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Fast Lane: Regional Race Tracks
While NASCAR may seem to get all of the headlines, the true face of racing in America is seen at hundreds of tracks that operate weekly throughout the summer months - those tracks that attract the local and regional racers.
By Jim Walbolt
By the time you read this, most racetracks will have begun their summer schedules. Sure, NASCAR has been running since February, and I'm sure many warm-weather tracks have been operating most of the year, but the majority of tracks are just beginning their seasons.
If you haven't done so already, now is the time to make plans to get a piece of this high performance business. While NASCAR may seem to get all of the headlines, the true face of racing in America is seen at hundreds of tracks that operate weekly throughout the summer months - those tracks that attract the local and regional racers.
The 2006 edition of the National Speedway Directory lists more than 1,400 racing facilities in the United States and Canada as well as nearly 300 sanctioning organizations, including complete contact information. The directory is a great resource for anyone looking for information on racing facilities or organizations in the United States or Canada.
If you are now doing performance work, then you already know how important it is to go to the track. If you're just getting into performance work or even thinking about it, the best place to start is still at the track, regardless of the type of racing you are interested in. Understand, when I say racetrack, I'm not necessarily talking exclusively about your local circle track or drag strip. Many motorsports activities happen at other facilities. It could be your local fairground, a factory parking lot or maybe even a field.
For instance, the Sports Car Club of America has over 60,000 members with 112 regional clubs covering the United States. The majority of members belonging to these clubs compete in what SCCA calls "Solo" competition.
The SCCA Web site describes Solo competition thusly: "Solo is the SCCA brand name for autocross competition. Solo events are driving skill contests that emphasize the driver's ability and the car's handling characteristics. This is accomplished by driving a course that is designated by traffic cones on a low hazard location, such as a parking lot or inactive airstrip."
While speeds are no greater than those normally encountered in legal highway driving, the combination of concentration and car feedback creates an adrenaline-pumping experience. It's like being in a movie chase scene, only you are holding onto the steering wheel instead of a box of popcorn!
The SCCA annually publishes its Solo rules to classify a full range of imported and domestic sports cars, sedans and purpose-built race cars, as well as to lay out the basic rules behind Solo competition. The Solo Car Classifications are provided so that you may determine what types of cars are typically competing in Solo, although there is a class for just about any vehicle. The organizers of local events are also allowed enough leeway to add classes to suit their particular requirements.
This type of racing is probably about as grassroots as you can get, but these competitors are also looking for performance enhancements that you may be able to provide.
Another example may include the circle tracks in your area that have a weekly racing program consisting of several different divisions of racing. They may have "Bombers," "Street Stocks" and "Late Models," for instance. While Late Models may be a semi-professional division, the Bomber and Street Stock racers are usually drivers that may only race once a week at that same track, another "grassroots" type of racing. However, they may dream of one day being the next Dale Earnhardt.
Regardless of the level of competition or the type of racing, racers all have needs that you may be able to fill. If you're just starting out in performance work, perhaps you will develop relationships that allow you to move up in level as the drivers you work with move up. You can bet that many, if not all, of those businesses sitting at the top in NASCAR started at the grassroots level.
To be successful in the performance market, you need to deliver a product or service that a competitor not only needs, but will help make him a winner. To find that product or service, you need to spend time with them to understand the needs of the racers. Find that need and put racers in the winner's circle and you will have as much work as you can handle. It's really pretty simple: making your customers successful will make you successful. That is as true in motorsports as it is in any other business endeavor.
Making your customer successful means that you, or a trusted employee needs to spend time at the track with those customers. I spend a lot of time with many shop owners and get asked this question a lot: "How can I get more business from the racers?" My answer is always the same: "You need to be where they are, helping them when possible." This not only develops a good relationship, it also gives you the opportunity to determine additional needs, as well as find better ways of serving your customer.
I know many shop owners who produce great products or services for racers, but are unwilling to put the time in at the track that would take them to the next level. These are usually the first ones that complain they don't get enough of the performance business. Remember, it's not just about producing great products, it's also about producing great relationships.
This is the time of year that you should be planning your summer schedule. No, not the shop schedule, or even your fishing schedule…it's the time of year to be setting your Friday and Saturday night schedules for getting out to the racetrack.
It doesn't matter if every driver at the track uses your products or services; you need to try and work with all of them, doing your best not to show any favoritism. How cool would it be to have twenty customers in a particular division at the track and have each one of them win a race during the season with your help!
If you're not willing to put the time in, you'll never be as successful in this business as you could be.
I've said this before, but I'll say it again, put racers in the winner's circle and you'll have all the work you can handle. Part of putting them in the winner's circle is being there at the track, working with them side-by-side. Such a commitment will spell success for everyone.