Imagine for a second that you are eating at a restaurant and your food is under-cooked.
There are several options available for addressing this problem: Inform the waiter or waitress so they can take it back, speak to a manager if the service you get from your waiter or waitress is unsatisfactory and, if all else fails, post a complaint about it on Facebook or Yelp.
In the age of instant gratification, people have come to skip the first two options and move right to posting a rant on Facebook — which, in turn, influences other peoples’ opinion of an establishment. This problem is amplified at racetracks where adrenaline runs high and where a lot more money is on the line.
In an op-ed posted on Speed51.com, Brandon Paul addresses a new policy at New York’s Ransomville Speedway. The policy says the track can and will take action when negative comments pop up on social media about the racetrack. I hope this action involves reaching out to a dissatisfied racer or fan and trying to resolve their issues so those drivers and fans will return in the future. However, Paul notes that the policy states that the track can ban racers and fans for posting negative comments.
Why would you ever want to turn away someone coming through your gate, paying for pit passes, paying for fuel, paying for tires and putting on a show for the fans in attendance? That would be like a restaurant or hotel placing a ban or suspension on a customer who had an unpleasant experience.
Trust me, I understand the negativity that we see almost daily from racers, fans and teams on social media outlets. I totally get it. But guess what? More times than not, those same people end up right back at the race track the next week, and more times than not, that Facebook post brings the name of the race track to a group of people that have never heard about it.
Right here is where I come to disagree with Brandon Paul. He is absolutely correct: Often times, drivers who complain on social media do return the following week. However, once they post their commentary about a racetrack, the damage is done. In the eyes of those drivers’ fans and even other racers, the track is corrupt … or something. And, sometimes, racetracks should be called out and held accountable by their drivers.
However, every racetrack in America has their select group of drivers, the habitual complainers who are never satisfied with the track or its management. Those drivers rarely go to other tracks. It’s just, for some track owners, the same headache each week. And maybe suspending a driver from competing at the track will make that driver pause and think twice before pulling out their smartphone and blasting the tracks on social media.
On the other hand, I still believe tracks could benefit by reforming how disqualifications are handled on the short track level. As Race22.com contributor Matt Weaver noted earlier this year, maybe giving a driver last place points and last place money would show good faith on the part of any racetrack to keep the drivers returning. After all, as we all know, failing postrace technical inspection does not always mean a driver is cheating.
Social media has become a complex challenge for tracks, not just because of negative reaction, but because of instant information.
Many racetracks, such as Hampton, Virginia’s Langley Speedway and series, such as the Championship Auto Racing Series (CARS) Tour, feel their tracks benefit from people tweeting about the races or posting stuff about the races on Facebook and Instagram. Langley Speedway also credits live video streaming on FansChoice.tv for boosting their attendance. Other tracks and series have a different approach to social media — particularly when it comes to the media.
Some tracks and some racing series only allow one media outlet to cover their races with any form of live updates or photography or any form of video coverage. This is a media practice that discourages journalists from attending races. In the age of social media, this becomes a disservice for fans, drivers, the media and, ultimately, the growth of the sport.
Other tracks decide to discourage anyone from tweeting at their races, claiming that it would keep fans away from their events. Right, and Taylor Swift accepted my marriage proposal last night. In the age of instant information, many of those tracks are rapidly falling behind, and then they find themselves wondering why there aren’t any fans in the stands.
Well, duh. If nobody knows your racetrack exists, how do you expect them to show up?
Back to the original basis of the article, which is tracks threatening to suspend drivers for posting things on social media.
In his column, Brandon Paul writes:
That brings me to my next point. If a race track is going to penalize teams for negative comments, are they going to reward those who post positive comments? It can’t just be a one-way street. I’m sure any business owner in our country would love to create a policy that would only allow positive comments, but that’s just not realistic.
As a business owner, you will have customers that have good things to say, and customers that have bad things to say about your business. The job of the owner or promoter is to address those concerns privately, just like a restaurant manager would do with an unhappy customer, to work out a resolution for all involved.
Business owners also have the right to protect their business. If things that are not true are said about their business, they have an obligation to fight those allegations. Furthermore, people should not have to be encouraged with some sort of rewards system to say positive things or do positive things.
In fact, in an age of increasing anger, incivility and negativity and an era that is seeing rapid decline for then sport, racers and fans should want to promote the positives of the sport they love. No matter how angry we get with a racetrack, and I’m plenty guilty of it myself, we all love this sport and want it to thrive. Instead of clinging to a negative experience at a racetrack, we should enjoy the many positive moments.
Perhaps, as a New Year’s Resolution for 2016, we should all resolve to remember the things we enjoy at races and post about those when we log on Facebook and Twitter. Even at some of the most unpleasant races we’ve been to, we have all smiled at some point. If we love our sport, we should fight for it, and do so by showing our friends, those who love racing and those who don’t, why we love what we do.
If a racetrack does leave a racer or fan with reasons to be unhappy about the experience, they should strive to make a social media rant their last resort method for addressing the problem. Waiting until the morning and calling the race director, tech officials, race promoter or track owner could often ease many of the tensions that fill up timelines during race season.
Social media is a great way for us to show our fans and family members how much fun a Saturday night spent at a short track is. Let’s do just that.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Race22.com as a whole.