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 Columns & Editorials

September 12, 2003

Hope Springs Eternal, Still!

by Jack Smith

Regardless of the ins and outs of the situation between the owners of two tracks, and the subsequent opinions of staffs, racers and fans, the attached letter speaks volumes.

There are far too few race fans, far too few drivers and crews.

No track, not DeSoto, not Charlotte, not New Smyrna, not Bronson, not DeSoto, not Charlotte, not Sunshine, no one is filling their stands on a regular basis.

John Barker of the Lakeland Ledger has written several articles recently and much hand wringing has been going on for the last few years nationwide over the dwindling stock car fan base as well as the continuing effort to stop the trend toward pricing the average Tom Dick or Harry out of the racing game. $10,000 motors in lower classes and increased competition from hundreds of other forms of entertainment, along with escalating costs of doing business are the real culprits and should be the real issues that are addressed.

If one track falters, it could be argued that this will have a negative long range impact on all tracks. I doubt many owners look at it that way, but real business folks, (with real money) always argue in support of their industry, not the exclusion of players. Right now racing needs to make a larger pie, not fight tooth and nail over increasingly smaller pieces of a shrinking pie.

There is much discussion and more co-operation between race tracks in Florida these days than have been evident in the last 6 or 7 years. Who is to say whether any of these cooperative efforts will have any lasting effects. We would like to think so.

Talking recently with one promoter, I made a statement to the effect that there are tons of potential volunteers and intelligent, capable people across the state who would help the efforts of owners and promoters. This statement was made in reply to the promoters comment that it was a shame there were not more people willing to help promotional efforts or something to that effect. When I made my comment I saw the head swivel in disbelief at my comment.

There ARE plenty of capable people who don't need to get compensated with stock options and part ownership, a simple sincere "thank you" is often enough. One lady a few years back had this experience: She helped promote a rather large event, worked dozens of hours over weeks and raised thousands of dollars in contingencies and got a great turnout, almost exclusively her own doing. She, after not even getting that pat on the back, said she would never do it again.

And she hasn't and probably will not. One more ambassador for stock car racing silenced at the hands of a promoter/owner with reads his bottom line through the prism of thoughtlessness and personal glory and greed. I could site a book's worth of examples from around the country, but I won't bore you with sob stories.

There are exceptions to the above, and those stories will get told in due time. There are still business people out there who know that people are the real capital, not those greenbacks in the safe.

The point is this: a bigger pie is the target, not glee at the hardships of your "competitor"

If the letter attached to this article <(click here to read it), written by one track owner to the landlord of another facility, represents a proper approach to the business of stock car racing in the early 21st Century God had better help the sport, for only He can save it.

- Jack Smith

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