There are tons of things about small town racing we find awesome, but we’ll give you ten.
Some people didn’t like it, they wanted to move on to racing in front of huge crowds.
I, on the other hand, loved the smaller races, where you could get to wander the stands between runs and get to know the crowd.
That leads me to my first on ten good reasons small town racing is where it’s at:
1. Smaller Crowds
The smaller crowds let you really get to know who you were racing for, and sometimes who you were racing against. Some of the smaller towns had folks who would decide to join in the fun and start racing with us.
Those folks were the best! You could really feel the rush of adrenaline that the hometown crowd gave to their local heroes!
2. Local Drivers
Racing against someone the crowd knows is always a lot of fun. Instead of cheering for #545, they are cheering for “Uncle John!” That is always a lot of fun for me, because it makes it personal.
After the race, you can congratulate Uncle John, or let him know “Better luck next time!”
A lot of race tracks across the country have fair food, and that’s all well and good. Nothing like a hot dog or bag of popcorn while watching some racing.
This may seem a little silly, but I also appreciated the small town homemade food that some places had around. That’s the sort of thing that brings out the best in local races.
At one track, I remember the town basically did a pot luck for all the drivers. They welcomed us with open arms and made some great dishes for everyone.
That was definitely a memorable moment from my racing days: Eating someone’s Grandma’s secret recipe for baked beans. Let me tell you, those were some great baked beans!
4. The Tracks
The bigger towns usually have stadiums specifically set up for racing, with their lights, grandstands and manicured tracks, which are fine, don’t get me wrong. However, there is something about watching a small town rally together to put together the best thing they could, with what they had on hand.
There were some great tracks out there that were set up once and then taken down the next day to be used as a park for the local football team. They may not have been the greatest tracks in the world, but the workers went out of their way to make sure that everything was the best it could be.
It’s one of the cool things about small town racing that I really think is unique.
I can remember racing at a track in the middle of Northern Illinois. I was testing out some new tire pressures when I lost the bead on my tire. In other words, my tire went flat and it was going to be difficult to fill it with what I had on hand.
A person out of the crowd stepped up, saying he had the equipment we needed right down the road. So, we jumped in the truck and followed him to his house, pulled out his large air compressor and were able to fix the tire.
He didn’t do it for any money, or any recognition, or anything like that. He did it because he wanted to help out.
I went on to have a great race that day, so he definitely did.
6. Community Involvement
A large part of small-town racing is bringing the community together.
Heck, the mayor might even show up.
When you’re in a town that knows each other, that’s small enough to have just about everyone show up, you know that’s a place that’s passionate about racing.
What I mean by family, is that everyone comes out to the races. It’s not just a bunch of men in the crowd, but wives, grandmothers, teens, and youngsters.
It always seemed to me that the kids loved to watch races, and especially meet the drivers. I remember being so touched by the sight of children a fraction of my age cheering me on, that I sometimes went so far as to give away the trophies I won, always picking out some youngster from the crowd.
The kids really appreciated it, and I did, too.
8. Pomp and Circumstance
There was a certain feeling pulling into small towns in a caravan of 1/2 a dozen large trailers painted up with our color scheme and logo on the side.
Kids would come to the sidewalk to watch us come through town and wave. Adults would stop what they were doing to turn their heads and watch us roll into town.
We all felt like that mini version of a celebrity, and that was a great feeling.
Now, granted, I was no rich and successful racer. Since we only raced for trophies, I always tried hard for the more interesting ones.
Small towns really put some effort into the trophies, and tried hard to to think of something that we’ve never seen before.
I can remember two races that had particularly memorable, one in Illinois and one in Wisconsin. The trophy in Illinois was an actual tire, one of the smaller ones, with a plaque set in it that had the date and the place you took. It looked great, and I really liked that it was so unique.
The Wisconsin trophy wouldn’t be given out until you kissed a cow. I think I have a few pictures of that whole debacle somewhere…
The trophy was a little milking stool that was painted like a cow with the plaque on the top. It was a great trophy, and I’d gladly kiss a cow for another one.
I think one of the best parts of racing for small towns was that we weren’t doing it for points, or riches, or anything like that. We were doing it for fun.
We put on a show and kept close to each other, and no matter how great of a driver you were, there was going to be a lot of fun out on the track! These people paid to come see us, and we were going to make sure they got their money’s worth.
That’s why I love small town racing. It’s the sort of thing that holds these places together, that tightens their stitching. It’s a community gathering as much as it’s a night of races, and no one ever seemed to leave without having a good time.