As we approach the 2018 La Crosse Speedway awards banquet, it’s time to make an annual reflection upon the season just past of short track racing.
We hear it from a few folks that attend the races for the first time or just meet at some social gathering… “Racing is so boring. All they do is go around and around for hours.” Well that may be true, if all you know about the sport is going out to the track see something get wrecked, or what you’ve seen on television. Even the best coverage, like ESPN, cannot bring you the stories that create the short track lifestyle and the personalities that make it what it is.
Short track racing is much different. It’s real, not scripted. It’s real people. Just like you.
Short track racers have jobs. They have families and friends. They don’t jump on a plane after the race and disappear until the next race. They’ll have a cold drink or two inside the race track after the car is loaded onto the trailer, visiting with family, friends and fans, some whom they don’t even know. They sign autographs on flags, pictures, shirts and more. They let kids sit in the driver’s seat and take photos.
7.8.17 LACROSSE SPEEDWAY 2017©FORTE DESIGN/MARY SCHILL
If you haven’t been to a race event at La Crosse Speedway, maybe it’s time you do. If it’s been a while, maybe it’s time to go again. You don’t need to know anything about cars. But you do feel the need to be entertained, and have a good time, right? Short track racing is much deeper than “sport.” It’s not about who won or lost, or your driver’s “stats,” as they say in other sports. That’s all great, but short track racing is a celebration of so many different stories.
The driver that had never raced before. He or she bought a car over the winter and won a race in his or her first season.
The driver that gets five of his friends together, they all spend time painting old cars – very detailed – and themed, to race them against and with each other. All like a bunch of super heroes.
The guy that likes to collect old junk and take it to the recycler. A Limousine? A School Bus? A Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine painted Van? A bunch of old campers? Yes, there’s many stories about how this stuff takes a detour to the track before the recycling center. And he and his friends have a blast.
The guy that likes to do stunts. He drives through campers, pools, and cars stood straight up pointing to the sun. The fans love it. The guy that paints his race car like a popular cartoon character. The kids love it.
The driver who always has his or her car on an open trailer, in a community parade. Or the one that has to work Saturdays and takes the race car with to work. Then heads straight to the track to race.
The guy that’s a plumber or electrician during the week. The one that lives four blocks away and the gone that drives three hours, one-way, each week. Just to race against each other, and the many other drivers and cars, on a track they enjoy.
The one that sells semi-trucks, or the one that repairs them, or the one that drives them during the week. Or one that does classified work in the military. Delivers brown boxes all day. Architecture. Teacher. Engineering student. Contractor. They’re real people with real stories.
How do they find time to work on a race car to make if faster, then find time to race it on weekends? Dedication, passion, and support from family members, and the desire to have fun while racing. Victory, or the proximity to it, certainly goes a long way too.
In 2018, get to know the stories of the drivers and crew members involved. You can do that in short track racing, unlike other sports. There are some pretty cool behind-the-scenes stories. It may not be the driver with the fastest car. Or the one with the most wins. Or the one with the best-looking paint job. Or even the one that handles the announcer’s interviews the best.
You don’t have to “know anyone that races” to go and enjoy it. You don’t have to “go every week” either. Just try it out once, or twice. You might meet and learn about some pretty neat people.
Finally, at a short track, you won’t find a driver kneeling during the National Anthem to protest this great Country. (We will leave that to the athletes that learned their profession in Government subsidized stadiums to protest the Government.)