You know what really stinks? Knowing that if you drive to a race track in the Midwest right now, it would be empty, like a ghost town. It won’t even look the same. No sights, no sounds, no life. Want to know what stinks even more? Knowing that in the Spring of 2015 many tracks around this nation will still look just like that. Empty ghost towns filled only with memories of the past.
Let’s face it, we’ve seen it coming, and frankly it has already been happening for several years now. It was inevitable. The economy has sucked the life out of so many things. I’m not one to get into political conversations, it is what it is. But unlike stores closing a few locations here and there to regroup and hopefully pull themselves out of an upside down situation, race tracks don’t have that luxury. A short track is just that “a” short track. Closing one location is closing the entire operation. Sure we’ve seen some tracks reopen after a few years, but that is pretty rare, and some say it is really never the same.
Every time I see a picture of tracks like Lake Geneva Raceway or the Minnesota State Fair, I get a knot in my stomach. I don’t know about anyone else, but I still kinda get mad. But it’s not because the track will never come back, I mean, life goes on. But it’s because the track is gone, and that’s still hard to accept for someone like me, who has so many great memories at those places.
There’s a different feeling when I look at old pictures at tracks that have now been torn up. When I look at old pictures from Rockford or Slinger, I know that I can walk into that track, stand there, and visually see the moments in those pictures replayed on the track. But when I look at a picture from Lake Geneva Raceway, I feel a little bit more empty because I know I’ll never be able to go back there, stand at the edge of the track, and watch it take place right in front of me again.
Every race track has its own personality. I get a different feeling for every race track I ever go to. Obviously every race track itself is different, from the configuration, all the way to the grandstands, but I really don’t think that’s what gives the tracks their attitudes. I think it’s us. It’s pretty rare for me to go to a track I’ve never been to these days (well, unless it’s dirt, of course). I get the the same feelings every time I go to a particular track, and they are different for every single one.
I know I’m not the only one. How do I know? Because I love to listen to people talk about their experiences at every track. You may be thinking, “Well, that makes sense. She does write a lot of stories about drivers, etc.” However, I’m gonna be straightforward with y’all right here and now. Even though I’ve been doing it for several years now, when it comes to interviewing for those stories, I’m a wreck. I’m nervous, anxious, my stomach is tied up in knots, I struggle with my words, and I’m just flat uncomfortable.
When I mean listen to people talk about their experiences, I mean people talking with each other. I sometimes just stand or sit there, without them even knowing, just listening. I smile to myself, laugh to myself, shake my head, and many times do all three at the same time. That’s how I know that it’s the people that give each track its own personality, and sometimes I think we are the ones who give it the attitude.
Tracks will close, some will be torn up, and if we’re lucky some will reopen someday. I don’t have the answers about when, why, or how. So I just keep making the most of every single opportunity I have to go to every track I possibly can. I may not be the one there talking about my experiences with a bunch of people, but I can guarantee you might find me listening, smiling, laughing, and shaking my head at other’s experiences. All simply because I already know my own, but hearing other’s makes each track that much more special and unique to me.
I hope we can all make 2015 a year to support our local short tracks. I don’t know about you, but I want less ghost towns and more personality.