(EDITOR’S NOTE: 51’s X-Factor is a feature on Speed51.com that features opinions from columnists on racing’s hottest topics. Brandon Paul, the author of this editorial, is the Editor for Speed51.com. The views which are expressed in the following column are his own and not necessarily the views of Speed51.com and/or its partners.)
New York’s Ransomville Speedway created quite the conversation on social media this past weekend when track officials released a new “social media policy” that applies to drivers and crews for the 2016 racing season. As part of that policy, the track states that “if we see any negative comments on social media outlets from Owners, Drivers or Crew Members, we will take action immediately.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Since the initial publishing of this column, we’ve also been informed that both Oswego Speedway (NY) and Lorrain County Speedway (Oenforce the same written policy.)
To put it simply, that’s not the answer.
Like it or not, short track racing is a for-profit business; it’s not a charity. Race track operators all over the United States know it’s a business, they treat it like a business and they make decisions as a business.
Similar to any other business, whether it be a restaurant or hotel, customers have the right to inform the public of their opinions about that business. We live in the United States of America, a country in which our military fought and died for the principle of freedom of speech.
If you go to a restaurant and have a bad experience, more than likely you’re going to spread the word about that meal whether it be through word of mouth, social media or some type of website where you can offer reviews. Same goes with a hotel, and same should go with a race track.
At your local short track, there are two groups of customers. There are the fans that pay to watch the racing and there are the racers that put money, time and effort in order to put on a show for those fans in the grandstands. Without either one of them, a local short track will go down the path of joining the list of Lost Speedways.
In the social media policy released by track officials at Ransomville Speedway it states, “We cannot stop you from posting negative remarks against the Speedway or Speedway Officials, but we can and will stop you from attending our events at the Speedway.”
Essentially threatening a group of people that support a race track is not the answer, nor will it ever be the answer.
Why would you ever want to turn away someone coming through your gate, paying for pit passes, paying for fuel, paying for tires and putting on a show for the fans in attendance? That would be like a restaurant or hotel placing a ban or suspension on a customer who had an unpleasant experience.
Trust me, I understand the negativity that we see almost daily from racers, fans and teams on social media outlets. I totally get it. But guess what? More times than not, those same people end up right back at the race track the next week, and more times than not, that Facebook post brings the name of the race track to a group of people that have never heard about it.
Never in my time involved in racing have I heard a fan, driver or team say that they will not be going to a race track because of something that someone else has said on social media. In contrast, I have heard of a number of drivers leaving a race track (whether voluntarily or not) with a group of crew members and fans that will no longer be supporting that given facility.
That brings me to my next point. If a race track is going to penalize teams for negative comments, are they going to reward those who post positive comments? It can’t just be a one-way street. I’m sure any business owner in our country would love to create a policy that would only allow positive comments, but that’s just not realistic.
As a business owner, you will have customers that have good things to say, and customers that have bad things to say about your business. The job of the owner or promoter is to address those concerns privately, just like a restaurant manager would do with an unhappy customer, to work out a resolution for all involved.
Admittedly, I’ve never been to Ransomville Speedway or really kept up with the activity on their social media outlets, but I can’t imagine the negativity is any worse than at any other race track throughout the country.
Racers want to go fast, they want to win, and if they don’t win they’re probably going to find a reason or excuse for it. Maybe it’s a call made by a race director, or maybe it’s the calls (or lack of) in the tech shed. Either way, that racer is more than entailed to his/her opinion about the call in question.
With the racer essentially being a customer of the race track, it is then their decision of whether or not they want to return to the race track. Just like if a customer has a bad experience at a hotel, they have to decide whether it’s worth a second chance.
It’s not up to the race track to keep a driver, team or group of fans away. There’s a better way to solve potential issues than issuing a policy that implies that those posting negative comments will be kept away from the facility.
The solution comes in the form of one word that businesses everywhere use: communication.
There needs to be a steady line of communication between track owners/promoters, racers and fans. If a steady line of communication can be established between those three groups, there’s a good chance race tracks won’t have to issue social media policies limiting the constitutional rights of their customers.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: StockCarRacing.com Photo