RENO, NV (Dec. 1) – After a two-year absence the RPM Workshop returned to its traditional home, the Eldorado Hotel and Casino in Reno. Two years ago, for a variety of reasons the workshop left for Las Vegas but now its back and this is the 45th edition.
The was a full two days and began Wednesday evening with registration and a light buffet dinner in the casino. Networking and interaction between promoters, both veteran and new is the goal of these meetings.
This time the Work Shop was dedicated to former Promoter of the Year and long time workshop supporter, the late Tom Curley.
Kicking things off Thursday morning was Stewart Doty, the editor/publisher of Racing Promotion Monthly. The publication is the trade magazine for the short track industry.
Setting the theme early he said, “What this is about is networking, speakers sharing ideas and we have 48 hours to get ideas. So be sure to meet people.”
Next up was Rick Murdock, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Eldorado. He welcomed those in attendance and encouraged them to have a good time an enjoy what was available.
After honoring two long time sponsors of the Workshops, K&K Insurance and Hoosier Racing Tires, it was time for the first keynote speaker.
Mike Lysakowski from Jennerstown Speedway spoke about marketing to the “thick slice,” or Know Your Audience.
Using a circle graph he illustrated how race fans are only a thin slice while most, who might not even know anything about racing, make up the thick slice.
“Racecars are exciting and we need to market and advertise that,” he said.
He also cautioned promoters the with so much advertising most people just tune it out when they hear a term they don’t understand.
“Don’t use our jargon or just show victory lane photos but use exciting pictures of the cars,” he said. “There are millions eager to learn the story that short tracks tell.”
So rather than talk about the size of an engine or even types of classes he suggested the best method was to show the excitement that happens in racing and focus on that.
He also suggested that tracks should begin to utilize travel guides as one source of new customers. And he emphasized that promoters need to know their audience.
Next up Dan Robinson, the 41st Promoter of the Year, who helps run Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri. His topic was the challenges of transforming what used to be an oval track with weekly races to a multi-purpose racing facility.
Now the facility has a small lake for drag boat racing, an off road racing track, another for Outlaw Karts while the oval hosts both that type of short track racing as well as tractor pulls. This allows a varied menu of events during the season.
When the afternoon session began the speaker was Chris Blair from Gateway Motorsports Park, who explained how he managed to bring back the NASCAR Camping World Truck series and the Indy Car series to the facility.
His talk used examples of how a major car dealer helped with the promotion as well as cutting costs for the facility’s advertising costs. He also explained what he did to ramp up the attendance by using discounts for groups like veterans and made suggestions that other promoters can us..
It ended by him saying the work to make next year’s Indy Car race even better was well underway.
Every Work Shop has a group of exhibitors that service the short track industry. They vary from insurance companies, radios, graphics and things tracks can buy and sell to their fans.
One exhibitor was John Stiles with American Electronics Inc. and he was selling or arranging maintenance for Freedom Radios. This firm is another long time supporter of the Work Shops.
“This is about 26 or 27 that we’ve been here so we’re pretty much an old timer at the RPM Work Shops,” he said.
Over the years with older promoters either passing away or retiring as well as tracks closing the company has faced a changing market. Even then the company’s equipment is still going and being used.
“In most cases they inherited radios from the previous owner and fortunately our radios have lasted a long time. In many cases some of the people have had six mobile phones in the period of time they’ve owned our radios they work at their track. Most of our activities are maintaining the equipment that’s been out there for a long time,” he said. “So dependability, durability and the noise canceling characteristics of the headsets are all important in our industry. And that’s what we’ve offered people for years, it works well and it’s kept those radios and headsets in their hands in some cases for as many as 25 years.”
Insurance is another big item for short tracks and there are a few companies that specialize in that field. One of them is SIS Sports Insurance Specialists and their representative Andrew Klaus was manning that booth.
“We’re just here to continue to support the racing community, see old friends, talk to clients,” he said. “For the promoters we help insure the racing event itself but we also insure down to the individual drivers, the crewmen, things like that,”One product he sells is MSI Guaranteed Weather, insurance designed to protect a track in case an event gets rained out.”We have products that protect the promoter in the event of bad weather. Event cancellation is always an issue so we have some products that people can buy into in case that if they have a financial loss in that event we can go in and protect them,” he said.
