take, nor would I pretend to offer advice. I can only speak as a fan as to what I would like. Shorter shows, differing formats, less look-alike classes, more entertainment during "down" times...I don't know...just something that makes me want to BE there. I too don't know why anyone in their right mind would want to run a track. With the attitude of some of today's fans, and their ability to openly criticize and complain to a fairly vast Internet audience it has to make their job hard. One fan's opinion of a bad show might be another fan's opinion of a good show. Who do you think will yell the loudest? I can guarantee you that the negative comments will breed more negativity that will generate into criticism that will generate into rumor that will have the track closing overnight. That can't be good. Then there are those who comment that "so and so told me that some track sucked last week". Even though he/she wasn't there, people are apt to listen and jump on the bandwagon. Me? If I want to go to a track I go. I don't ask, nor do I listen to anyone's opinions and/or comments. Perhaps we need more of that. People who will just go without needing to know every little detail before leaving their driveway. As much time as I spend on the Internet, I hate it for what it can do at times...

Bottom line...Just like all of you I have no pretense as to offering a magic fix. I just know that something needs to be done.

Ah....maybe I am just too old..

Scott Pacich

Ken Thoman   10/04/06

I would like to add a few thoughts to the discussion of today's racing;  I grew up going to modified races at Hatfield speedway, Flemington, East Windsor, Nazareth and Reading, it was nothing to be at one track or another three or four times in a week. And there was always the big race at Orange County and the Big Donkey at a little track like Five Mile Point. I look at the photos in the vault and it stirs my memory, I can see Tas in the Piscopole 39, God there was nothing like Flemington and seeing Sammy, Billy and Stan come three wide thru the short chute into turn four on the last lap. Watching Lindy on the grader at Reading waiting to see Frankie, Freddy, Kenny, Gerry, the young Stan Ploski with his 27 coach win the Daniel Boone 200, I could go on and on with so many memories, but that's what I get from my visits here at the Vault, people, they are memories, a time that will never be here again!

Things change, I'm no longer driving my 55 Chevy, I can't tell one car from another now days (on or off the track!). What made those times so good was being there seeing, feeling, screaming it was racing of yesterday, not today. Take a look at some of the older Vault photos, there were cars that were really almost stock, they had fenders hoods and grills that were "stock" now move forward and look at the evolution of the cars and drivers, the drivers use to wear a soft helmets, tee shirts and sneakers, try that today, a ride in your favorite drivers car? Think of the law suits of today.

Modified racing has changed - yesterday will not be back, remember the good times and hope there are memories for our children and grandchildren and just think they may someday say why can't the cars be like the ones I remember from the 2006 era. Things change.

Ken Thoman
Barry Hulse  10/04/06
When my son was in his early high school career, he was entering into a part of his life that was much more hectic, and he would call me flipping out about the 17 things he had to do in the next week. I gave him a simple piece of advice- STEP OUTSIDE THE BOX! Look at everything you have to do OBJECTIVELY instead of SUBJECTIVELY! This will allow you to clear your head and prioritize what you need to do WITHOUT your emotions causing you to make poor decisions.

The whole scenario of the state of racing today must be looked at in the same fashion. This way all of our EMOTIONS and MEMORIES are put aside to look at things with a clear head.

Now allow me to rephrase the question that we are all hashing over: 
IF YOU WERE THE PROUD NEW OWNER OF A RACE TRACK THAT HAS BEEN STRUGGLING FOR THE LAST 10 YEARS FOR CARS AND FANS, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO ATTEMPT TO TURN THINGS AROUND SO YOU, AS THE TRACK OWNER, CAN MAKE MONEY???? AFTER ALL, A BUSINESS OWNER IS SUPPOSED TO BE ABLE TO MAKE MONEY.

To make money as a racing promoter, you have to think like the poorest people that walk into your pits! If you think like them and create rules that allow them to be able to AFFORD TO COMPETE, they will bring with them 10 to 20 people to the pits and the stands which then brings money to the vendors at the track.

If the affordability of competing is there, the people will follow and continue to follow ONLY IF it is ENTERTAINING! Follow-the-leader racing is BORING, just like the NHL became a few years back with all the clutching and grabbing. They made changes to the rules to eliminate the boredom and added the shootout to eliminate ties, and the attendance has jumped since.

Tracks can accomplish the same with rule changes. Take away things such as rear 3-Point coil over suspension and only allow rear leaf springs. Take away expensive high-technology shocks and springs and make them run torsion bars with a cheap, stock Monroe shock that can be bought for $25 and put them on the hardest, smallest width racing tire that can be found. Now, you have automatically slowed down the competition because the cars will handle more like they did 35 years ago which equates to more slipping and sliding and fender banging which creates a more entreating product.

When you look at today's short track racing subjectively, the bottom line is that it is BORING and too expensive and if you can eliminate these two basic factors, the promoters would be able to turn their bottom line from the red into the black and we all wouldn't be sitting here writing about the good old days, we'd be going to the track and talking about how great it is now!

Barry Hulse
Matt Cranstoun   10/04/06
I've enjoyed reading all of these (and skimming briefly here and there, but for the most part, everybody has some good points) ... I, of course, would like to ramble a bit myself...

