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Archive for April, 2011

A Second 4/29 Post-Arbor Day 2011

April 30, 2011 5 comments

All week a state ofNebraskaemployee has been doing his best to irritate me because State ofNebraskaemployees get a paid holiday today for Arbor Day, and NO ONE else in the world does.  Arbor Day encourages tree planting, a worthy goal, but I doubt many state employees are spending their holiday amongst the trees, including the one speaking below.

“Today, I speak for the trees.  For the trees have no tongues”.  tony anville – 4/29/11

 

My interpretation of the line is that Tony speaks for the trees because they have no mouth and he likes to open his.

 

Other than the fact that Tony is a huge auto racing fan, this blog has nothing to do with racing, and everything to do with my friend issuing a challenge he thought I would not accept. Wrong.  In fact I may ask my state senator, the renowned Charlie Janssen to introduce legislation that will only allow state employees a paid holiday on Arbor Day IF they can provide certified proof they have planted a tree in the past 365 days.

Tony-like most of my friends you are a smart a–.  However, I have been practicing that craft for almost 60 years, so guess who the sheriff is.

Thanks for stopping by-especially you Tony.

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US 30/NASCAR Sponsorship/A Little Old Lady Not From Pasadena/Wheel of Fortune

April 29, 2011 11 comments

My heartfelt concern goes to those in areas suffering from floods and tornados. In times like this I sometimes feel writing about racing is a trivial pursuit, but it is what I do.  I apologize to anyone that might be offended by me writing about racing today.

If the promoters of US 30 Speedway could have scripted a 2011 opening night, I am not sure they could have penned a better one than last night.  Driving through Columbus on the way to the track, all the time/temperature signs said 70.  A light jacket was plenty of cover for the entire evening.  I am not good at estimating attendance, but I don’t think we’ll hear any crowd complaints heading down Highway 30. 

By my count there were 83 cars in the pits last night-18 GOTRA, 18 hobby stocks, 7 sports compacts, 20 modifieds, and 20 sport mods.  One thing I like about US 30 is there is no messing around running the program.  Promoters understand it is a Thursday night and people have to go to work in the morning. I left at 10:00 p.m. since I had an hour drive home. In two hours a GOTRA number retirement ceremony was held, and 13 heats, a GOTRA trophy dash, 2 features and part of a third feature had been run.  I wish weekend tracks had the same attitude about moving the program along.

I don’t think concession sales suffered from no intermission.  I have said this many times, but if people want a beer they are going to get a beer whether there is action on the track or not.  I hear that intermissions give drivers a chance to get their cars ready for feature races, but it seems to me that 90% of the people in the pits are standing around talking during intermission. Give the officials five minutes for a pee break, and get racing. This is another lesson I wish some weekend tracks would learn.

I can’t tell you who won any of the feature races, but that does not bother me at all.  I go to US 30 Speedway to relax watching a few hours of racing, and that is what I got last night.  Thank you US 30 Speedway.  I’ll be back in a month.

In my start and park blog earlier in the week I mentioned the team of Tommy Baldwin.  See the link below-Baldwin has signed three different companies to sponsor the team of driver Dave Blaney allowing it to run entire races in at least 25 of the remaining NASCAR Sprint Cup events.

http://msn.foxsports.com/nascar/story/Tommy-Baldwin-Racing-Dave-Blaney-secure-sponsorship-042711

Hooray for the underdog, and big thanks to my son Matt for sending me the link.  I am not sure how many people think my blog is good, but it would not be nearly as good as it is without Matt’s critiques and providing me with a ton of information I otherwise couldn’t comment on.  Thank you Matt!!!!

Although the Wood Brothers have never been a start and park team, I still consider them underdogs to the multi-car teams. Despite winning the Daytona 500 with an exciting young driver, the Wood Brothers team was unable to secure additional sponsorship, and will be racing in only 1-2 events per month the remainder of the 2011 season.

Matt also sent me another sponsorship link, this one dealing more with how fully funded teams like Roush, Childress, and Hendrick are faring:

http://aol.sportingnews.com/nascar/story/2011-04-27/pressure-is-on-as-sponsors-come-up-for-renewal

I enjoyed the following article so much I copied it from www.bleacherreport.com:

“ANew Hampshirewoman celebrated her 100th birthday by putting the pedal to the metal on a NASCAR speedway, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported Wednesday.

Rachel Gilbert, a racing fan for more than 50 years, wanted the speedometer to reach the 100 mph mark to celebrate her centennial.

Gilbert, who relinquished her license in 1995, was taken to the track inLoudon,N.H., by her family, who organized the trip with track managers.

