The "Greying" of the hobby
I found your Greying of the hobby note quite interesting. I wish we had more topics like this coming from this forum. Ill share a few thoughts regarding the topic.
Since I am 58.5 years of age, I am glad to know that I am both above the average trackchaser age and above the median age of all leading trackchasers. Its always good to be above average! However, I believe that 58 is the new 48. Maybe its even the new 38. Folks should consider what their parents were doing at the same age they are now. I suspect that people do so many more things than their parents did because of increased standard of living, better health and just more accessibility to all kinds of things. On the other hand, Im actually counting on my fellow trackchasing competitors slowing down as they age while I maintain the pace.
Will and/or should younger trackchasers be discouraged by the high numbers already achieved by our leading trackchasers? Consider this:
At the end of 1999, Ed Esser ranked #19 in the worldwide rankings with 374 tracks. I was ranked #15 with 405 tracks. The leaders, Rick Schneider and Allan Brown had totals in the high 700s, nearly twice as much as what Ed and I had at the time.
Now 7 ½ years later, I lead the pack by more than 125 tracks. Ed is coming on strong and may even reach second place by the end of 2008. My sources have him just falling short of this achievement by the finish of the 2008 season. That would be quite an improvement from when we were back markers and held 15th and 19th places less than eight years ago.
Whenever I am interviewed at the tracks I visit, I ask the fans to come up and tell me if they think they have seen 200 tracks or more. Ive had a few people tell me about their lists. Most are hovering around the 200 mark. I even have two family members (step-father and brother) who are just under the 200 level. Recently I met someone who claims to have more than 2,000 (two thousand) tracks. Hes from Canada but cant verify his list.
There are always several ways to skin the same cat. Ed and I started slowly, I guess, and have come on strong with 100+ track seasons for the past several years. On the other hand, Guy Smith has seen 50 tracks a year or so for many, many years. It all really depends upon what a persons priorities are at the time.
Younger potential trackchasers are much more likely to have to work conflicts and maybe a need to provide for a family in both terms of time and money. Andy Ritters trackchasing is certainly going to be curtailed with the time it takes to raise a young family. From 1981-94, a 14-year period, I never made it to as many as 20 new tracks in one year. Since I was 32 when this period started and 45 when it ended you might say I dropped out of trackchasing in the prime of my career. For all those years I averaged just 11 new tracks per year. Had I averaged 30-40 tracks per year back then which would have been very easy if I wasnt going to little league baseball games and soccer matches 2-4 times per week, I would be closing in on 2,000 tracks in the very near future.
I also believe that almost every trackchaser I know started out as a racechaser. They went to the races because they liked the local programs. At some point, they decided they would like to branch out a bit. Soon they found going to a new track (maybe because they knew they would never have to return) was more appealing that going week in and week out to the same track. This changeover process from racechaser to trackchaser takes some time. When the younger trackchaser comes to the conclusion that his/her local track no longer does it for them, the gradual change over to becoming a trackchaser is made. Therefore, it will be unlikely that many twenty and thirty year olds will be avid trackchasers based on all of the above.
On the other hand, as folks age they might also be limited in their ability to go trackchasing. Older people (each person reading this can fill in the blank on what older means) might not be able to afford to go trackchasing. These people might lose interest in racing after they have seen all of the better tracks and are left with the more bottom of the barrel tracks. Most people saw the tracks closer to home when they first started trackchasing. After those nearby tracks have been taken off the map, the prospect of traveling further and further just doesnt seem worth it to some people. Often as people age, they want to travel less and less because of lack of money, fear, the hassle and/or laziness all of which are commonly disguised as their new personal preference.
With the advent of the temporary track, its anybodys guess on how many tracks someone could see in the future. The National Speedway directory, for the most part, lists permanent ovals, road courses and figure 8 tracks. However, there are tons of temporary tracks for people to see. As an example, I have identified 89 different countable tracks in Michigan remaining to be seen. Only 16 of those are listed in the NSD. In Pennsylvania I have 59 tracks and just 12 of those appear in the NSD. In New York I have 81 different tracks still to see only 12 of those are in the NSD.
I suspect that back in 1999, when Ed and I had both seen about 400 new tracks that 90-95% of those tracks would have been in the National Speedway Directory. In 2006, I saw 60 new tracks that were not listed in the NSD. I think that this year, I will have the highest percentage of tracks not listed in the NDS that I have ever have. Although as a trackchaser I am willing to go to these temporary tracks to increase my totals, they fall far short in the overall quality of racing category. Actually, some of it can hardly be called racing at all.
I do know this. If anyone is going to rise in the trackchaser rankings, it is going to take a significant commitment of time, energy and money. During the past 3 ½ seasons, I have seen nearly 600 new tracks. During that time I have traveled more than 630,000 miles to do it. I was just pointing out to Trackchasings First Mother last night (yes, thats what I call her in the privacy of our home), that I have traveled an average of 3,500 miles each and every week (136 weeks) for the past 2 ½ years. I work on doing this as efficiently as I can. Therefore, I cant imagine very many people getting that many tracks with any less amount of travel. Will people in the future (young or old) be willing to put 630,000 miles on their body in this amount of time? Maybe not.
My mileage is more than some trackchasers might need to get the job done, because I have to come from California on each trackchasing trip. Nevertheless, the cost for a new trackchaser would be about the same regardless of where the trip begins. About the only way you can save money is by sleeping in your car. Gasoline will be about the same for everyone. Race tickets, a minor expense compared to the cost of travel, can be minimized if you want to go the press route. I use an airplane and rental car, but that cost is more than offset by the depreciation and wear and tear on the driving trackchasers vehicle in most cases.
This is a hobby that is very similar to personal investing. The earlier you start, the better your results are likely to be. Some people might have a problem finding tracks to visit on the dates they have available. I face exactly the opposite issue. When I look at my track scheduling database, I have 10-30 special event dates for nearly every Friday, Saturday and Sunday I want to trackchase. That means I can only see 1-2 tracks on each of those dates and all of the remaining tracks must be delayed over until a future weekend, a future month or a future year. There are only so many future weekends, future months and future years in any trackchasers schedule.
In my last Trackchaser Report, I made some comments on the future of trackchasing and the impact of temporary tracks on the hobby. Readers can access this information by going to www.ranlayracing.com and clicking on the Trackchaser Reports tabs. Then click on track #1,255. I will offer this disclaimer. Dont go to this website if you think you will be offended in any way whatsoever by any comments that might appear there.
Im assuming the above disclaimer keeps me from running the risk of ever being put on probation in this forum, right Andy? :)
Albertas #1 Trackchaser
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