It seems to me, being 26 and having grown up at East Windsor Speedway during the days of Pauch, Horton, Hoffman, Hartman, Leech and Dmuchowski putting on some exciting shows in small block modifieds, that the demise of legendary tracks known for fast incredibly competitive shows, not to mention unbelievably perfect clay, it's possible that we lost interest when they took away the PLACES. Our places.

I don't see anyone on this site talk about any shows 5 years ago that Pauch & Brightbill at New Egypt had... even though Pauch could put on a show on a lawn mower... and has put on some crazy ones at New Egypt. But, something's missing, let's all say it together now..."It just ain't the same."

I've been to Bridgeport, I'm not a huge fan and it's a far ride. I try to catch at least two races a year at New Egypt with my dad. This year, I saw Keith Hoffman make a move on Horton in the 1st and 2nd turn with two to go and then next time through the same corner, Horton made a slide job back for the lead and won. I got that excitement again for a moment, but it always causes nostalgia about all those truly heart pounding finishes at Windsor...

If Flemington appeared again and opened its doors tomorrow (and it was the dirt God intended it to be) and the only thing running on it were these "Look Alikes"... I'd be there. Don't know about you guys. See, even though I grew up in the beginning phase of look alikes... I fell in love with the personalities, the rivalries, the competition and the shows just as much as the generations before me.

There's reason after reason why people don't want to go as much. I'd never boycott. I need the racing fix too much to boycott. I still love dirt track racing. Obviously we all do. Just not quite as much.

It's unfortunately too expensive to field a car these days. Technology has raised the price of the checkered flag. The days where a guy with a knack for fabricating hooked up with a guy who knew how to work a ford big block and a friends kid with no fear and natural undiscovered ability got behind the wheel, are sadly gone. If they returned, if they were fast, if talented drivers were behind the wheels (which means...put a paycheck out there)... if there were some individuality to the bodies, you never know...

The only problem is, they won't be drifting smoothly around that beautiful square of Flemington, screaming down the long straights of East Windsor, or touching any of those places where our connection with this sport was first born.

Matt Cranstoun
Scott Pacich     10/06/06

Barry, I couldn't agree with you more about the technological aspect (and cost) of racing. I can remember putting together the cost of a complete (minus engine) Kreitz car at the end of the '73 season. I think I stayed under $4,000. And that was with buying EVERYTHING from Kreitz.

But, over the years hasn't it been the racers themselves who have actually led the way to the ridiculous costs we see today? It wasn't a promoter or track owner sitting down over the off season and coming up with a set of rules that required Penske shocks, or mandated a sophisticated suspension. It was the racers, coming up with ways to keep ahead of the competition through the use of expensive and/or exotic parts. The tracks had a hand in it by not mandating that certain things would NOT be allowed. Instead, they kind of let the competitor kind of run the show.

So, while I truly believe that your suggestions have tons of merit, I see the same thing happening over again. A new set of rules can be established, which will undoubtedly be met with great consternation and complaining for competitors who might see their current investments rendered unusable. Then, over time, the competitive spirit will once again kick in and exotic parts, trick stuff and more will start to appear again. Promoters/track owners will likely be loath to tell the racers they can't use them and the cycle will start all over again.

That being said, I think it would be an outstanding start to begin to eliminate some of the really expensive things, like you've mentioned ASAP. I know that a great cost cutting move would be to make the bodies smaller, and eliminate most, if not all aspects of aerodynamics. Does a modified on a mile really need a nose like they have? Do cockpits really need to be THAT enclosed? Do the bodies need to be as big as they are? I know what I think....

Good discussion.
Barry Hulse  10/07/06

Great point, Scott, about the fact that the true fault of the problem is the competitors' pushing the envelope with the exotic parts and the tracks not stopping them from doing so.

I left Wall as the tech inspector at the end of the 1990 season to start B&B in 1991. I went back to the track to try to drum up some motor business and ran into Bobby Howard, Jr. He was begging me to come back. He said they would go home and curse me out every week because I wouldn't let them do this or do that with the cars. Then after I left, he realized what I was doing. The rules were getting out of hand already in only a year. He said "You were keeping the costs down". My answer to him was one word- "BINGO"!

If the tracks want to control things, they must take a page from NASCAR. They hand the teams the springs and shocks for Talladega and Daytona to eliminate the exotic stuff. Why don't the tracks act as the supplier for specific shocks and specific engine parts that must be used in your race cars to eliminate the use of exotic stuff and keep the cost down. This also makes policing the stuff very easy. Plus, it would allow the tracks to generate a little more money to help keep the gates open.
Tony P     10/10/06

Well...I think this will be the only post by someone born in the post-Watergate era. I've managed to hold onto my opinions for the entire year, but tonight, I think I have to vent.

First, guess what. 1970 is history. So is Nixon, carbs on street cars, polyester pants, and 25 cents a gallon gas. Flemington, Nazareth, and all the other tracks that I never went to (or did just once), are long gone. They are not coming back. Get over it.

