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JamesHigdon

Drag Racing and Dirt Tracks better than Asphalt?

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Was browsing Facebook and saw Street Outlaws will be running at SAR next weekend and it brought me back to why dirt is doing pretty well in TX (new track this year down by Kingsville) and drag racing is doing pretty well in TX (SAR has been busting at the seems and has bigtime sponsors) but we can’t run one full time asphalt track? It’s not that asphalt is closing down all over; new tracks have been built in some places and I’m starting to see more and more talk of new and growing series's in other places. The big short track race at Bristol is growing, the Snowball is bigger than ever, etc, etc.

Kyle had great turnouts the last two years and SAS had great turnouts in ‘14-15 for a track only running a few races and now HMP seems to be doing ok and even growing...but no full time track for the second year since the 1940s?

If diverse states all over America and Canada can support multiple tracks; what really make TX different and why doesn’t that difference apply to dirt?

The biggest difference I’ve come up with is the initial cost to build an asphalt track leading to the track operators not owning the facility (SAS and CTS) but that didn’t apply to HMP or CCS and many dirt tracks run like that and do ok.

These questions aren’t academic, I’ve worked with a few different parties interested in reopening SAS and so far for various reasons it hasn’t worked out but other parties and myself are still trying...what needs to be done differently? How do you restart and grow asphalt racing in TX?

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In my honest opinion, I think it all comes down to rules.  I can take my drag car and go race at any track in Texas and not have to change a thing.  I can travel anywhere outside the state of Texas and run without changing anything.  When it comes to dirt tracks it basically the same thing, you can take your IMCA car and go to any IMCA track and race.  Asphalt tracks have to many varying classes and rules.  We saw it here in Texas when THR, SAS, CCMS, HMP all raced they all had different classes with different rules.  That did change when the track promoters got together an made similar rules and raced on separate nights so people could travel if they wanted.  Rumor I heard is that the big 3 drag strips in central Texas got together where drag racers can run SAR, Little River and Edinburgh and not miss races at their local track.

 

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One big thing for me is time spent at the track to be competitive. At Kyle I would sometimes show up Friday night and practice. That meant leaving work early, running til I had enough, and driving home. Say 5 hours at the track Friday. Back at the track 9-10am to get ready for first practice, sitting there all day, until 11pm at the earliest. Usually not getting home until 1-2am Sunday morning. 18+ hours just at the track on race weekend, not counting transit time. I'm a young, single guy, no kids, and even for me that is way too much. I can't imagine for those with family. On the dirt, show up at 5pm, race, out by midnight.

I have never raced a "typical" class on either surface so I may be off base here. It seems to me that on asphalt, you really only have 2-3 competitive cars in each class, and everybody knows who those cars are before they get on the track. In my experience, one can be more competitive with "less car" and a lower comparative budget on the dirt by compensating with driving and setup. Yes, driving and setup are always a premium no-matter what type of racing, but dirt seems to take some emphasis off essentially having the newest car and the best parts. I believe rules (and enforcement of rules) play a large part as well, but rules will be a never-ending argument as long as racing exists.

Also, strictly from a driving perspective, dirt is more fun for me. From a watching perspective, there seems to be a lot less follow-the-leader on the dirt. That's a big thing for me sitting in the stands.

I'm not bashing asphalt racing at all, I started on asphalt. But these are the main reasons I believe dirt is sustaining itself in Texas.

Edited by TexasAggie13

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I can't figure why Texas asphalt tracks have always had the time issue. We did the same thing - practice Friday, show up 1 hr before the 1st practice sat, then bake in the TX sun all day. When we raced in PA at Motordrome and Jennerstown, track didn't open until 5, you got 1 practice, then heat race, then race. You did your set up at the shop. It really cut down on the cost too. You had to race on the same tires you practiced on, in other words, 1 set of tires per race night. That's another issue, but I think cost is a big factor in the demise of asphalt racing.

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Just the changing times, when my dad started racing in the 80's we could get to SA at 5, practice, race be done by 10 key that was 3-4 divisions;  got to the point here specifically at CTS where we wanted to give everyone a place to race. Totally agree those weekends were way too long and hell on the body and a business if you happen to operate one that requires weekends as busy days. Austin was the same back in the day just as SA.. goes without saying many times we stayed there way too late but wasn't because of the race program.