“She just loves racing so much,” said Gilbert’s daughter, Marie Anne Mills.

The event was attended by Gilbert’s friends from theSt.FrancisHomeinLaconia,N.H., where she lives independently in a senior apartment.

After whizzing around the track, Gilbert was given a birthday card and jacket signed by her favorite driver, Carl Edwards.”

If you are interested in old people driving this fast you don’t have to travel all the way toNew Hampshire.  Just head to eastLincolnand you will see Randy Palmer roar by as he starts his morning commute toOmaha.

The Fans Fund program to help drivers participate in the Silver Dollar Nationals finally got some good news yesterday.  One driver is very interested in participating.  I can’t mention names yet, but I’ll give you a hint-this driver will never be called a bottom feeder.  If we can get one more driver to agree to participate, the program will be a go.

Last night was US 30 Speedway, tonight is NU baseball inLincoln, and tomorrow I am going to Harrah’s Casino inCouncil Bluffsto try out for the TV show Wheel of Fortune.  I can state I am a writer on my application showing my intelligence, but the applications aren’t looked at, they are just drawn out of a barrel. I was going to say I think Pat Sajak is the funniest host on TV, figuring that would get me on stage for sure, but I found out neither Pat nor Vanna are going to be at Harrah’s.  Maybe if I wear a beret they would think I have stage presence.  Wish me luck as not everyone who attends the try out will even make it on stage. 

Thanks for stopping by.

2nd Blog-Thursday April 28th. A Correction From Yesterday.

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Somehow my flying fingers managed to click off “allow comments” on yesterday’s blog.  Matt pointed that out to me, and I just changed the blog to accept comments.  I would welcome comments on this blog as it was more controversial than most of my blogs.

Please comment on yesterday’s blog, but don’t forget to read today’s blog too.

Thanks.

Discount Coupons, Naming Rights, Pit Bull Attacks, Arbor Day, Rumors, And A Favorite Track. NO Other Blog Gives You All Of This.

April 28, 2011 5 comments

Iowan Chris Long emailed me about yesterday’s blog, stating that Casey’s General Stores inIowado give out $2.00 discount coupons to USMTS races in theHawkeyeState.  There are 127 Casey’s stores inNebraska, and at least 50 of them are close enough to I-80 Speedway to stock such coupons.  Like Chris, I doubt I-80Speedwaywill OK this, but it remains a good idea.  It is also a good idea for the USMTS show at Junction Motor Speedway in early June.

OaklandColiseum-home of the A’s and Raiders-is now going to be known as Overstock.com Coliseum.  The internet merchant bought naming rights for $7.2 million for five years.  I suspect that dirt track promoters would be thrilled to sell naming rights to their track for five years for about 1/100th that total.  With all the fairgrounds tracks in theMidwest, I am surprised some fair board hasn’t already made such a deal with an agri-business.  I’m not sure how well the Shelby County Feed Lot Speedway would go over, but there are plenty of other possibilities.  While TheRestoftheDirt.com Speedway sounds intriguing, blog earnings need to increase about 5,000% before I would consider that.  If revenue would increase just 1,000% I could sponsor a car though.

The latest www.bleacherreport.com features an article titled “Bizarre Dog Attack at Disgraced Driver’s House.”  Yes, it was at the home of Jeremy Mayfield. Five pit bull-lab mix dogs attacked a mail carrier trying to deliver a package to Mayfield.  While it has not been determined if Mayfield will face charges, Charlie Sheen has already stated he will post bail if the ex-Sprint Cup driver is arrested. In addition to the Mayfield story, there were 10 other decent articles in the latest report. NASCAR fans should check out the site.

If I was aNebraskastate employee, I could stay much later at US 30 Speedway tonight.  I normally leave the Thursday night track about 10:00 or 10:30 p.m. because I go toColumbusalone, because I am getting old, and because I have to get up early the next day.  I could stay later tonight though if I had a holiday like state employees do tomorrow.  Yes,Nebraskastate employees get the day off because it is Arbor Day.  Unfortunately 100% of private sector employees inNebraskado not have a paid holiday on Arbor Day.  I think a prerequisite for getting a paid holiday tomorrow would be providing a notarized document that the state employee has planted a tree in the past 365 days, that he is not a fan of the New York Jets, and that he thinks the Bill Callahan era was the worst in the history ofNebraskafootball. 

You know I love rumors, and I have heard two sponsorship rumors recently.  One is that a large company is interested in sponsoring a race inNebraska, though it is far from a done deal.  The other is supposedly a done deal, and will involve added cash in a track point fund of my favorite kind of auto racing. An announcement will be made soon.