If you really like racing...and are a fan of "racing", you go where cars race. Danny "Pimp" Serrano is a race fan. The man will watch anything with 4 wheels race. Apparently, you guys are "steel bodied big block modifieds that raced back in the day on tracks that no longer exist" fans. I, for one, do not consider you race fans. You all are dreaming for something that will not happen. True race fans move along with changes, or get they forget it all and go golfing instead..which is just fine if you so choose to go that way.

Big Block Injected Steel Bodied race cars will never run in NJ again, Raquel Welch will never be ultra hot and 30 again, and Billy Pauch will never be in a steel bodied Gremlin again in competition. Facts.

Then I hear "the fans don't come out because they cannot tell which car is which". Bullcrap. Hmmm..have you ever sat in the 3rd turn at Williams Grove? I have. Those cars didn't look like anything that Detroit ever produced. THE PLACE IS PACKED. Have you ever been to the World 100? Not me..but I saw the pics and I didn't see a car that looked anything like a Detroit
production..and the place was PACKED. Guess what...both of those types of racing get TV coverage. Has dirt mod racing, either in today's or yesterday's form every received a decent TV airing? Nope. So, your excuse for lack of fans holds little water. True race fans do not need Detroit look alikes. Race fans need good racing.

A good friend who races motorcycles once told me, "My mind only remembers the good times of racing. It does not remember broken bones, long hauls, and empty wallets". I think many of you out here don't remember the crappy aspects of short track racing in the past:

1. Shows that started at 5pm and didn't get done until 12:30 or 1am. I remember those. They sucked. As a kid, I could not stay awake.

2. Guys who had a lap on the whole field. Everyone kisses Pauch's butt about how he did this once or twice at Flemington. That, my friends, is a sucky race. That was Nascar back in the "golden era" of the 1970's when Petty and Pearson would have lapped the whole field and 20 some other guys either dropped out or were so far back they were doing nothing but wasting fuel. Any given night at NES or the Port will have at least 15-20 cars or more on the lead lap.

3. Drivers getting hurt. Safety equipment back then sucked. Guys got messed up trying to have a good time. Now, I can hear some old fart saying..."yeah..back then sex was safe and racing was dangerous!". Great idea. Some 30 year old dad goes out on the track and gets his ass burnt is a
piece of crap car with a crappy fuel cell and a helmet that was from Kmart. Happened quite a bit. Remember the glory days?

4. Modified racing was expensive back then, and it still is. The guys with the money won most of the time back then, and they still do today. Sure.a roller back then was $4000. Today it's $20000. Guess what.salaries of most professions have also grown at the same rate. Racers back then were broke, and most are today also if they are trying to run near the front. It has been a part of racing since the early years. Yes, every now and then someone gets lucky, but if you have not yet realized that racing takes money, you are in the wrong sport.

All this is coming from a guy who went to Bridgeport as a kid, and spent many Saturday nights there. Get this...I never saw a steel bodied car race...ever...at a dirt track. And I became a fan...and after 13 years drag racing, I became a sportsman racer.

A race fan becoming a racer..working hard, having fun, and guess what: A true racer does not care what body is on a car, and a true race fan should enjoy the racing aspect, not care if the car has steel, aluminum, or any body on it.

And I have to tell you.if you are not excited about what is going on at NES, Williams Grove, or any other nice tight, well kept race track today in the year 2006, you need to go golfing. I have seen the stands PACKED at these tracks THIS YEAR and the crowds are walking away happy. That's because they are seeing great racing.and they pretty much don't care about the cars all looking alike.

Later.
Tony P, car 175. Having a good time.racing..on dirt in NJ. TODAY.
Barry Hulse  10/11/06

Hey Tony P! Great post! We "old farts" all forget that all you have ever been around in racing is the post-coupe and sedan Modifieds and you do make some great points. The problem is not in the fact that there are people who feel the way you do. The problem is, for the tracks to survive over the long haul, there aren't enough of you to pay the way for the track owners to survive financially.

It is all perspective- us old guys and you young "pups", but I still say if you look at it from the track owner's perspective, most of them are losing money today and THEY will not survive much longer with the product that is on the track today. The land upon which these tracks all sit is an easy out to sell to Wal Mart or some other corporate entity with deep pockets instead of trying to prolong the financial agony they now all suffer.

The only thing that will save the tracks is for people like Stewart, Schrader and Junior who need to bury some of their millions so they don't have to give it to Uncle Sam and it doesn't matter to them if they lose money with the track over time. Then it's all a tax-write-off and a toy in the grand scheme of things and they will not care that they lost a couple hundred thousand a year. If I were a track owner losing that kind of money a year, even as much as I truly do love the sport, I'd be knocking on Wal Mart's door trying to bail before I lost everything I own!

This is the bottom line problem today- the financial feasibility of owning and operating a track. The real question is, HOW DO YOU SOLVE THIS PROBLEM? There are 3 remaining ovals in NJ and if there is more than one left operating in the state by the year 2010, I will be very surprised.