No secret here I'm pavement all the way nothing compares for me, those that like dirt and drag racing that's great as long as we are passionate about any of them that's the key. Honestly motocross #2 on my list having grown up through that like I did with asphalt racing.

Costs have hurt us tremendously around here so to somehow get that in line is they key this happened for years and we let it get us to this point. Do have a few trips lined up to head East and watch them get after it just as well trips planned here to dirt tracks to do a little racing as well.

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Speaking from a fan perspective I started going to the races at CC Speedway starting in 1957 , then San Antonio Speedway in 1979 ,  occasionally Longhorn and CC Speedway mid 80's on. The racing on the asphalt during that time was great. Lots of side by side , passing and excitement at SAS. To date I haven't heard a sweeter sound than the first lap with the sound of the engines bouncing off the back straight wall. CC Speedway had the kind of bullring racing that was fun to watch and some really great drivers went through there. Some of the best racing I've ever seen were the bomber/pure stock racing in the Wesley Black  and  Bobby Jack era. All the racers in that period could race THREE wide on that little track ! Very impressive. Longhorn was pretty much a single groove track but the chrome horn use made it another fun place. I think South Texas Speedway opened around 1995 so I was going back and forth between it and CCS. Have to say I wasn't too into dirt at that time because the racing at CCS during the Owen Pittman era was too good to miss. I started getting into dirt when Larry Butcher was running the track. Fell in love with dirt late models and the great drivers they had in that class.Street stocks were great too. Then the three asphalt tracks started losing car count and started closing off and on. Tried Thunderhill a few times but found it very boring compared to what I was used to watching.Rio Grande Speedway I fell in love with when they had the Modifield Nationals then Owen took over STS and dirt has been king with me. Great car counts. hard side by side racing and  a lot of three wide racing and it has been dirt for me ever since. The only way I would go to an asphalt race the track would have to be multi groove. How you do that on asphalt I don't know. But as I mentioned before the three tracks I mentioned were really racey so it can be done. Maybe after the bridge is built CCS could be repaved and reopened to what it was in the Owen era. Maybe new tracks could be built to the same specs of Longhorn, SAS and Pan American . It was successful once maybe again.

 

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I do love CC Speedway. My first race driving was there 2.5 years ago. I grew up watching at SAS and do miss that place as well, but never got to race there. I agree with Rodney, motocross is taking back a big part of my interest. I'm starting to ride more again. Motocross is 100% rider ability, the most pure form of racing we have today in my opinion.

Edited by TexasAggie13

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Yes sir Champ.. it is the original extreme sport in my opinion, heading to Houston tomorrow. Motocross indoor or outdoor is just flat bad ass!

Single groove tracks all up to the competitors, many on here will talk about running 2 wide at Austin. Kyle often called single groove but it wasn't it had 3 grooves many chose to just use one. Not here to debate honestly say after December in Pensacola I feel like I ran across that old high school sweetheart that got away.. lol even if we have to have a long distance relationship it will be fun.

 

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Dirt and asphalt, ran both . I truly enjoy them both, but it all goes back to where it all started , motocross. Begin racing motocross at the age of 7 and had to stop in highschool. Missed going pro to the lack of funds and parents not letting me miss school ( no home schooling then) . The true test of a person's will to win. Believe me , the body reminds me every morning. Just love racing.

Edited by scotty9

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      Back to the question. I have raced both asphalt and dirt and love both. The problem as I see it is the same for both, that is the cost of owning/running a race track just got too expensive. With that this cost was somewhat pushed onto to the shoulders of those who are actually the product being sold. This leaves too little for the performers to reap, thus the track becomes more like a club than a contest. The result is the majority of average people are left out of the game. This leads to a diminished interest in the sport overall.  After watching the same show a couple of times with nobody to relate to the interest gets lost. The key to success is an open door policy that brings the average Joe back to the competition. With him comes his family, then friends. Each team has a fan base. But look at todays racing and you have a limited number of teams to root for.