It used to be that all scoring was done by hand. But now with transponder systems, even though a hand system is used for back up, scoring uses transponders to keep track of the order and where drivers finish. This allows results to be posted quicker for use on a track’s website or one that shows results
My Laps Scoring Timing does just that is used by several tracks in this region. Visiting their booth was Brandi Simmons-Coclich, who posts the results from Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon, Nevada.
Explaining the latest things with the system was Balton Aulls who manned the exhibit.
“I’ve been coming myself since 2001 and I believe My Laps, formally known as A&B was coming before then,” he said. “It’s always been great for us, it keeps us in touch with the oval racing community. It serves two purposes, one to keep a connection with our current customer base but also we pick up new business out here that don’t have timing systems.”
Each day the Workshop has an hour set aside for attendees to visit the exhibitors. During this time the big room was split in half for concurrent sessions.
These sessions cover a wide variety of subjects like preparing a dirt track, how to live with Facebook Live, having a Mobile Responsive Website to Emergency Response Planning.
After the meeting is adjourned everyone is encouraged to get together, have dinner, exchange ideas and get ready for Friday’s session.
The second day began with former Promoter of the Year Joe Doellefeld, along time attendee and now retired promoter for the former Spanaway Speedway.
In a rambling presentation he explained how he got into the business and ran it for a long time. Then he gave some tips to promoters about being ready for change as well as changing things up during a season.
He feels changing the look of a place in the spectator area helps customers coming back as they don’t always see the same things every time.
Finally he mentioned how he went to college to learn promotions. For him college was many, many RPM Workshops and he ended by showing all the passes he had collected over the years.
Next up was a legal session where lawyers discussed some cases and took questions.
After lunch there were some games followed by another exhibitor appreciation hour while the roundtables were set up.
Locally Dan Simpson from Fernley 95A Speedway was really the only track promoter on hand. However Nevada Pro Stock Association had three women in attendance.
They were Samantha Rauscher, Gina Gonzalez and Kari Gonzalez. All got a wealth of information they’ll use in the up coming season.
Finally Stewart Doty had some comments about how he felt the Workshop went.
“Well it’s the Eldorado, you couldn’t be in a better property and it’s a great staff. They knew who we are and what we did from before so it was seamless,” he said.
He added that it’s not like before when it was much less expensive to fly as costs are rising all over the country. Not to mention the effect the economy’s effect on the industry.
“And then there is the Internet, Chat Groups, Webinars and White Papers and all that stuff. There’s a lot of people that don’t believe in coming to conventions any more,” he said “So when you combine all those things we’re down to a core group of really enthusiastic people that do a lot of business and they enjoy their time here.”
Then he turned his attention to the future of motorsports.
“Well you look at NASCAR and the challenges they face. Right now the hot property in motorsports is probably Indy Car racing as its multi cultural, its international and its very much plugged into high technology,” he said. “Oval racing is very much different, its traditional American technology and things like that. The Baby Boom generation is moving away to assisted living, that’s effecting attendance, it’s effecting entrant numbers and all those things are affecting short track operators.”
He feels the challenge is to find a way to, “…sell a sport that is unfamiliar to the digital generation ,,.”
“It’s difficult today to cut through the clutter, reach people and show them their family could have a good time in a place owned by a race promoter. They’re having the same trouble in other sports, I’m involved in other sports, they face all the same family time challenges,” he said.
Looking at the Workshop that concluded last Friday he said, “The important things is, I haven’t done all the real numbers, we’ve brought more people here than we’ve had in four years. We’re better than the last time we were in Reno and we’re better than the last two years down in that town that shall remain nameless, down in Southeastern Nevada. So it’s a positive trend line. I just talked to the hotel and I said, ‘my customers tell me they never want to leave again so you better put together a contract.'”
For further information please check the publication’s website as it will list the locations of the future Workshops. That is www.racingpromotionmonthly.com.
Next up for the RMP Workshop is a one -day meeting on December 6 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway just before the annual PRI show begins. The next one is during Speed Weeks 2018 in Daytona, Florida.
REPORTER’S NOTE: There is a photo gallery at the end of this article.
OTHER RACING NEWS:
• On Tuesday this reporter will be on the Teresa’s Garage Radio show, which runs fro 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. I’m usually on around 2:15 but the show is geared to anyone interesting in about anything automotive.
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