Barry Hulse
Scott Pacich     10/12/06

Tony P, I think you've missed the point a little. Nobody (that I know of) expects a modified to he shrouded in a Gremlin/Pinto/Coupe/Sedan body again. We do however, believe that a return to a more "stock" appearing body will help the popularity of the sport. You can tell me I'm not a true race fan all you want, but I respectfully disagree with you. Being a true race fan does not mean that you buy into all the changes, and just keep going to watch what's presented to you. To me, it
means having an understanding of what it takes to compete AND put on an event.

That being said, I too spent some long nights at race tracks. I also spent nights where the show started at 8:00 and was done by 10:00. It doesn't matter what time in history you choose, there was, and will continue to be bad nights.

As for the $4000 vs. $20,000 (more like $25,000 now) costs. Yes, salaries have gone up in that time. But, have the purses that tracks pay out gone up at the same rate? Not even close. As much as racing IS expensive, and for the most part is considered a hobby guys can only do it for so long before they have to give it up. The costs have risen far faster and higher than the returns...

The bottom line? We're not proponents of bringing back the "old days".   We're proponents of helping to create a kind of racing that is more affordable to keep race teams functioning, and will draw the interest of a new breed of fans, to help the tracks to keep functioning.

Just because we're "old" doesn't make us any less of a race fan than
anyone else.

Scott Pacich
3-Wide   10/12/06

Thanks for keeping this discussion moving forward guys.

I have to tell you, the more I read TP's comments the more I've warmed up to some of the points raised, but like Scott, I'm not buying into that I'm "Not a racefan" just because of TP's narrow definition, although I absolutely can see where he's coming from.

Specifically though, I don't agree with "True race fans go along with the changes...."  Implying that if you challenge the new, the different, that it's immediate grounds to be stripped from your "Racefan" status. 

Fact is, maybe I don't know what a true racefan is anymore.  But then again, I'm not sure if I've met anyone who I think is worthy of appointing such a title. 

I've been to Daytona 35+ years in a row... Indy 10 - 15 times, raced MotoCross (I wasn't that good by the way!), attended Flemington, EWS and other local dirt tracks since the late 60's/early 70's..  Currently go to at least one race each weekend from April till Nov (NES, Wall, Bridgeport, Orange County, Grandview) help my kid with his Champ Kart Racing,  spend a few minutes here and there with this thing called "The Vault" and will watch everything from Swamp Buggy Racing to Formula 1 as long as I'm in control of the remote...  You get the idea...  Enough with the credentials.   Like I said, maybe I don't know what a race fan is.

The other point I find a little challenging is the attempt to use what happens in Williams Grove, Pa as support data for what is possible or even probable for what should and could be happening in NJ.  As noted before, we are all in denial if we don't realize what a fragile state short track racing is in the state of NJ (I REPEAT, IN NEW JERSEY), so please save me the reminders about how popular Sprint Car racing is in PA and other places across this country.  Next we'll be getting attendance figures from Knoxville and Eldora as support for the good health of short track racing in New Jersey. 

Hell, I'll bet you can still hunt and fish and carry guns in half those places too right?   Here's a real unpopular group of people who have little or no political clout in NJ:  People who hunt, fish, own a gun and who enjoys local stock car racing.   Haven't seen too many politicians appealing to those demographics.  In some of the places that are being sited as justification for the health of short track racing, those identifiers would help to get you elected!

And one more point:  Do to the nature of my job I have the opportunity to speak to hundreds of students who are of high school age who attend classes in Automotive Technology, Wood Shop, Electronics and similar programs right here in NEW JERSEY... Students who one would think would be most likely interested in cars and motorcycles... and all things loud and fast! 

And guess what?  Other than the few that are directly involved with a raceteam (and I mean less than 10 out of 100's) none of them give a rat's ass about what is going on at New Egypt, Wall or Bridgeport.

If the political climate changes in Wall Township.... If Ricky decides he doesn't like putting up with all the BS that comes with running a racetrack, and if one day Jay decides enough is enough and shuts the lights off, we will be driving out to Williams Grove to watch the sprinters run because that will be the closest place for us to see short track racing.

Maybe I'll stay overnight and do a little huntin' and fishin' while I'm out there and enjoy the way things once were here too, in the great Garden State.

3-Wide
Tony P     10/12/06

Guys.there is a few things that I think you need to consider here when you attempt to "save" racing in NJ, or increase the fan base to where a race track will become very profitable.

1. Going back to a steel body, or a body that fans somewhat recognize will cost racers too much time and money. Current DIRT rules, current chassis' from the big three manufacturers, suspension components, etc, all are designed to be used with a lightweight aluminum body. All the racers that are currently racing are set up for this type of body, this type of car, and have years of knowledge working with them. The entire supply system of parts (manufacturers, dealers, used market, etc) is all geared to what has been in style for the last 15+ years. Any major rules change would cost teams more money, and the cars would not handle as well or be as safe as they currently are. All the same applies to motors: Yes, parts may be expensive, but for
the most part the engines most people use are darn reliable if treated with care.

