Racing Around: Area tracks looking to draw fans

I read an article last week in which NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said he is dealing with the challenge of connecting with a new, younger generation of fans.

I cannot count how many times I have heard fans say “this place used to be packed. What happened?”

It is not a situation that is isolated to racing. It is a problem that is affecting all sports.

The local dirt tracks have taken steps to try to draw younger fans’ interest with kids clubs, bus rides or kiddie rides on the track, meet-and-greets and special days for local little leagues and student appreciation days.

I will say that tracks like Fonda Speedway and Albany-Saratoga have addressed one of the main complaints from last season — drawn out programs, in a positive way.

The pace of the program at The Track of Champions the past two weeks has been exceptional.

Moving the start time back to 7 p.m. has helped. Saturday night the first race was on the track at 7 and the five-class, 12-race program was in the books by 9:30 p.m.

Even on opening night with the addition of sprint cars, cruisers and a 50-lap modified feature, the program was done by 10:30.

I believe that is a positive step to help bring old fans back to the track and keep the attention span of younger fans.

At Malta, time has never really been an issue as they move the program right along due to a strict curfew. The track has also drawn many of the top drivers in the Northeast on Friday nights, enough so that 34 modifieds and 33 sportsmen took the green flag for the features last week.

Another thing that is helping bring younger fans back to the track is a new group of drivers rising to the top.

At Fonda, Justin Boehler and Jeremy Wilder have notched feature wins over established veterans.

Wilder has been around for a while coming through the sportsman ranks and put together his best year to date at Fonda last season to be in the thick of the point’s battle on the final night.

Walking through the pits the blend is pretty good between established veterans and up-and-comers especially in the “supporting” classes.

A few years back the Pro Stocks were on the verge of being dropped because of low entries. Now the class is flourishing again because of an influx of new drivers fitting in where they can afford to compete.

Same goes with the 602 sportsman division. They may not have the power of a big-block modified, but week-in and week-out the races are close and competitive right down to the checkered.

France said he is going to convene a summit, bringing in experts from various fields to discuss the issue.

Experts would probably leave this area shaking their heads but I do believe the local promoters are taking steps in the right direction to keep fans interested and draw new ones to the tracks.

Around the Tracks

It was nice to see Matt DeLorenzo back at Fonda Speedway on Saturday. He backed up his third-place finish at Malta on Friday with a third-place run on Saturday.

Rocky Warner backed up his victory at Fonda Speedway on Saturday with a Super DIRTCar Series feature win at Utica-Rome Sunday.

Glen Ridge Motorsports Park is looking to open its season Friday night, but unfortunately, it looks like rain will force the cancellation of opening night, again.

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