  Back to the cost......a working man or woman with a family usually only has about a hundred dollars a paycheck to spend on entertainment. So how can they spend that hundred at a pit gate to get in and still have money for a car ? Add to that most of todays cars are not built in the junkyard but rather bought from speed shops. Alas the numbers shrink. Now the biggest killer, the prize money. Even cowboys rely on the purse to peruse their sport and for the "average Joe" racer its no different. But look at how its dished out. The top prize money goes to the most expensive cars even though it does very little to enhance their racing budget. The least expensive cars receive the smallest prize money even though a bigger purse would increase the car numbers greatly because more people could afford to get involved. Bring down the entry fee and you will have the numbers needed to make money.

 Drag racing provides this avenue. Its little cost to enter and most don't need a dedicated car to do it. As far as dirt tracks, they have experienced the same level of closures as the asphalt tracks, there were just more of them so some survived. But for how long will the racers be able to carry them if they cannot make the needed profits by selling the show ? Imagine Willy Nelson being told he must pay a hundred dollars to perform rather than collecting a paycheck. Now imagine ALL musical entertainers having to do the same thing. How many music halls would close ? Some point to northern tracks success but look at their purses. Start money sometimes equals win money at the poorer tracks. Again some of the burden of overhead is lifted from the talent and put on the shoulders of the promoters, as it should be.

   My solution......host some inexpensive classes like pure stocks, bombers, mini stocks and sport compacts. Make the gate fee low and the purse big. Bring in the big numbers and make profit from selling tickets and concessions along with pictures, T shirts and other related items. Have a band for halftime break and after the races while people are leaving. Change up the show often to make every visit a littler different. We still sell the same show that was playing 50 years ago, only the cars are different. And most importantly have a track with LOW overhead so some of the profit goes to the players rather than overhead. Those tracks up north carve a track into a cornfield, sit on boxes and host a hundred or two cars.

    We could learn a lot from WWE as they are the absolute best at promoting. They sell out at every event, the longest lasting tv episodically series ever and have more fans on the internet than football, basketball, baseball, soccer combined. And they sell fake feuds and fighting with the same players every week. But the storyline is always changing to keep interest and the performers are really talented professionals. Imagine what they could do with a real competition like circle track racing.

  That being said the cost of a pavement track has become prohibitive to a larger degree than a dirt track. Asphalt work is expensive and location is expensive as well. With the economy improving now is the best chance for success we have seen in a great while.   Lets hope for the best all around.

 

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IF we texas were in the main stream like those other states up north and east we would not be having a problem like we do in this state  .texas is football  baseball  and basket ball ...racing  you notice does not have the backing from a commercial  point of main entertainment from our city and government ..racing has to generate its own life line . and the racing community is the life line and we don't do enough being outside in the public with cars shows and such .. I watch people while going to the track looking and pointing at the cars on the highway and gas stations as if it is the first time they noticed we had a racing community .they would say there is a racetrack here .but it is already to late to get em to come out when they already had plans .and then it becomes out of sight out of mind .. I know it cost to advertise on tv and bill boards .and you really don't reach the ones you hope for ...racers think its the tracks job to bring in fans only wrong attitude ...we took our cars to car shows and schools back in the  80s and 90s  and even a few times to the malls and Walmart . their are a few drivers who started racing I know of because we did that the track had no part in some of those shows we the racers took the bull by the horn....we figure get the fans help fill the stands and help build the purse plus help with sponsorship and help keep racing alive and help build classes back up .the track needs us and we need them goes hand in hand and I have noticed that both seem to forget that point at times .

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There’s been a lot of good ideas & suggestions here. The real basic problem from my POV is two fold; first that the middle class was priced out of racing and second that in Texas it was much more common for Asphalt tracks to exist on leased land due to the high initial cost. Both issues are fixable and I hope that the economy keeps growing and we get a chance to address them. If I37 grows as much this season as it did last season they flat won’t have enough space for all the cars running; hopefully CBS does well and we end up with a glut of cars in central Texas.

HMP has a good deal going and if it keeps growing it won’t be long until someone with the right money and the right mindset gets involved and we end up fixing these issues. CCS is sitting there and eventually the bridge build will be done and the owners will be able to do what they’ve said they intended to and use the money from that project to improve the track. I personally don’t think SAS will sit vacant much longer as there are too many people interested in it and the track is so unique; the price on the property is down into the 6 figures now and there’s still nothing out there.