2. Personally, I don't want to, or have the time to, fabricate a body that looks stock in some way. I think I can also speak for every other racer out there who keeps a car on the track every week. It's already enough work to do all the other week to week maintenance, let alone fix a one off body that only I can make or get panels for. Ask the NES super stock guys about this. If I rip up a back bumper, I go to Lawrence, A1, or anyone else and for $120, I have a new one. If I had my own chassis, or ran a super stock or something of that nature, I'd have $25-$35 wrapped up in pipe, and 4 hours of my time to make one. I don't have the time, and quite honestly, I can make more money working at my job than saving it making it on my own. I'd rather pay someone to do that bumper than to make my own. I have other things I'd like to do during the week like spend time with my family, relax, and enjoy a life outside of racing than to make bumpers and fix one off bodies.

3. NJ racing is on life support. Simply put, land is worth way too much here than in many other areas of the country. Someone earlier said 2010, but I give it another 10 years. NES is making money. At $15 a head, with 4000-5000 people coming in, that's a nice gate fee. And since the payout sucks, someone is making a nice living there. Secondly, tracks do a crappy job of promoting themselves. Screw the ads in AARN: talk about a dinosaur. Take an ad out in the local papers. Take out some ads on Comcast. Go to some parades and hand out flyers. Go to the high schools and offer up free admission tickets as prizes for academic achievement or for project graduation prizes. Give little league or pee wee football teams free passes for all the kids
with a paying adult. Sometimes you have to give away some free stuff to get a paying customer. Take a hint from the drug dealers!

ALL the local tracks do NO PROMOTION to get new fans interested. I hear ads for Atco and Englishtown all the time on the radio.never have heard ONE ad for Wall, Port, or NES. Etown and Atco promote all over the state.and in popular magazines that a much larger base reads.

4. If the payout has become so bad, the racers need to stop racing. Guess what.we don't do it. We go, we race for sucky money, because we like it. Breaking even is no longer a possibility. If you have a race car and are expecting to break even, you are better off buying a boat and hoping to break even on that. Every racer knows that going in. Car counts are NES and some other tracks around are still good despite this fact.

5. If Bridgeport wishes to survive and pull cars from NES, here is your solution. SHORTEN UP THE TRACK. Make it look like Williams Grove: mile, long straights, tight corners, and they will draw cars from NES and possibly other states. That track is too big, too fast, too abrasive, and too harsh on motors. It will not make it many more years in its current configuration. The quality of racing will improve, and the fans will be there to see some great racing instead of super speedway style racing. I had intentions of running there this year, but I'm going back to NES to start. A few of the late season wrecks there were scary.

I'm tired. Chew on these for a while.
Tony P
Barry Hulse  10/13/06

Hey Scott,

I am a strong proponent of bringing back Pinto, Gremlin, Vega, coupe and sedan bodies! Now you, and everyone else reading these posts needs ro be honest: If you put a Taurus, a Corolla, an Altima and a Lexus all painted black next to each other and covered up all the logos, could you correctly identify all four? I work in the auto industry and I wouldn't be able to! I guess the auto industry is in the same boat as today's racing-ALL THE STUFF LOOKS THE SAME!

Have you guys seen today's asphalt cars? They add a stupid little side window strip to the bastardized Cavailer body and call it a Dodge or a Ford!

Take a chassis design from Tobias from around 1970, add your choice of a prefab spec body of a Pinto, Gremlin, Vega, Coupe or Sedan, make your own hood, create a low cost DIY engine, no power steering and put them on the hardest, narrowest racing tire that can be had and go race on either asphalt or dirt. Call them Retro Mods that could run a traveling series all over the Northeast with a division sponsor and a nice point fund and HAVE FUN WITHOUT SPENDING A FORTUNE!  This would put the drivers back in control and they would have to have more  ability than the point-and-shoot pilots of today's high-tech cars.   The best DRIVER would win and it would take away the ability for someone with deep pockets to buy their way to the front!

Oh - one more rule- NO ENCLOSED TRAILERS!!!!! Race cars being towed in the open is the best free advertising race tracks can have!

And for you youngin's out there, how about a full fendered subcompact 4 cyl division running on those fancy "shoes" with the super low profile street tires! I bet you a division like this would have all those drifter kids dying to get on a dirt surface like NES or Bridgeport!

Just some thoughts!

Barry Hulse
James N   10/13/06

I wrote this for OpenWheelRacers.com awhile ago. I think it follows the thoughts presented already.

Nobody asked me but...

The state of professional automobile racing has taken some interesting turns in the 6 decades I have been a part of this earth. Some turns have been good , some not so...

As I have found out through the school of hard knocks, experience and observation everything does not follow a grand plan, with an outcome that more often than not disappoints. Let me state right here that that view depends upon where you enter the picture, as Simon and Garfinkle said "One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor".

Let's talk turkey! When I started attending races, there were no roll bars, drivers wore T shirts, tires were maybe six inches wide and the mortality rate of Indy starters was five per year.

The slide job pass was a certain invitation to the here after. No one, and I repeat no one, tolerated a maneuver that burdened the passed car to give room. If you did, you got the wheel, period, end of pass perhaps end of life. There was a mutual respect. Everybody understood the probability of major injury. Today things are safe. Not in a zero defect, no incident way, just everybody walks away from the automotive carnage, talks to the TV announcers, touts their sponsors five or six times, said they had a winning car although they never lead a lap, and opined they would be back next week. Next week??? Egad, don't get me wrong I'm for driver protection just not into manned scud missiles, but nobody asked me...

