I’m not sure what I say here will endear me to many track owners, but I do feel for each one of them. It is not easy owning any business these days, but the ones we as racers seem to interact with a lot are track owners. It’s my opinion that most racers have little idea the trials and tribulations of owning and running a race track. It’s not as easy as just opening the gate in the morning and wait for racers to flock in.
The late Vinny Napp of Englishtown Raceway Park once told me sometime in the ‘80s (and I’m paraphrasing here), “When we first opened the track in the ‘60s, we would lock the gates in November and go to Florida for the winter, not returning until February. Now we have to have someone in our office 52 weeks a year.”
Mike McCracken purchased Beaver Springs Dragway in Pennsylvania four years ago. An astute businessman, he is still somewhat bombarded with the bills which seem to always come in during the months of November to March; with no real income coming in during that time period.
Most of you may know, but I live next door to Beaver Springs Dragway. I’ve been friends of the original owner and builder of the track, Beaver Bob McCardle, for 40+ years. When we moved next door to the track back in 2003, I would visit the facility on race days and just watch what transpires. I would typically come home and think that I must be missing something, because it seemed too easy. I watched racers come and go, money coming in and what appeared to be less money going out.
It was mid-summer when the track began to have problems; rain, township issues, racer complaints, etc. It was then when I fully realized, “This ain’t what it appears to be.” And it’s not unlike any other business. I feel for track owners.
So where is the part where I don’t think I’d endear myself to them?
At most big events, tracks will host a separate test & tune day or session. Typically it allows racers to get a couple of extra hits at the track to get used to its maybe idiosyncrasies. And track owners rely on those days to add some money to their coffers, of which I have no problem. The concern though is that while most test & tune sessions are run in an orderly pattern, I was recently at one where the cars in the staging lanes were pulled out in what seemed to be a haphazard manner. Cars were pulling in the lanes and pulled right out while others sat for a long time before their lane was pulled. Now in most cases, that’s an oddity, but test & tune sessions can be like that. Shouldn’t be, but oft times they are. Every racer there paid the same amount of money and like any other customer, should be treated fairly. Enough said there.
Besides just getting used to hits on the track, some racers will use the test & tune session to try out new equipment or a car set-up. Here’s where I have a problem with a typical test & tune. If it’s just a matter of getting a couple of extra hits; get used to the ‘Tree, etc.; then so be it. However, if you’re going to go there to test a new combination or make substantial changes to your program; you would be better served to actually rent a track either on your own or with a couple of your buddies. The track then becomes somewhat your own. There will be no waiting in line to make a run. No concern over track prep. No worry that 42,000 street cars have dropped oil or worse on the track. The track is yours to use as you see fit; within certain guidelines of course. You can run your car to only the 60’ mark, stop, back it up, make a change and hit the ‘Tree again. There are so many possibilities which can be tested under ideal conditions for the most part.
Of course, is it expensive? It can be, but it’s really all relative. And it could be that only certain tracks will allow a rental. But you’re there to accomplish something and you can’t do that when you have to sit in the staging lanes waiting for dozens of other cars to run in front of you. All I ask is for you to think about it.