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Covering the local race track

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by FuturaBold, Mar 22, 2010.

  1. FuturaBold

    FuturaBold Member

    Hey, I'm a one-man sports band for a couple of community papers, doing lots of preps and youth sports ... we've got a local dirt race track that a group is trying to revive. Apparently it was pretty popular in the good ol' days ... just fishing for some ideas and creative ways to cover happenings at the track in this day of small newspapers staffs and small budgets ...

    I thought maybe a weekly driver profile w/ pic (in the mode of sporting news today's daily profile) might be a good addition to race results/standings ... maybe some advances for the more important races ... any other ideas? Thanks...
  2. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    If you do the profiles, I would keep them bright and maybe in a format -- with categories like what their day job is, biggest accomplishment, maybe something like fastest they've gone.

    If you are counting on weekly features from drivers at a track that hasn't opened yet, that may be tough.

    But for the start, maybe you could do a story on what it costs to run at that level -- the tires, engines, etc. ...
  3. rpmmutant

    rpmmutant Member

    I have covered local race tracks since my first job as a sportswriter 20 years ago. Writing stories on drivers is a good start, but they can become formulatic and tired after a few. Writing stories on the cost of racing gets old real quick too. Everyone will complain that it's too expensive and they can't find any sponsors.
    Here are some other ideas:
    1. If it's a revival movement, find out who's behind it: old drivers, track promoters, engine builders, rich businessmen or women who love racing. It might be interesting to find out who's backing it and how much they are spending to bring racing back.
    2. Find out about the different types of cars that will be racing. The cars are almost as, and sometimes more, interesting than the drivers. There is a class of cars at one track I cover that uses old 1960-to-early-1970 type cars. They use the paint schemes of their favorite NASCAR drivers from that era as well. It's interesting to see who they pick and the type of cars they race.
    3. Look for alliances. There is one guy at the track I cover who puts together a four-driver team every year. He has one car and looks for three young (and well-financed) drivers to put in the other three cars. His cars are some of the best at the track and even though talent isn't the only deciding factor in who gets a seat on his team, his drivers have good cars for the season. Every year, he blows it up and starts from scratch with three new drivers.
    4. Look for father-son teams, and the more interesting, father-daughter teams. In all the years I have covered auto racing I have yet to find a mother-daughter team, but I'm sure there's a few out there. Women have been racing for a long time now.
    Just a few ideas. Hope that helps.
  4. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Once they get it fired up, maybe the track announcer will be a good story, or the guy who helps run the show, or the guy who preps the dirt (not always an easy task). Like rpm said, there's a zillion stories past drivers.
  5. thestatman

    thestatman Member

    Another good idea once the season gets underway would be to look at each car and see if there are any special decals. Ran across a story about a father-son duo who were racing on a date that happened to fall on what would have been the father's oldest son's birthday.

    It turned out to be my best story from the racing season. The father went into incredible detail about the night he found his oldest son dead on the side of the road after a car accident. The younger son, who won the most races in the division at the track, didn't really have much to say in between the tears when he tried to talk about it. And these guys race in one of the smaller divisions at the track.

    Don't be afraid to ask the drivers what those decals mean. These guys are some of the nicest people you'll meet and are open and honest when you ask them a question. And talk to some of the divisions that don't get as much notoriety from the PA guy and the track advertising. Some of the best stories are found there.
  6. KG

    KG Active Member

    I was doing a story at a dirt track once and noticed a car with the names of the pit crew on the right side door. The driver/car owner was introducing me to the crew in order that their names appeared on the door. When he came to the last one, he introduced me to his three year old granddaughter, the official flashlight holder.
  7. murphyc

    murphyc Well-Known Member

    Auto racing is my favorite sport, and local racing is my favorite form. There's a pureness, an honesty at the local level that often gets lost as you move up the racing food chain. At every local track I've been to, there have been people helping each other. Obviously not everyone helps everyone all the time because it's the real world, and you have people you don't like.
    If a group is bringing a track back, find out who some of the drivers are who raced for years and have them talk about racing being back. I don't know how long the track was out of commission, but maybe there's a young racer who is trying to replicate the success of his seven-time track champion father. Maybe there's a racer making his first start since a serious racing crash. Find out who some oldtimers are, and chat them up for some information. Same with track owner/announcer/reporter/photographer, whoever you can find.
    By and large, local racers are great people who will be thrilled by the attention. I can't tell you how many times I've interviewed a racer for the first time and he tells family, "I'm gonna be in the PAPER!"
    Family stories are always good. At the first local track I covered, one of the top racers came 2+ hours every Saturday with his elderly mom and dad. They loaded up their 1976 Chevy pick-up towing their Modified on an old school open trailer. When he won a track title, nearly every crew came over to congratulate the whole family. The father was so proud, and the whole family was so humble. The story told itself.
    Also, keep an eye out for rivalries since they can often be good stories. One year, these two families got into a weekly pissing match. Claimed engines back and forth, wild accusations, etc. They had no problems opening up to me, putting down the other side. One week Driver A's father used some expletives to describe Driver B's father. The next week, Driver B's father sees me at the fair and comes over. I knew he read my paper, and figured I was going to get an earful because I used quotes with foul language. So I asked if he was upset. The response? "Hell no! It's about damn time everyone knows I'm an A-HOLE!"
    Oh, and don't come across as being better than anyone. You'll meet people with missing teeth, greasy shirts and dirty cars. Get used to it.
  8. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    Oh, and don't come across as being better than anyone. You'll meet people with missing teeth, greasy shirts and dirty cars. Get used to it.

    You think there will be other sportswriters covering the track?

  9. baron davis beard

    baron davis beard New Member

    Perhaps something on safety. The track I cover has a safety team with equipment donated from surrounding fire departments. You hit on that, along with any type of safety equipment the drivers use.

    I also did stories on a Sprint car driver who is 6-foot-5 (pretty tall to squeeze into a car), how hot racing suits get in the summer, along with the general driver profiles. So just keep your eyes and ears open for different angles.
  10. fishhack2009

    fishhack2009 Active Member

    All of these ideas are great. Anytime we can do something off the beaten track, it's always a good thing. There are plenty of folks who make racing work. Driver stories are good ... but I love finding the fun stuff behind the scenes.
  11. spikechiquet

    spikechiquet Well-Known Member

    We cover Kart in the summer. Really just started to do more with it last year...the hard part is getting results...so features are a much better use of your 40 (or 37.5 or 35) hours a week.
  12. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    Get a good driver to walk with you around the track and point out different things about the track he knows about, like the high groove is good in Two but too slick in Three so you have to drop down if possible.
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