The "Big Cars" raced ten to twelve times from April through mid November, most dates corresponding to state fairs and crowds were from 5000 to 35000. There where only verbal contracts between driver and car owner, some arranged on race day. Not every car owner supported every race, there was no end of year point fund to be distributed. Drivers could pick which races they would drive because next to no one ran them all, let alone qualified for them all. There were no provisionals, back up cars or perks as seen today. The eighteen fastest whoever they were.  No Eddie Sachs, Roger Ward or Jimmy Bryan for that matter if they didn't cut it to fall in the top eighteen. Dial in a car over two over three days, what!! Try 15 laps, then two to qualify and you get the best one.   Spin and that is tough, see you in a couple weeks, maybe, if the verbal contract held. Be good or be gone. But nobody asked me...

Sponsorship of cars was usually the car owners name and "Special" after it, like the "Pete Schmidt Special", or "Bob Estes Special" not the "really bad tasting coffee Ford" or whatever corporate thing out there now. Sure Bob Estes owned a car dealership, but it was in California and you were in Pennsylvania. It would not have swayed you to by a Lincoln, heck it would not have supported Bob.

Purses were determined by spectator attendance, a minimum against 40% of the gate was pretty normal, at least everywhere but the Indianapolis Speedway. Granted the purse at Indy was bigger than anywhere else but no one sees the books there even today. Now purses are relatively
small. Car owners make their money from their sponsors. Let's see, $10 million per year for twenty races, that's $500 thousand per race and to win pays $150 thousand. What is the motivation?? Now car owners don't show up because they don't have a sponsor. Drivers are selected not on their driving skills (because the winning purse is so small) but on what money they can bring to the owner through sponsors. The analogue that comes to mind is prostitution don't you think?? But nobody asked me...

Remember when the brake peddle was something used frequently, like on entry to every turn, not just on pit stops? Anybody remember the model airplanes that were on a hand held string? Today's racing mimics that. Everybody is confined by the walls (read radius of turn) and everybody has the same engine, so everybody runs in a pack. Sure it takes skill to run with, next to, or between others but a major dimension of racing has been lost, judgment of corner speed. Remember when wings were on airplanes and angels, not every kind of car on a track? With enough down force generated by the wings, these things today could run on your ceiling. Did you realize that that is why the cars hit the wall all the time when the driver looses it? The artificial down force works until the coefficient of static friction is exceeded. Once the car breaks loose there is nothing but the centripetal force left which sweeps the car to the wall. The wings are tuned for straight ahead airflow and once side slip is introduced the effectiveness of the airfoil is significantly diminished and its an ice skating rink out there. If you want racing, get rid of the wings, if you want to watch ostriches run (winged but flightless birds), then you are a leg up on things. But nobody asked me...

In summation, yes things are different, we can't go back, but what is offered makes it hard for me to go forward.

James N
Kevin Mc   10/15/06

60 years ago families would sit together and spend the evening listening to the radio.

50 years ago families sit together and watch a television that picked up three channels. All in black and white.

40 years ago families would pile in dads station wagon and sit together and watch a two division show at a poorly lit speedway with bleachers that were ready to collapse and had a bathroom that was almost guaranteed to give you some sort of illness if you needed to use it.

All 3 were wildly successful in their day, but fell on hard times when tastes changed and people found new things to do with their extra time and money.

Two of the three changed with the times and remain profitable; yet in no way resemble what they were in their hey-day.

The third is on life support.

Seems to me there's some fans who believe going back to 3 channels will solve everything.

I was talking to a friend of mine recently who's been around North Eastern auto racing his whole life. I was describing the tracks that are doing well out here in the NW and he mentioned how he believed that the successful speedways of today are usually far from a major city and in or near a town where there's few other entertainment choices available. Ever been to Eldora? Its a good 40 minutes from an interstate. You pass nothing but silos and cows on the way there. Knoxville? Ditto.

My home track these days is a mile from the center of the town its in. This town has one supermarket, no movie theatre, and I couldn't get one hour foto developing when I was there for a few days this summer. This town also closes Main St once a year for a parade of race cars during the tracks annual big weekend. Oh yeah this track is 35 minutes from any interstate and its 35 minutes of nothing but trees

Maybe New Jersey just is the wrong place for short track racing in millenium 2K.

Sorta like trying to open a John Deere dealership in Manhattan.

Just my humble opinion of course
Respectfully,
Kevin Mc
Barry Hulse  10/16/06

A good saying is "If you want to make some changes in your life, you've gotta make some changes in your life"!

Just change the word life to racing.

Well, my final thoughts on all of this.

Can anyone show me a rule book from any track here in NJ that says you must buy a manufactured chassis from only a few guys who have engineered these frames to death on how they will act on any track with this expensive shock or that expensive spring? Or how about a rule that says that the racing tires have to be the absolute softest compound available to make these manufactured chassis go faster than the confinement of the track's safety walls allow?