The best we can do right now is go to every race we can and drag everyone we can with us; fill the dirt tracks up with people and fill the asphalt tracks up when they run and if the economy keeps improving the problems gets a lot easier to overcome.

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Speaking on what HiTech was saying about car shows.  We were talking this weekend about how for as long as I can remember the second weekend in January was always the Spillar Custom Hitches Austin Custom Car and Hot Rod Show at Palmer Auditorium.  It was a major stop on the ISCA Show Car Circuit. I remember the first year we had our 1/4 midget in the show and that was 1988.  The place was packed it would get so busy you could hardly walk around inside there.  I remember Longhorn Speedway having a booth there, as well as racecars all over the place as well as some clean hot rods.  In 1989 the place got so packed they ran out of room to park cars.  In 1990 the opened the lower level and had cars everywhere.  We always had a booth for the 1/4 midgets and every year we would get a bunch of families to sign up for an arrive and drive day and we might have gotten maybe 5 to 10 new members out of 150 people.  That was good though because we were getting something.  I picked up a couple of big sponsors because we had another avenue to showcase their product with a lot of viewership.  We continued this when we started racing dwarf cars and we always promoted all of the tracks we raced at.  When Thunderhill opened up they had a booth as well as Longhorn. Then the city decided to renovate the whole property that Palmer Auditorium was on an the car show was shut down for a couple years during this process and they tried to move it to the new Palmer Events Center, in this change they charged you to park plus a lot more to get in the door and now the car show is nonexistent.  Same thing with Rudy's Classic Car show supporting Make a Wish in North Austin.  That was a pretty big deal and now non existent.  Now the only car shows I really know about is what happens every Saturday night at Cabela's but that has pretty much changed up to being a meet up for the street racers.  As big a city as Austin is and there is not a major car show is amazing,  I even think they stopped having the Auto Show that they used to have at the convention center.

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Because no one wanted to go back to what made asphalt racing locally successful. 

* 10 - 15 classes in a day was the start of the end. NO ONE wants to be sitting around the track all day usually 12 hours, in the Texas heat for a whopping 20 or 25 minutes of practice. And no successful short track, dirt or asphalt runs 10+ classes of cars. Too many cars, too much chaos, too many different agendas. 

* Primadonas  were catered to and heat races were done away with. Something about costing too much to put extra time on the car. Non sense

* Rules changed more often then the majority of racers could keep up with. Too many "option" rules. Thank the inventor of the crate motors for that.

* Enforcement of rules become more and more hard to find. On and off the track. Guess the liberal mentality over flowed to short tracks. You cant tell someone they are wrong. The black flag and parking a car/driver became obsolete. 

* Racing became too sparse. Im sure there was a good reason in the beginning but racing only once a month or every 6 weeks became too much time to get into something else. Again, the primadonas cried about it being too costly. Here is a thought, if you cant afford it drop down a class or two or get out but quit bitching about cost. Racers will always spend too much money. 

 

   I dont own a track, I never ran a track. I have been to a great many short tracks. I have been a participating racer for over 25 years. This is not rocket science. Its just costly and for any racetrack to succeed compromises from both the owner/operator AND the racers is a must. Too many racers wont race if the purse isnt real high. They are a big part of the problem. Dont cater to those who are not committed to racing. Hell I traveled last year 700 miles to run a PLM race that paid like 500 or something to win. JUST TO BE ABLE TO RACE!!!!. 

 In my opinion, just my opinion, asphalt racing will probably not make a return to glory due to what has happened. Their are a lot of cars, or were, but not enough to sustain a track with just 4 or 5 classes. The reason I say that is it wasnt that long ago where an official tried to get to competing beginners classes to consolidate and be one class. This meant one side ditching their cars and building a different one. Nope, wasnt gonna happen. So you had 6 or so in each class. The latest superstock deboggle is another catastrophe. You got super stocks which are made up of street stocks and then allow outlaw something or others again to allow yet another dead class and so you have a healthy car count of 4 who have a chance at success and 12 who are out to lunch.

 

 If someone builds a track in Texas Im sure if I have a legal car I would race it. But in the mean time, my trailer has wheels so it can "travel". See you guys out there

 

  Cory

 

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