The open-wheel, dirt-track community is finding itself in an atmosphere that has never been experienced in the past. A combination of several factors will, in my opinion, challenge the industry like never before throughout the remainder of this season.
Extremely high inflation, supply-chain issues, gas prices and the end of pandemic stimulus payments are all factors that fans, teams, tracks and series will all have to cope with this season.
The first thing that every race team says they want is to race for higher purses. I whole heartedly agree with this sentiment, but how do tracks justify paying a higher purse? A promoter would have to somehow increase his income with more fans, event sponsorship or funds from streaming rights to warrant paying more money to the racers. For a team to want to get paid more, they essentially need the track to succeed and bring in more money.
How often do drivers or team ask themselves, “How can I help get more people in the grandstands?” The answer is probably not very often. Social media is the most efficient tool for a series or race track to promote events and can be used for no financial cost.
However, if racers as whole also put in an effort to promote events, the reach and efficiency of this form of advertising could be increased dramatically with little effort and zero cost for the racer. A track can essentially only reach fans that already follow their pages, but if many of the drivers also advertise each event, they are also reaching each individual driver’s entire fanbase.
If racers are smart, they will also benefit directly from an increase in attendance, by more merchandise sales and being able to pitch a better product and exposure to their team sponsors.
Also, what should be a consideration of the track promoters is, “Do I treat my racers well enough to be able to expect their help in promoting my track?”
Many tracks treat their racers well and try to give back to the teams as much as they can. There are still tracks, however, that nickel-and-dime the teams and earn their profits on the backs of the racers. If the racers and the tracks can find a way to work together, progress can surely be made more easily to the benefit of all.
Short-track racing streaming services have exploded over the past few years and have now positioned themselves in a place that will force them to get involved with the issues facing both tracks and teams.
Some streaming platforms such as DIRTVision are part of the same company as the series which they broadcast, so their success is inevitably shared with the series. Other streaming services pay a set amount to each series and/or track for the rights to broadcast their events. Streaming has undoubtedly broadened the exposure of the sport, but in with gas prices at record highs, will the affordability and convenience make it too easy for fans to stay home?
This has already become somewhat of an issue, but eventually it will reach a point that will force it to be addressed. Obviously, the streaming services are profiting from short-track racing, but when will the climate dictate that more of that revenue is shared with series and especially tracks, despite the contractual arrangements that are already in place.
I am in no way saying that streaming services are bad, I believe they are most certainly a positive for the sport, but the structure that is in place between services, series, tracks and teams may need and adjusted. The streaming platforms need the tracks and teams in order to keep their product viable. And shouldn’t a track or series be rewarded for consistently producing high-quality racing that people want to see?
All of these issues are related and the parties involved can easily see themselves as allies or enemies. Battling against one another will certainly lead to animosity and most likely create no solutions. However, if all sides can figure out how to communicate and work toward solutions together, the potential for increased profits for everyone is great.