The real problem in racing is just a microcosm of our society today. The problems we talk about here is all about money. Wal Mart has figured out how to control a product we buy from manufacturing in China to distribution to sale to all of us, and in the meantime they have squeezed all the little independents out of business, put American workers out of good paying jobs and make massive profits that, in the old economic system, would have trickled down to the mom and pop operations this country thrived on. Here in the world of short track racing, the power shift has now been taken over by a few car manufacturers and they control what you will and won't have to race with.

In a few years with all of the American manufacturing jobs being shipped overseas, there will be no one left in this country that will know how to make anything. This has already happened in the world of racing. It used to be that ingenuity and driver ability created winners at the track. Today, it is all about how deep someone's' pockets are.

I guess if you really think about it, racing is just a step ahead of the rest of America's economic system. Unless the track owners mandate suspension parts and engine parts that are less exotic and expensive and put their collective feet down and learn to say NO to the expensive stuff, the
tracks will all die a gruesome death sooner than later.

I have never seen a rule in any rule book that says you have to go as fast as the science of physics will possibly allow. If cars are made to all run 2 or 3 seconds slower by not handling as well through the turns and it creates more slipping and sliding and passing without having to do the bump-and-run, what's wrong with that?

Racing is just step ahead of where our beloved America will be in a few short years! Too much economic power in the hands of too few will destroy short track racing, local hardware stores, local appliance retailers, local automotive machine shops..... oh, wait - It Already Has!

Barry Hulse
Ned Stites III  10/18/06

When I was 8 years old my father and I visited Frankie Schneider’s house. I overheard a conversation that I'll never forgot.

They were talking about cars like the XL-1, Dick Barney's 14, etc., and the Pennsylvania “Bugs”. I remember Frankie saying if it kept up like that it would turn racing into a “Gentleman’s Club” type of event. It was as if he could see today back in 1962.

I was still attending races regularly until everyone changed their cars to fit that D.I.R.T. template. When I saw that drawing in AARN, I knew I wasn’t going to like it.

I still attend one or two events per year to see if anything has changed. Usually I wind up feeling like I should have stayed home. I realize that it will never again be like the days of Tas, Budd Olsen, Schneider, etal. I think it could be better though.

It doesn’t have to be expensive to have a race. Cars could race at 75 mph and have a great race. It’s the race, cars, fans, and drivers that count - not the sponsors, hype, and non-racing related speeches and events they have now.

If someone could break away from the formula and try it, people might like it.

Ned Stites III
Scott Pacich     10/12/06

Ned, your last line says it all...

Over the years there have been some people who have broken away from the existing protocol. Remember when the "SK" class was developed for the asphalt modifieds? As I recall it was met with much skepticism, fields were initially light and folks griped up a storm. Look at them now...

The same could be said for the adoption of tube chassis. Tracks that were behind the curve, and tried to stick with the old tried and true stuff lagged behind for a bit. But, eventually change took hold. That's truly what I believe modified racing, and short track racing in general needs. Change.

Scott Pacich
Bill Robb  10/16/06

"You Can't Go Back"

I have read, with great interest, every post so far. There are good points in all of them. You are all entitled to have an opinion.

Fact: You can't go back.

All these posts over simplify why we are where we are at. Society has changed and we allowed it to happen. We didn't support and demand to keep full service gas stations, for young people to learn mechanical skills from older guys (most had an old stock car behind it ). We want every kid to go to college, you tell them they will never amount to anything as a grease monkey.

We said nothing when they passed laws to keep junk cars out of our neighborhoods, closed salvage yards that were a gold mine for cheap parts. This is progress!! We now build subdivisions with rules against parking anything in your drive, no noisy motors allowed. Couple of guys get together to work on a car and they complain because they make noise. I've heard so many people ranting about young kids and there loud foreign cars, wonder where the cops are? Times have changed, I wonder who wanted to turn us in ?

These kids are the future of racing and need support and mentors, most likely Dad & Mom are to busy paying for the home in the development to help them, even if they knew how. Would you volunteer?

I started going to the race track in 1948.  I lived by a body shop and junkyard. Remember the Grbac's. They were a good part of my upbringing. My mother preached against hanging around there, luckily my dad understood. I had the opportunity to learn, and what fun! What kid today has the opportunity or support to do these things? Not many today can do anything unless it's organized for them, especially drag home a car, build it and try it out. I doubt they would even be encouraged to. Maybe they still do in Ohio and Iowa, but not New Jersey. That's why I believe we only have a few high dollar teams running auto racing and the rest of us field fillers out for fun.

Is this all bad, no I don't think so. I don't want to go back to .75 cents per hour minimum wage, poor working conditions, Polio and TB, etc. I'm pretty happy with things the way they are. I love the old cars, I liked the drive ins, and cars and girls were where it was at. Oh, for a Saturday night at Flemington and the Fair, Old Bridge, Langhorne, its' gone and it's just a memory and that were it should stay and be cherished. We were lucky. Let the people today build their memories, we will still have ours!! Both my sons and I have built some really good memories thru racing.

Thanks for letting me post my opinion,
Bill Robb
Bill (not crash) Walker  10/20/06

Well guys I've been just sittin back and reading all these opinions and ideas and decided it's time to add my two cents.

