Yesterday, we explored reversing our thinking about short track racing. Instead of complaining and always focusing on what’s wrong, we should focus on what’s right about short track racing.

Miss the first part of this series? Click here to read part one.

Need help being positive? Here are eight things that are right with short track racing. There are plenty more, but these should get your wheels started.


No matter what happens at the track, we can all agree the on-track product is genuine. If Joe Bob wrecks Jim Tom, it’s a genuine product of the circumstances at that very moment. If it’s a thrilling side-by-side battle to the flag, it’s authentic competition. If the race is a complete snoozefest, yes, that means it’s an authentic ass-kicking where one person was simply that much better than the field on a given night. It’s authentic and real human drama that, no matter what rules package you use (inverts, cone starts, heads up, etc.) cannot be scripted or laid out like a movie, video game, stage drama or any other form of entertainment can. To quote the great Ken Squier, it’s still “common men doing uncommon deeds.”


Most local tracks, even when touring series are in town, have a very reasonable ticket price. Concessions are fairly priced (if they don’t allow you to bring a cooler) and the quality is on par with other eateries in the area. Bring the whole family and spend $50 for the night between tickets, food, and maybe a souvenir for the kids. Last time I went to Dave & Buster’s (and heaven knows I love that place), it cost me $15-20 per meal, some extra game tokens on top of the complimentary ones I got with that meal, and easily totaled up to about $50 or more for just two people, nevermind adding kids’ meals. And I spent, maybe, two hours there. Sure, that’s fun every so often, but I’m not doing that every weekend, not at all.


When’s the last time you saw a movie theater worker so passionate about being at work every day? Chances are you haven’t. If you see a waiter or waitress passionate about their restaurant’s food, chances are it’s genuine, and that makes it contagious. The passion for short track racing is still strong around the country. Every person reading this article has a heartfelt passion for short track racing, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading it. We all have the fire that burns, but it seems so often that we pile on things that do not help the fire burn. Embrace the flame. Fan it. Feed it. Share it. Whether it’s love or hate for the competition itself or for a particular driver or team, it’s that sheer passion that is alive and well, maybe more than ever before. Some people play video games. Some go sky diving. We go to the racetrack. And whether we make $1000 or lose $1000, we know we’ll probably be back again next week, or at least as soon as we possibly can.


What’s the last drive-in theater you went to? How about the last family-owned grocery store? Sure, those things still exist, but they’re not nearly as common as they used to be. Short track racing, if the negativity continues, could be headed down the same road. According to the National Speedway Directory, there’s something like 1200+ racetracks in the country. Sure, that includes some drag strips, superspeedways, kart tracks and more, but the vast majority of those facilities are local short tracks. There are still promoters, racers, and fans who enjoy this sport as much as you and I do and are willing to spend money (or risk money in the case of promoters) to enjoy it. Can’t say that very often about the other businesses at the start of this section.


A lot of people I asked about what’s right with short track racing seemed to have a common opinion. Every big star has to come through this level of racing. Matt Prieur from Speed51 said one of his fondest memories is watching some kid named Brad Keselowski start his career in Michigan and seeing it through to a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Who cares why a driver advances (money or talent) when they get to the big leagues? Very few fans at that level care or even understand the difference because a “sponsor” paid for their ride whether it’s Company X, mommy and daddy, or the business community they serve. They’re stars. No one cares what got a movie star his or her roles, or a football star his QB spot on a Super Bowl team. It’s simply celebrated that said person made it to a high level of success in a chosen career. Hometowns celebrate. High schools recognize. They become a super-human being in these circles. In racing, every past or current Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Larson started at a local racetrack of some sort. The future ones will too. Just like college football, 98% of the NFL stars come through a college program and a high school program. Local short track racing is the “high school football” of racing. Those stands are packed with rabid fans every week and there’s no reason our tracks shouldn’t be, either.


