Dirt Late Model Dilemma—Part I of II

The top two dirt late model touring series—the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series—continue to consistently pack grandstands and fill the pits with full fields wherever they go. This is great news. It proves that if you put on tight, action-packed show; with colorful, personable, and accessible racers; and successfully promote it to your target audience (i.e. beyond Facebook), it will be a success. However, where does dirt late model racing go from here?

Some feel dirt late model racing has reached a crossroads. Should it continue its trajectory of growth? Or has the sport reached its sweet spot? The argument for the latter may be more convincing.

With capacity crowds, many tracks would struggle to accommodate more fans—and not necessarily because they need more places for people to sit. They would also have to increase the number of concession stands, build more restrooms, hire additional staff members, and, perhaps the toughest part, add parking. This requires serious investment. The kind that you hope pays you back … down the road … like several years down the road. Experience a rainout or two with those major touring events and it may just bankrupt a track that barely makes ends meet without these big shows.

Adding capacity does not necessarily equate to increasing profit. Doing so waters down the price you can charge. Economics lesson of the day: less supply + more demand = higher prices. It’s why several sports have decreased how many people their stadiums hold. (Note: NASCAR tracks took out grandstands for other reasons—continue reading.)

Plus, if you build more stands, what if you don’t fill them? Case in point, Bristol. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races there still attract more attendees than most dirt events, but in that cavernous arena, the crowds look anemic. Yet, a packed dirt track that holds no more than a couple thousand looks quite impressive. For many, perception is reality, and that holds especially true in the promoting business.