I am looking forward to opening night at US 30 Speedway.  For me, going to that track is the same as eating comfort food for someone else.  I smile when I walk in the front gate and I never leave anxious to get home to my computer so I can bash the place.  The track is a throwback to a different era, but that is one of the reasons I enjoy it.  I know what to expect from a night at the track because it is what I get every time I visit.  Matt says I hold US 30 to a much different standard than every other track, but as long as I enjoy the place, the criticism doesn’t bother me.

I’ll be practicing with my Flip camera tonight.  I have yet to produce a video worthy of posting on YouTube, but it is only a matter of time before I do.  With my lack of talent it will be pure luck, but as my friend Randy has told me, “even a dumb a— can get it right once in awhile.”

Thanks for stopping by.

Hello. Is Anybody There? Another GREAT Idea For The Silver Dollar Nationals

April 27, 2011 3 comments

I received an email from an anonymous fan that I thought was worth sharing.

“Since the USMTS is part of the Silver Dollar Nationals, and they are sponsored by Casey’s, what about a ticket promotion like this:
 
Buy $10 or more gas at Casey’s and get a coupon for $5 off a 2 day ticket or $3 a one day ticket to the Silver Dollar Nationals.
 
If gas continues to climb to the prices they say, which will be due to a wrong assumption by speculators and the media that will do anything for ratings, people will be looking for a break.
 
I wonder if Casey’s would print a large batch of these coupons to be distributed to stores within a certain radius of I-80 Speedway.”

I think that is a fantastic idea, and one that I-80 Speedway should talk about immediately with Todd Staley, owner of the USMTS.  There are a lot of wins here.  For the cost of printing coupons, Casey’s would increase traffic in theirOmahaand Lincoln area stores.  The stores might not make much on gas, but the customers have to go into the stores to get the coupon, and how many people don’t buy a pop or snack when they go into one of these stores.

If I-80 Speedway returned the used coupons to Todd Staley, he could show how race fans generate business at Casey’s, though I think the mini-mart chain understands that quite well.  The track would get more people through the front gate, something it desperately needs to do at this event-the discount is about the same as the track is offering for advanced purchase tickets, but the fan does not have to pay for the ticket in advance.

Unfortunately, I doubt this will happen.  I do not see I-80 promoters talking to Staley about this. Staley could talk with Casey’s about this, but he would have to have the OK from I-80 promoters, and I don’t see that happening.  I can’t explain why I-80 promoters wouldn’t jump at a promotion like this, but from past experience I would be totally surprised if they did.

Several weeks ago I wrote of a Fans Fund helping a driver or drivers come to race at the Silver Dollar Nationals.  I have been terribly disappointed in the response received to date.  A group of serious late model fans talked over drivers to contact and offer assistance, and one of the committee members contacted I-80 Speedway several weeks ago about our plans.  One of our plans was to set up a table at I-80 Speedway during the Alphabet Soup Race and during the Trifecta to solicit funds.  We weren’t asking for any cash from the track, we weren’t asking for any free passes to those events, we weren’t asking for a table or chairs.  We merely wanted the track to OK doing this.  A representative of the track said he would notify the promoter and get back with us.  That was over two weeks ago and we have heard nothing from the promoter.

I hate to say it, but I am not surprised we heard nothing from the promoter, though our efforts would have cost the track nothing and gained it a lot of free publicity.  I am surprised by the lack of driver response.  I emailed Jason Feger, Shannon Babb, Dan Schlieper, Dennis Erb Jr., and Pat Doar to explain our idea.  I heard back from Erb and Doar who said they could not commit to the race at this time.  I have not heard back from any of the other drivers, though I emailed them a second time. Sad to say, I am close to calling in former NU kicker Alex Henery to punt this idea.

There are plenty of reasons why drivers who live hundreds of miles fromNebraskamay not want to commit to this race yet.  The Silver Dollar Nationals is scheduled one week after the conclusion of the month long UMP Summernationals grind, and several of the drivers we contacted do follow the Hell Tour.  It is an off weekend for both the WoO and Lucas Dirt tours and drivers following those circuits may want a break.  Both tours race in the east just several days after the Silver Dollar Nationals.  The MLRA sanction may frighten some drivers used to open tire rules.  The qualifying format for the SDN is fan friendly, but may scare some drivers. 