As quoted earlier from Ken Squier, racing is still “common men doing uncommon deeds.” It’s still your neighbor who works 8a-7p, MondayThursday just to have Friday nights off to go race. It’s a group of people who willingly reach out to the competitor who can barely afford to race and loan him a tire or part when his breaks during the night just so he/she can join them on the track. And our gates aren’t closed. It’s not the country club where we have to pay to participate on the golf course but only after a group of others approve us to do so, it’s open for anyone who wants to build a car and  bring it to the track. Pay your entry fee, present a legal car, and go see what you have. Curious neighbors help during late nights (or maybe curse you for being up late at night diagnosing a misfire). It’s part of the community and a group effort. People say we no longer know our neighbors in America, well, this is how we get to know ours. What other sport can claim the entire community directly pitched in (not via money) and helped a team achieve its goal? Precisely.



When people talk about other sports, they talk about how they develop skills for life while playing. Auto racing is no different and probably plays a bigger role in those skills at the local short track. Sure, you learn discipline, drive, teamwork and how to handle defeat, but there are so many more skills that can be learned around the track. Whether a fan or a competitor, we’ve all learned how to deal with individuals we both like and despise. We’ve learned that innovation is ongoing and the minute you stop learning or innovating is when you begin to run like junk. No matter how big or small your budget, if you work hard and focus on your goals, you can (and will) be successful. As Alan Kulwicki is credited with saying “Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.” Yes, it’s easier with a bunch of capital to back you, but so is running a gas station or restaurant. It doesn’t guarantee success like hard work, dedication and innovation do. How many people have gotten inspiration for big life decisions from success at the local short track? Whether it’s Kaitlyn Vincie working for Langley Speedway’s internet video group hoping to work her way to Fox Sports 1 (as she did), the 12-year old who wants to open a tire store one day learning the basics of tires at the track, or a budding entrepreneur who opens a parts store or chassis business, there are so many things that have been learned at local short tracks that continue to be a positive.


Despite all the advances in technology, the differences in budget and talent, and the vast array of variables in this sport compared to so many others, the quality of competition, or maybe the equality, is better than ever. Most believe the races are still in the hands of “common men” on the crew and in the cockpit, trying to out-think and out-drive the competition. Almost everyone I asked the question of “what’s right in short track racing,” had a similar answer, or an answer based in the same thought – the competition is closer than ever. Whether it was Alan Dietz from PASS, Steve Waid from the “NASCAR Big 3” world at Popular Speed, Jerry Vansickel from the midwestern world of IMCA racing, Craig Murto from Late Model Racer, Jacob Seelman from the sprint cars of USCS or Mike Neff from Millbridge Speedway, almost everyone echoed the same sentiment that the competition is closer than ever. No longer do entire fields get lapped by the leader one or multiple times. In fact, quite often, there could be multiple leaders per lap or multiple drivers in the fight for the lead all race long. The competition is stellar. Instead of whining about how Driver X wins every week, let’s look at how close his competition is. Most are right there behind him. And if they aren’t, they’re all nose-to-tail trying to chase him or race amongst themselves. That close competition is what makes Lee Pulliam’s late model success or Keith Rocco’s modified success that much more impressive.

There you have it. Eight things that are RIGHT with short track racing in America today. Next time you think about bitching to someone outside the sport about how horrible racing is (or on your Facebook or Twitter feed), think about what you’re saying and what their opinion might be. Yes, we’re always gonna have our disagreements about whether we should run Tire A or Tire B, whether this engine combination sucks compared to that one, or whether Driver A or B is cheating to beat the rest of the field made up of start-and-parks who make a lap just for his national points. There is a time and place for those discussions, and I believe they need to be had on an ongoing basis, but don’t make that the headline of your life.

In parting, I beg you to remind people how fun it is to go to the track. Instead of them asking, “if it’s like that, I wonder why they go every weekend?,” make them ask “if it’s like that, I wonder why we aren’t going every weekend?”

The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent the opinion of as a whole.