I wanted to kick off this new blog with a little background on where it all started, how this new adventure came to be, and the future of United Race Fans of Wisconsin. For the few of you who have discovered this fun little club, your participation, views to the website, every like, share, re-tweet, and favorite have validated every second I put into this "idea". I can not thank you enough.
Section B - Where it all started
As a child each summer, Sunday nights were spent at Slinger Speedway, Section B. I was the happiest kid in the world. Popcorn, soda, fresh cut french fries, the smell of burning racing fuel, and watching my Sunday night hero's battle the fastest 1/4 mile oval in the world. There was no place I'd rather be.
A family of race fans, my father attended local dirt tracks in Slinger, Plymouth, and Hales Corners just to name a few with my grandfather during his youth. As a 3 or 4 year old the paved version of Slinger is where I got my start. My father built a specialty chair that would attach to Slinger's seating allowing me to see over the fans in front of me. With an 8pm start time, I hear I didn't make it to too many features before falling asleep, but the sights and sounds made a impression on me. Today, a 4th generation of race fans sit next to me, my 2 sons have caught the bug as well.
They say most people know the exact moment when they fall in love with someone or something. I can not tell you when I fell in love with this sport. I can, however, tell you that my most memorable moments before the age of 12 are at a racetrack. Every visit upon entering through the lower gate, I peaked through the stands towards Slinger's backstretch to see what the first car I would see that night would be. My mind was a recorder as we sat and watched practice logging names and numbers while reviewing the standings sheet we grabbed outside the track office. Whenever someone needed to know who that driver was, I could tell you. I could also tell you where all the regulars finished last week along with their hometowns. When a new car showed up I could tell you where their home track is or what division they graduated up from, what number and car they may have run here in the past, and how successful they were. On visits to my grandfather's house when discussing a future visit to the track my grandfather would always ask if I was excited to see "CONRAD MORGAN!!!" (I can't bold and apostrophize it enough) when I was really a Robbie Reiser fan. I met Alan Kulwicki and smeared his autograph with my thumb. I saw Ken Schrader, Ernie Irvan, Kenny Wallace, Michael Waltrip, Sterling Marlin, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, and local hero's Dick Trickle, Richie Bickle Jr, Ted Musgrave, and Matt Kenseth all take laps around my favorite summer stomping grounds. In 1992, Slinger's track owner bought Madison International Speedway. Our Sunday night tradition turned into our Friday and Sunday night tradition. From there, we added Wisconsin International Raceway, Jefferson Speedway, and many more throughout my youth. As with any child they become teenagers and slowly gravitate towards other interests. As a young adult during the peak of NASCAR there was much time and dollars spent there. The Slinger Nationals remained a must see throughout, and I can't remember ever missing one. Now with my own family and two young boys of my own, at some point each week before the kids go off to school for the day I always am reminded of the moments our youngest members and I have shared, and the question "when we going to another race?".
United Race Fans of Wisconsin - The Beginning
What is it? Who is it? Where did it come from? I am sure the small amount of you actually reading this or have visited the website or followed @URFWI on twitter are wondering the same thing.
Too old and not enough time to commit to play recreational stick and ball sports, bored with fantasy baseball and football, and an hour away from my hometown, I have been searching for something to fill the few free hours of life with something meaningful, something with purpose that I am passionate about. I have always loved the smells, the sounds, the paint jobs, the personalities, and the competition of racing and race cars. Its an important part of my life from childhood to adulthood. Racing was where I'd find "it". So where to go from here?
I do not know any race drivers or families.
I have zero interest in the mechanical side of a race car as I do not even change my own oil or rotate the tires on my vehicles anymore.
The only "fast" car I ever bought was a money pit, and souping it up was someone else's job.
I do not want to be a race car driver, owner, or crewman, a track owner, flagman, photographer, concessions stand worker, or the many other jobs needed to run a auto racing establishment.
I do not want to report on what happens at the track, radio shows, tv, social media and the internet have that covered.
I do not want to re-live the "old days" on facebook or twitter as opposed to making new memories today.
I am a RACE FAN, no more, no less. I want to spend my time at the track. And hey while I'm there I may as well bring a few friends and family too. For years I have searched racing websites, facebook pages, and other social media for a connection the sport of auto racing. I had yet to find something that related to me.
ARCAFest 2014. That is when this "it" hit me. Combined with a recent personal experience from my father and looking in the abnormally empty stands for this event, I thought to myself, "how could I be so excited about this and no one else seems to care?" I mean, this is the "Super Bowl" of Wisconsin short track races. Suddenly, I had found what I was looking for. I didn't quite know yet what it was or how I was to execute it. But the idea was there. 90% of the stands were empty that weekend. On twitter, I found just a few posts with the hashtags #lettow150 and #arcafest, half of which felt like they were mine. Then finally reading and commenting on the articles that followed ARCAFest, I knew what I was going to do, I was going to start a racing organization for people like me, the fan. (Please read Dave Kallman's blog on jsonline here: What happened to stock-car racing at the Milwaukee Mile). Putting butts in the seats is the biggest issue of all issues plaguing racing at all levels. And no one has an answer. The die-hard racers and race fans remain, and most would consider myself a die-hard. However, having no connection to those racers, teams, and tracks, it is the casual or unconnected fan that is going to keep this sport alive and...THAT IS ME!
So this club, website, twitter & facebook pages is my answer to all of the above. The birth of United Race Fans of Wisconsin. A fans view of the sport where everyone is included and encouraged to be a part of it. Those who want an upfront view and want to touch and feel the sport, the first timers or those who jumped in at NASCAR'S peak, to those most comfortable just sitting in their seats each week in Section B. It is our goal to SUPPORT, INCLUDE, & LIVE...AT THE TRACK. Our mission statement says it all.
The Future of United Race Fans of Wisconsin
You guessed it, that will be up to you! Our First Annual URFWI "Field Day" at the 2014 Slinger Nationals was a great day for all who attended! I will continue to update the website with all its current content including this new blog. If it grows to 100, 1,000, 10,000 members, great! If it remains our initial 10 close-knit family and friends I am excited about that too. I love this sport, and will continue to support it as much as I can. Most importantly, if you would like to see the sport continue to survive, support your local drivers and tracks. Grab a neighbor, your kids friends, that guy who used to go with you during NASCAR's peak, a new friend to your family, or the old timer re-living the past on the next "when racing was..." facebook page.
For more information on becoming a member of United Race Fans of Wisconsin please visit our membership page by clicking here.
Rich Zimpel has been attending local race tracks for the past 30 years.