To me, the fact that the race is a big pay day for drivers who make their living racing supersedes all of the above.  I believe it is simply too early for a lot of drivers to make a commitment to the race in light of diesel prices of over $4.00 per gallon. It is easier for these drivers to put traditional races on their schedule than to schedule a first time race.  I believe many will decide to make the trip toNebraska; they are just not ready to say so yet. That doesn’t help the Fans Fund idea, but doesn’t hurt the race. 

Thanks to the anonymous fan for submitting a great idea and giving me a blog topic for today, and thank you for stopping by.

NASCAR Economics 101

April 26, 2011 2 comments

I have condemned NASCAR start and parkers on more than one occasion.  My belief has been similar to that of Texas Speedway President Eddie Gossage who says start and parkers are stealing.  As a fan, I want 43 cars on the track who hope to win a race.  However, after reading several articles at www.scenedaily.com, I realize that start and parkers have no such hope-it is all about economics, NASCAR Economics 101.

Fact: Joe Nemechek has start and parked in nearly every NASCAR Sprint Cup race this season, but his earnings in Cup racing in 2011 total $797,598.

Fact: Nemechek and other poorly funded teams lease the racing engines they use.  A regular Sprint Cup engine will cost $50,000 or more to lease.  A restrictor plate engine will cost as much as $100,000 to lease.  The engine is good for 500 miles, 500 laps, or one race if you run the entire race. 

Fact: Nemechek and other poorly funded teams spend $8,000 a race on tires, despite racing fewer than 100 laps in most races.

Fact: Start and park teams employ approximately 250 drivers and crew members who otherwise would be unemployed.  Drivers hate to start and park, but the alternative is no paycheck.

Fact: Underfunded race teams do not have top notch pit crews. If such a team plans to run an entire race they have to lease crew members from fully funded teams at up to $1,000 per man per race.  If they don’t plan to run an entire race, underfunded teams will hire unemployed crew members to show up on race day for $300-$400.

Fact:  Some underfunded teams have formed alliances with fully funded teams regarding stalls on pit road.  Underfunded teams advise the fully funded teams of what stall they will pick, allowing the fully funded team to pick a stall next to them.   From early in a race the fully funded team knows it will have either a clear entrance to or exit from its pit stall.

$797,598 might not be much to my friends Randy Palmer and Tony Anville, but it remains a princely sum to me.  If someone wanted to give me that kind of money to start and park this blog for the next 25 years, I would certainly do it.  Believe me, there aren’t many six figure bloggers, and I don’t know any of them.

$797,598 is a lot of money unless you work for the government or are trying to run a NASCAR Sprint Cup team like Joe Nemechek and other start and parkers.  S & P‘ers don’t have dozens of highly skilled technicians doing research and development on everything from engines to shocks to aerodynamics.  Roush Fenway may have three employees doing one job.  Nemechek’s team has one employee doing three jobs.

Considering the above mentioned engine lease costs, if the S & P’ers did not start and park, they would already have invested $400,000 in engines with just seven Sprint Cup races run in 2011. Instead, the S & P’ers try to stretch their leased engines by running fewer laps. For most, the goal is three races on one engine.  With that in mind, the S & P’ers have spent ONLY $133,333 on engines in 2011. Rick Hendrick may not bother to look at such figures, but Joe Nemechek and Tommy Baldwin have to.

As mentioned, teams like Nemechek’s spend $8,000 per race on tires.  If they tried to run an entire 500 mile race, the tire bill from Goodyear would be $25,000.  By starting and parking, Nemechek has spent only $56,000 on tires in 2011, instead of $175,000 he would have spent trying to run every lap of each race. 

Trying to run every lap of every race would have Nemechek spending almost 75% of his race earnings on tires and engines.  Starting and parking has him spending 25% of his race earnings on tires and engines. With all the other expenses a NASCAR Sprint Cup team incurs, from diesel fuel for a transport to payroll taxes, running every lap of every race would have put Nemechek’s operation hopelessly in the red.  As it is, he is able to partially fund his Nationwide Series team with Sprint Cup earnings.

The economics of Sprint Cup racing is that without several mega-million dollar sponsors a team can’t dream of competing to win races. Many big name, big dollar sponsors have left the sport the past few years. When past champions like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart have difficulty finding primary sponsors, how can Nemechek or Baldwin hope to do better?  They can’t, so they start and park, and eke out a living in hopes of better times in the future.

I am still not a fan of starting and parking, though after reading of what these teams face, it is the economics of NASCAR that I am more dissatisfied with than the teams that start and park.  NASCAR seems to reflect theUSeconomy as a whole-the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and those of us in the middle get screwed. There is something inherently un-American about this.

No, I don’t have a solution to this problem.  I think the start and park situation will be a “normal” part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race week until the U.S. economy really improves.

