Promoter’s Corner is a new, bi-weekly feature on Speed51.com powered by JEGS that allows racers and fans to see a side of short track racing promoters that we don’t often see.
Speed51.com has assembled a group of 10 well-respected promoters from different short tracks and disciplines of racing throughout the country. On a bi-weekly basis, promoters will take their turn sharing their thoughts on an interesting short track racing topic or giving a behind-the-scenes look at what they do.
Our panel of promoters who have kindly agreed to be involved in this feature include: Alan Dietz (Pro All Stars Series), Doug Hobbs (Evergreen Speedway – WA), Gregg McKarns (Madison Int’l Speedway – WI & ARCA Midwest Tour), Jeff Hachmann (World Racing Group), Joe Skotnicki (Race of Champions), Josh Vanada (Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park - CT), Larry Collins (Kern County Raceway Park – CA and SRL), R.J. Scott (Champion Racing Association), Tim Packman (Lancaster Speedway - NY) and Tim Bryant (Five Flags Speedway - FL and Southern Super Series).
For the second edition of this new feature on Speed51.com, we asked five members of our panel to answer the question: Is Facebook Live and/or Periscope a welcomed means for anybody at the events you promote?
Gregg McKarns - ARCA Midwest Tour & Madison Int'l Speedway (WI)
While I appreciate people's passion for our sport, we do not need entire races being broadcast to the masses via these means. A simple four-wide salute or start of a race snippet is cool.
My response to the argument that these means will introduce new fans to the sport: that's what the edited video with close up speed shots are intended to do. If our first introduction to short track racing was a Facebook live stream from someone's shaking camera where the cars are minuscule on a dark track, we all likely would have wound up finding something else to do.
We as an industry need to be mindful not to create an environment within short track racing where you no longer have to attend the races. Some would argue that the bigger leagues of racing have managed to do this. Our business model for both the ARCA Midwest Tour and Madison International Speedway is dependent upon fans purchasing tickets to our events, that is how we make our living. It is my contention that people need to experience the sensory overload that is short track auto racing, live in person.
In everything we do, from our events to our live radio and pay-per-view broadcasting on DIRTVision.com, World Racing Group strives to provide our fans in attendance and at home with an overall great experience at every race in hopes of leaving each viewer thirsty for more dirt racing. Before, during and after a race we encourage the use of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as a way for fans to personally connect with our three series -- World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series, World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Model Series, and Super DIRTcar Series -- and our respective drivers and key players.
The fine line of this matter is when fans begin to share too much on their social platforms which ultimately takes away from that individual’s overall experience because they are absent from the moment and present on live social media platforms. We have a dedicated productions crew through DIRTVision.com who strive to make our fans at home feel like they are at the track and as close as possible to the action by grabbing every driver interview, every car crash, and every aspect of the overall event possible. That way all that is left missing from the broadcast is the smell of the racing fuel, the engulfing sounds of our high-horse power machines that pound your heart when they race in front of you, and the dirt-on-your-skin feeling when you are leaving the track… but maybe someday in the far-off future we can bring that to our fans at home too. We choose to go above and beyond on DIRTvision so that way our fans in attendance can enjoy being at the race instead of being an online hero for live streaming an event.
Live streaming an event on a cell phone from the stands takes away from our overall progress in promoting racing at its roots. While it may capture the racing (in extremely low-quality), it lacks to capture the overall excitement from our events. Our events throughout the year include the chance for fans to have a hands-on experience with our sponsors like the chance to test a Textron Off Road vehicle at a Ride-and-Drive, our fan interaction with our Craftsman Strong Man Challenge, our Craftsman sprinter van on display equipped with the best Craftsman tools, and our Craftsman Peterbuilt Truck. Additionally, our biggest events of the season like the two-week kickoff to the season during DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, ‘Racing’s Biggest Party’ at NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week at Oswego Speedway, and World of Outlaws World Finals at the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway offer the fans a chance to buy official Series and event merchandise, camping on or near the property, vendors and food trucks galore on the midway and pit-pass access to interact with their favorite drivers and teams.
Each of our series is a traveling group made up of committed full-time drivers and teams who travel to tracks around the United States and into Canada to face local and regional racers head-on to prove that they are the best of the best. We bring the show to our fans nationwide and we don’t believe that by watching an event from a live stream can do our events justice.
We don’t want it to get to the point where a fan chooses to stay at home and try to experience all these things through someone else’s live broadcast instead of coming to enjoy all of this for themselves. We truly believe that once you come out and see one of our events, you will be a repeat customer.
I think the jury is still out on this issue, and it may never be fully resolved on how it impacts our front gate sales in the long run.
On one side of the argument, you could say that anything that has the potential to impact the front gate sales negatively is a bad thing. But at the same time, if we are using every means possible to give our events and our race teams maximum exposure, to grow our sport, then I guess that has some merit also.
Another way to look at this issue is similar to having a rule in your rulebook that you have no way to enforce, so you simply remove the rule. If we really can’t stop someone from using Facebook Live or Periscope at our events, then maybe we should not expend the time and energy attempting to fight it.
Finally, our season opening race for the SPEARS (SRL) Southwest Tour Series at Irwindale Speedway, may have been the most competitive and entertaining races in our series history. We had a good crowd, the race was a success financially, and in addition to those who saw the race in person, many others from around the country were able to watch our series preform at it’s absolute best, by way of Facebook Live.
By the time we finish this debate, the next form of social media broadcasting will likely be upon us.
Tim Bryant - Five Flags Speedway (FL) and Southern Super Series
We're floating in unchartered waters to some degree when it comes to social media in general. We try to focus on the positive aspects as much as possible, and we've found this to be a far more useful tool than we ever imagined.
We appreciate our fans sharing their experience on Facebook live at some of our events, while at our televised and streamed events we have restrictions. We do TV as a service to those who cannot attend our events, and our TV partners have to be protected in this area. In most cases, the pay per view revenue does good just to cover the cost of production.
Tim Packman - Lancaster National Speedway (NY)
When it comes to Facebook Live and Periscope, I ask three simple things. One, tell everyone where you are. Two, tell them what a great time you are having and what they are missing. Three, please don't air the whole night of events.
Modern technology and social media have allowed anyone with a cell phone and account to become a "reporter" or "cameraman" at the track. Policing it will only cause ill will and take a lot of time and effort that could otherwise go to enhancing the fans experience.
We have a lot of out-of-town fans and they not only enjoy seeing events at "their" track, but they comment and end up sharing memories of the Lancaster National Speedway. So, when it comes to Facebook Live and Periscope - bring it. I don't think it keeps as many people away as believed, I do think it makes fans want to come see it for themselves.