For the record I'm one of the "old farts". I saw my first race around 1960 or so at Flemington, Saturday afternoon of Fair week walking around with my parents and brother. Heard a commotion coming from the track and went to see what all the noise was.   Midget warm ups was the "racket" and in less than five minutes the hook was set.

Had the pleasure of attending the Square, Windsor, Bridgeport, Nazareth etc during their hayday. Got to see all the greats that made the sport what it is/was. And then spent 15 years or so on various pit crews from the early/mid seventies through the late eighties/early nineties. What a great time to be involved.

Fast forward to today, now I don't go too much any more. If Im lucky a few times each year for a number of reasons. Not because my kids/wife don't enjoy it because for the most part they do. Not for the expense of it today, if I wasn't spending money going to the races I'd be spending it somewhere else. For me it's just not the same anymore. At one time everybody knew "someone" involved in racing somehow. The kid down the block, your cousin's neighbor, the guy at the gas station you took your car to etc....

You could also easily identify and identify with the cars/drivers at that time. It didn't matter who you rooted for. When the Piscopo 39 or the Norcia 81, the Fodor 13, the red and white deuce, the Fireball 99, or whoever pulled onto the track EVERYONE knew who was driving that particular car and just about anyone of them had a shot at winning on any given night.  It was more about the driver than the car, if the car didn't handle the driver muscled it around the track and found a way to win.

Today's racing is all about "cubic dollars". Which sponsor has the deepest pockets to lay out the Major Bucks to buy the latest go fast goodies. I agree with whoever said "if you took all the top drivers cars and painted them all white you couldn't tell one from another". I look at the pictures from the previous weeks races and if the photographer doesn't identify the driver I dont know who most of them are.

No disrespect to Danny Johnson but I'd be willing to bet a trained monkey could have driven his car to the win at Syracuse or anywhere else this year. I pass a truck with a big enclosed trailer going down the road and I'm not sure if its a raceteam or a lawn service. It's all about " the Benjamin's" today, it can't be that much fun anymore. Gotta keep the sponsors happy, making appearances, kissing babies, product endorsements, whatever. Used to be the drivers name over the door and the owners name on the trunk lid or hood. Maybe a Bardahl or Crane Cams sticker and that was it. Now you've got primary sponsors, associate sponsors, occasional sponsors and who knows what else. Some of the big guns are getting hundreds of thousands of dollars of sponsorship money to race for comparative peanuts. I doubt if the winning Syracuse car owner broke even, but he won the big one.They showed up with a couple of big block cars and a few small block cars and some spare engines for each one and a spare chassis or two all loaded up in a semi rig that would make some Nextel Cup teams green with envy and they kicked everyone's butt.

There is no such thing as a mom and pop local hardware store or lumber yard anymore, Home Cheapo and the like saw to that. No such thing as a local clothing/department store anymore, Walmart, Target and friends saw to that. Teo's got a new chassis that was designed by NASA and Bicknell's got one coming out that does everything but sell popcorn in the stands and everybody's gotta have 'em to stay competitive and lets not even talk about engines.

There's too many people making too much money selling the current supply of go fast goodies for things to back to the way they were. As much as I'd like to see it, I don't think it's gonna happen. As my father used to say "it is what it is". Small time racing is no more, it's all big time now.

A few years ago at Orange County we had the pleasure of pitting next to Bob McCreadie. A true gentleman and a credit to the sport. One of the guys asked him why he had an old open trailer and a pickup and cap with all his spare parts and tools and parts jammed inside, instead of a fancy enclosed rig like everyone else of his stature. His reply was if a big fancy enclosed trailer will make him go faster and win more races then he'd get one, otherwise he'll spend his money where it counts.

It's a shame more people don't think that way today. Thanks Joe for giving me a chance to vent, hope I didn't bore anybody.



Bill (not crash) Walker

Wrap Up:
10/20/06

Well, its time to close this subject out for now, but not first without a few mentions...

We'd first like to thank Barry Hulse for jump starting the discussion about today's racing.  Thanks also go out to all of those who added their thoughts including Scott Pacich, Barry Pursell, Kevin Eyres, Ken Thoman, Matt Cranstoun, Tony P, James N, Kevin Mc, Ned Stites III, Bill Robb and Bill Walker. 

We'd also like to thank those who have mentioned to us over the last couple of weeks that they enjoyed reading everyone's comments and thought that it will take this type of discussion to help secure a spot in the future for our sport.  Special mention also goes out to Scott Pacich for adding us to his 10/17/06   "Under the Radar" column found each week in the Area Auto Racing News.   Scott's column goes along way in helping to make others aware of our thoughts.  

While we may all take somewhat of a different approach, I think its obvious that we all care deeply about short track racing.  We hope that the discussion has caused all of us to take a look at the sport... to take a look at ourselves... and to take a look at the future.

I'd like to close this topic out with a favorite quote that I think about whenever I find myself trying to solve a problem:

*Question:  "What's the first thing you should do when you find yourself in a hole?"
Answer:  "Put the shovel down."
* From Author, Business Coach and Motivational Speaker Jim Rohn   http://www.woopidoo.com/biography/jim_rohn.htm


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