Thanks for stopping by.

“Do you want to buy the damn place?” An essay.

April 26, 2011 13 comments

A comment from Ivan Tracy on yesterday’s blog:

“Ron, Why is it that when you do bring something up to a promoter, the answer is “you want to buy the damn place?”

A reply to Ivan from Matt:

“Great comment and question sp12!

Further, most, if not all track promoters, have the attitude that if you don’t own a track or promote races, you don’t have the business acumen to pass judgment.

Here is one specific issue in short track racing – back gate promoting.  I believe that back gate promoting is a band-aid fix that may (??) yield short term profits but loses long term front gate revenue, thus moving the sport closer and closer to a participatory or club sport opposed to a spectator sport.

Working on ticket sales and sponsorship will provide far more stability to promoters than back gating.”

My reply to Ivan:

I don’t think it is every promoter that says that Ivan, but a lot of them in theMidwestsure do. My reply would be” which is a bigger problem for you-people like me who complain, or people who don’t complain but no longer show up? I keep thinking “common sense will tell you,” but maybe that sense isn’t so common. If I was doing things that hurt my bottom line I would want to know, AND I would do everything in my power to eliminate that problem.

In addition-I have often wondered why promoters don’t believe that any fans have the ability to do what they do.  In my case I have been in management since I graduated from college in 1972, and the three companies I have worked for have had many more million dollars in revenue than any dirt track around. 

Do I know track prep?  Nope, and a lot of promoters probably don’t know all they think they do.  My first task as a promoter would be to hire someone who does know dirt, and I know right where to look to find him.

I have admitted on many occasions I do not know about tech.  But I know people who know people, and I would find someone good at the job, let him do the job, and support his CONSISTENT decisions.  Track prep and tech are not positions I would try to get by on the cheap. 

I would have a good maintenance man, and would have the numbers of electricians and plumbers on speed dial for anything my maintenance man couldn’t repair.  Access roads and parking would be smooth and watered down the day of the race.  There is nothing quite like driving over a rutty, dusty road to start the evening wrong. The track would have a regular mowing schedule.  If the stands were metal they would be washed down before every race.  Trash would be picked up and hauled away. No one would even sit in trash from a previous race.

I would want an experienced concession manager.  No concession food is ever going to be cheap, and it will never be gourmet either.  That doesn’t mean it can’t be good quality and that what is supposed to be cold will be and what is supposed to be warm will be.  The track would have a signature item too, like broasted chicken or a pork chop sandwich.

I would have a marketing/PR person who knew what needed to be done and was capable of doing it.  Communication is very important.  I would hold a meeting of all officials and managers early in the afternoon before the races and make sure everyone knew who, what, where, when, why, how of all that would happen that night, and how important would they did was in having a good program.  It would be a time for questions and answers and new ideas.

Speaking of new ideas, Craig Kelley told me on numerous occasions how he blatantly stole good ideas from the Deery family who run Rockford Speedway inIllinois.  I would visit tracks that are doing it “right,” and would watch closely all that they do.  Too many promoters think they are the only ones with good ideas.

Communication with employees is important, but so is communication with drivers, crew members, sponsors, and fans.  I would spend a lot of my time talking with these people-before/during/after the races, AND during the week. Communication from announcers is important too, meaning a good PA system and good announcers who can actually pronounce driver’s names.  You get what you pay for, except I-80 Speedway gets Joe Proctor far too cheap.

My track website would be fan friendly, and chock full of information.  It would also have a forum, and I would welcome feedback.  An assistant to the marketing/PR person would visit Facebook and Twitter often, as well as racing forums like dirtdrivers.com.

If the races didn’t start at the announced time, there would be apologies and concession specials.  There would be a person manning the front gate all evening, and if people leave early that person would find out why, and would have passes to give out if the track had done something wrong. Races lasting more than four hours would be a no-no.  If a race ever lasted over four hours, $1.00 would be knocked off the price of admission for the next week race for every 15 minutes the program ran late.

These are just some of the ideas I have thought of over the years.  As I said, I don’t have a lock on all the good ideas and my biggest task would be to listen-to fans, drivers, crews, promoters, officials, employees, vendors, and sponsors.  Most dirt tracks are family owned businesses, and in my opinion the greatest problem at almost all such tracks is that people without that same last name, or people who weren’t born with that last name, or people who didn’t marry someone with that last name are simply not trusted and not paid to do the job many are capable of doing.

This was a freebie from Humpy and Bruton Race Consulting LLC.  It has to be free, because the promoters who ought to read this won’t.

Thank you for reading it though.