Racing Isn’t What it Used To Be. Here’s Why I’m Glad:

If you’re on any form of social media these days, you’ve probably seen a post or photo talking about the ‘good old days’ of racing, when ‘real’ race cars came to the track on open trailers and you could bring your whole family to the track for today’s price of popcorn.

Mel Swartzlander

My grandfather’s #83 modified, shown here in the 1960’s.

Although I can’t disagree – racing was pretty great when I was growing up – I have to say that I’m much more positive about the future than I am sad about the way things were.

Call me crazy, but I’d like to take a moment to be grateful for the opportunities we have and shine a hopeful light on our sport:

We can watch a race from almost anywhere. In fact, even if you’re on Antarctica right now you could probably catch a race from a short track somewhere in the world. (And pneumonia. But whatever.)

The power of live streaming and high-quality video broadcasting has never been, well, more powerful. My list of race-tracks-to-visit is much longer than my allotted number of vacation days each year (even if I am mostly my own boss), so I’m more than happy to pay the price of admission – usually more than the price of a grandstand seat – to see a race from my living room.

(Side Note: If you or your local track promoter believe that live streaming a race, or posting results to social media, will take fans out of the stands, I’m thrilled to factually tell you that you’re wrong. Future post to come.)

And while we’re watching races from all over the world, we’re also cheering on new drivers and supporting sponsors we’d never have known before. Wider exposure means a larger, wider audience for your race team, track or series. This means more potential for revenue that you never would have had before, from t-shirt sales to marketing partners.

We’re safer than ever. Maybe that’s not saying much. But with family, friends and a husband I’m pretty attached to strapping in each week, I’m grateful for the advancements we’ve made. We still have a long way to go, though, and that’s why I’m a strong supporter of those who are working to make the sport safer, like the Motorsports Safety Education Foundation and their partners.

Knowing that there are people who are working to promote safety awareness and develop new technologies gives me the peace of mind that my grandmother’s generation never had.

Money will always be the great divider in racing. It will never grow on trees again. Wait a second…it’s never done that! It may have been easier to get what we like to think of as a traditional ‘sponsor’ in the past, but companies have gotten more discerning about how to spend their money. And so have fans.

What does that mean for you? Those who provide the value (and prove it!) get the spoils. We have never had more tools for attracting and activating our audience than today, whether that’s selling ‘sponsorship’ or tickets.

My grandfather never could have funded his racing by monetizing a YouTube channel. But you could. He couldn’t have sold apparel to fans from all over the world through his website (while he slept!), but we do. He couldn’t have helped a sponsor sell their products through a QR code campaign or sold tickets to a race through social media. But we have.

I would argue that we have more full-time racers today than we ever have before, and that’s because of the tools we have today to share our love for the sport and monetize that passion.

We’re a diverse and talented group. This might be pure conjecture, but I’ve never seen a more unique racing community in my lifetime. We have people from all walks of life who are contributing to the sport, not just the standard demographics we used to list on our sponsorship proposals.

When I think about how far racing has come – I’ve talked to many women in the sport who remember when they weren’t allowed in the pits – I’m excited by how much richer our sport is becoming by allowing our community to become larger and more diverse. We can pull a variety of strengths from what we do away from the race track – our day jobs, interests outside of racing, political affiliations, education and backgrounds – to what we do on the race track. We’ve never before been able to harness that.

That’s why it’s so important that we embrace it. And invest in it.

Our future is bright.


P.S. What change are you grateful for or excited about? Feel free to leave it in the comments below.

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About the author

Kristin Swartzlander Kristin Swartzlander is passionate about applying business sense to racing 'nonsense' in hopes of growing the sport of dirt track racing. She is a business strategist who works with entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them learn how to use public relations, marketing and social media to achieve their goals. Learn more about social media, marketing and racing sponsorship on the DirtyMouth blog.