In my blog “an improved experience” I offered some suggestions to race promoters and track owners to what I was looking for from the tracks I attend from the fans perspective. One of the talking points was related to social media and developing a track hashtag slogan. Taking my own advice, you may have started to see #atthetrack in my previous blogs as well as on our social media pages. The hashtag #atthetrack comes directly from our mission statement. Unlike all the other social media groups out there that I could find related to short track racing it is our goal to SUPPORT the local short track industry, INCLUDE anyone who may be interested, and LIVE our experiences sharing stories AT THE TRACK. What makes this group unique and separated from the rest is that we want to spend our Thursday through Sunday nights living our experiences at the racetrack rather than reliving past experiences at home or on the “when racing was…” social media pages. There will always be room for some reflection on past experiences on our website and social media pages as that is what keeps us all connected. Given the overwhelming amount of member requests we have seen in just the first few weeks of race season 2015 it seems like I am not the only one out there wants to continue supporting the sport through our attendance week in and week out.
The first part of our mission statement is support, more specifically, it is supporting each other. That is was United Race Fans of Wisconsin is all about. We are supporting each other through the website, social media, and each time you sit next to your fellow United Race Fan at the racetrack. Through our attendance we are supporting the industry of track owners and employees, car owners, drivers, and crewmen, as well as track and car sponsors. I’d like to encourage each and every one of you reading this to look at the billboards at the racetrack, listen to the announcers as they read through their sponsor ads, and read the sponsors on all the racecars as they round the track or are parked in the pit area after the races. Then, go support those businesses telling them that you choose them because of their support in short track racing. If we all support one business connected to the industry in this way imagine the impact it could have not only to that business, but also to the sport.
The second part of our mission statement is something that we all can do, but sometimes can be a little more difficult. Personally it has always been a struggle for me as shown in my blog “I love this track - Madison International Speedway”, but we are to include anyone and everyone in order to grow short track racing at the local levels introducing new fans to the sport. The one thing I have learned is talk about why you love this sport to your neighbor, a friend at work, a parent of your kids friends, or anyone who you think may enjoy a night at the races. Talk to them about the value you get out of a night at the races not only from a dollars perspective, but also from a pure entertainment perspective. Tell them about your favorite car or division, your favorite seat or even your favorite food item. Most importantly, tell them why you love your track.
LIVE… AT THE TRACK
The last section of our mission statement is a summary of the goal in the first two. We want to live our experiences, not at home on facebook or twitter, but sitting in the stands. We have added a new way for members to show their support for local short track racing with our new group hashtag #atthetrack. Posting this hashtag with which track you are at to the facebook page or tweeting to @URFWI on race days will not only get your attendance credited to the member race log, it will also show your support to the industry and to your fellow members and friends who follow our social media pages. What a great way to show our support for the sport and hopefully we will see a few new faces included in those posts.
3 RACES IN 3 DAYS
To celebrate the one year anniversary of United Race Fans of Wisconsin and our new slogan, the original 4 members of the group are going on a short track racing excursion June 4-6. I personally will be attending 2 tracks I have never attended before and for the other 3 members it will be their first trip to all of these facilities. June 4th we will be attending State Park Speedway in Rib Mountain. June 5th we will be attending Mississippi Thunder Speedway in Fountain City, and June 6th we will be attending LaCrosse Speedway. These are all official meetup events and at least one of us should have our United Race Fans of Wisconsin tees on so please feel free to say hello. Membership along with a member number is issued immediately if requested and we always love getting to meet fellow race fans. We are looking forward to an awesome 3 days of racing and hope to meet some current members and new friends as well. Have fun this upcoming race weekend, we’ll see you #ATTHETRACK!
As I start this new mini series this season I think back to why I started this group last year. I have always been the kind of person who beats to the tune of his own drum and although it has at times prevented me from having many long lasting relationships or weekly thursday night poker games, I also feel that I have always been true to myself, who I am, and what I love. For those who have no interest in the things that I love I have accepted going from close friends to acquaintances. However, for those few close friends I do have they enjoy me for who I am and what I am about, whether they are interested or not, they make the effort to stay in touch and if anything just listen and encourage me to pursuit my passions in life. I would much rather surround myself with those people even when I may only see them a few times a year versus spending time with “friends” that I have nothing in common with because it is convenient to have thursday night poker night. I tried for many years to introduce the people around me to the sport, but eventually I had to accept that there are opportunities to do my part to keep short track racing alive and that trying to push the sport on those that have no interest in it was not one of them. In my first blog I spoke about finding my connection to the sport and out came United Race Fans of Wisconsin. I have now learned to encourage others to support the things that they love including racing, but have also learned that when you talk about why you love something people are more likely to give it a chance. The friendships I have and memories gained through United Race Fans of Wisconsin through social media and more importantly AT THE TRACK, although young, have personally become very important to me and that alone has already paid itself back tenfold from all the time and effort I have put in this idea. I look forward to meeting all of our members at some point in the coming seasons, but most importantly thank you for helping this guy find his connection to the sport.
