In today's society, time is more valuable than ever. People want what they want when they want it, and if they don't get what they want, they will go somewhere else to get it. This is something that short track racing promoters need to take note of, while putting procedures in place in order to deliver an entertaining product in a timely fashion.
Too many times in recent years I have watched race fans leave the race track prior to the completion of the full racing program. A show that starts at 6 p.m. shouldn't end at midnight. If it does, you're running the risk that those fans leaving early may choose to spend their entertainment dollars somewhere else; somewhere where they will be able to experience the full product that they paid for before having to put their kids to bed.
On most occasions, long shows that drag into the wee-hours of the morning aren't entirely the promoter's fault. Often times, it is the racers themselves that make decisions and drive in a manner that results in frequent caution flags slowing down the racing program.
But there is a potential solution to that problem: time limits for short track races.
Whether it be putting a 30-minute time limit on a 30-lap race or a 50-minute time limit on a 50-lap race, time limits could be an effective solution to keep fans entertained and shorten the length of events.
If a short track racing division is averaging more than one minute per lap, it likely isn't their day. Yet, too often we see short track racing events extended into the darkest hours of the night because one or two divisions can't complete consecutive green flag laps on a given night. And if two 30-lap races take two hours to complete, that shifts your entire racing program back and can result in frustrated customers in the grandstands.
So, why not put a time limit on these races in order to encourage smarter and cleaner driving from those behind the wheel?
Not only would this help keep the attention span of those in the grandstands, but it may also result in less repair expenses for drivers competing in a division that may otherwise be headed towards a rough night at the race track.
If a particular division goes over their time limit after 10 laps, guess what? They have nobody to blame except for themselves. It's in black and white, and they know the procedure before taking the green flag.
Of course, there would need to be certain provisions made in order for time limits to work. You would likely need to put a provision in that states the clock would stop under red flag conditions. Accidents happen in racing, and you certainly wouldn't want a 20-minute clean-up effort to eat up the allotted time.
In addition to the red-flag provision, race tracks could also add in a rule that states each race will have one final attempt to finish under green flag conditions once the time limit is reached. Maybe at that point racers will think twice about "sending it" into turn one for 16th position. Knowing race car drivers, I'm not going to say that they won't still make an aggressive move in that situation, but you'd hope to at least make them think twice about it when it means that a caution ends the race.
The idea of using time limits in short track racing isn't something new, but it's not something that's been used a lot at race tracks throughout the country. And really, not all race tracks need time limits. There are some short tracks that can frequently complete a full weekly racing program in three hours or less, and that should be the goal for every race track.
One track that I've visited that uses time limits is Star Speedway in Epping, New Hampshire. Track promoter Bobby Webber, Jr. recently told me that the format has worked well at his race track, indicating that he has only had to enforce the time limit on rare occasions.
In one particular case, he remembers sending a division to the pit area during a rough race. After having some time in "timeout," that division returned to the track and finished their race on a much cleaner note. Mission accomplished.
Webber normally uses a time limit of the number of laps plus 10 minutes during his shows. For example, a 30 lap race has a 40-minute time limit. Webber echoed my thought from above saying, "If they can't run 30 laps in 40 minutes, it's not their night."
And while short track racing is the focus of this website, it isn't the only industry that is needing to adjust to our changing society. Look at the game of baseball. Major League Baseball (MLB) has tested and enforced new rules in recent years in an attempt to shorten the time it takes to complete a nine-inning game. They've added a pitch clock, limited the amount of mound visits, reduced the length of commercial breaks between innings and they've tested a new extra innings procedure at the minor league level.
Why have they done this? Because they recognize that fans no longer want to stick around at the ballpark for over three hours to find out who wins.
The same can be said for short track racing. As our society constantly changes, it's important that the short track racing industry makes the proper adjustments to evolve with those changes. One of those adjustments could be creating time limits for races, and it's an adjustment that race tracks throughout the country should consider if they wish to keep today's race fans entertained.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manager - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51