Madison has very long straightaways and the grandstands and concessions are spread out in a way that allows for easy traffic flow. Lines at the concessions move quickly as there are multiple beer & food stands and restrooms located at both east and west sides of the track. The staff this year has worked very efficiently and even when lines start to backup, you may hear a nice lady call you over to help you as to keep the lines moving smoothly. In a day when it’s impossible at times to get people to look up from their phones for 2 seconds, I love hearing “I can help you over here!”. Concrete grandstands with wood bench seating, the track is always clean due to trash cans located at the top and bottom of each section. For some reason my kids love throwing their hot dog wrappers and soda bottles in the trash immediately after they are done using them regardless of what is happening on track. I’ll give mom the credit there, but having those trash cans visible everywhere you look makes it a lot easier to toss it in a can and a much more enjoyable experience sitting in cleaner grandstands then sitting in a pile of your own overconsumption for 3 hours. It also gives the kids a chance to burn off some of that seemingly endless energy source running up and down the stairs. For those of you sitting near us, yes I already know, my kids do not sit still. However, there is also an upper and lower grandstand. The lower grandstand is just concrete and a great spot for the kids to let loose and burn off some of that excess energy when the lower divisions take to the tricky ¼ mile inside the half mile racing surface. There is also a nice grass hill in turn 1 where kids are often seen being what used to be common entertainment, rolling down a grass hill and running back up again and again.
THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
Madison has great viewpoints from just about every seat in the facility due to the amount and height of the grandstands. Spread out across the entire frontstretch sitting halfway up or higher allows a view without obstructions to most of the track. A tree lined backstretch helps build a visible enclosure giving it that sports arena feel and keeping it from feeling like you are “out in the cornfields” which in my opinion adds to the comfort of sitting in the stands. Look up to turns 1 and 2 and spotters and crewmen line the entire fence during the main event letting you know this is an important race to watch. The tower is tall, well kept, and looks to be newly painted with sponsor banners giving it a real racetrack feel. NASCAR caution lights around the entire ½ mile and ¼ mile add a nice updated touch to the lighting. The sounds created by the racecars let you know that it’s a bigger, faster short track and without much echoing you can hear when a driver is on his game or having motor issues. Even with minimal echoing, I still suggest hearing protection for little ones for Super Late Model specials and features over 50 laps.
Madison’s long straightaways and tight but deceptively high banked turns make it the fastest ½ mile in the state. Many times when watching a limited or super late model race it seems the cars are playing follow the leader rather than catch the leader and ½ mile tracks are many times spread out and somewhat boring races. Not at Madison. The high speeds at Madison and competitive fields typically seen there are very conducive to excitement in every race. Its very visible to every fan who are the cars to watch and picking up a spot here or there every few laps or so. From my view in the stands, those cars that get off turn 2 the best are the ones to watch and I would suggest looking there to see who the cars to beat will be. The weekly show is very fast paced and intermission only lasted a few minutes with entertainment at the entry gate to keep the kids entertained and get them out of their seats. The dice roll for starting position in the feature and fast dash of each division before the national anthem allowed for great picture taking opportunities and a chance to see the drivers before the show. As well, it did not drag out as long as I thought it would and the announcer did a nice job getting the drivers through it quickly. Since the drivers were already out of their cars we all turned toward the flag and enjoyed a local band playing our national anthem. Fast dashes and heats moved quickly, but were still entertaining and there were hard fought side by side battles in most of the heats. The late model main event was just the right amount of laps as it felt like a 30-lap fast dash and had 2 or 3 lead changes in a matter of a few laps. The top 6-8 cars all ran the majority of the race in tight quarters with side by side battles for most of the 30 laps. The Sportsman division continues to impress everywhere I go. A competitive group of cars, every race was exciting and prone to close battles lap in and lap out and I expect that to continue for the rest of the season. Moving to the tricky ¼ mile there aren’t many tracks that can offer enough room to have bandits go 4+ wide down the front stretch then back down to 2 wide in turn 1. We saw that a few times in the feature. Visually you can really see who is going for it and who has some work to do. Overall its one of the best weekly shows I have been to in a long time as Friday being a work day for most, the last thing you want to do is go sit in bleachers for 3-4 or more hours. The show timed out right around 2 hours and 15 minutes give or take a few minutes which left time for our favorite experience, a lap around the pits to visit with drivers, get autographs and hero cards, take pictures, and yes, those 2 little boys still full of energy approaching 10 o’clock sat in a few race cars as well. And shhhh, don’t tell anyone, there may have been a walk/jog around the track as well.
As I look forward to the rest of my race season I look forward to all the upcoming experiences and although I can’t make it to Madison every week I will definitely be back again. I encourage everyone to check it out this season and in the seasons to come. We will see you AT THE TRACK!
Rich Zimpel has been attending local race tracks for the past 30 years.