As the national anthem comes to an end, track officials signal to the drivers in staging to start their engines. High octane V8s come to life as each driver prepares to roll onto the track. Every driver waited all week for this moment, and now it’s finally here. It’s Friday night and Davenport Speedway is coming to life. It’s time to go racing!
Ever since the invention of the automobile, people have been trying to out-drive each other. That continues to this day, with strong race teams competing in the top classes. From Top-Fuel dragsters, to endurance GT cars, rallycross, and Formula 1, all of these expensive and sophisticated cars have continued to smash lap times at the most historic and prestigious tracks across the world. But, all across the country, local short tracks still open their gates every Friday or Saturday night to everyday people and their home-built race cars, but local tracks still need the support of fans and racers alike to keep the lights lit and the race cars revving.
In every corner of the country, you can find a short track. From dirt to asphalt, many are still open to this day. But there are also a good number that have been rotting for years, even decades. Short tracks have been having a harder and harder time bringing fans to the track. Sadly, people have lost interest over the years or don’t even know that there is a local track. These small town tracks are doing their best to bring back the fans, but they are having a difficult time doing so. More and more tracks are closing their gates for good, shutting out the remaining fans and racers.
As years go by, the crowd I see at Davenport’s track seems to be growing smaller and smaller. The grandstand used to be packed with fans and family who all came to watch and cheer on their favorite drivers. Now only about half of the seats are filled, with that number growing smaller season after season. If the stands become empty, the track might see the same fate. It would become another name on the long list of forgotten race tracks across the country. But, major racing series are trying to keep that from happening. The World of Outlaws late model series has been coming to Davenport in recent years. They have been putting on a great three day show for fans to enjoy, and running events for fans to participate in the hopes of bringing a large crowd to the stands.
Not only are major racing series coming back to the short tracks, but clubs all over the country have been popping up and supporting their local tracks. Most notable are the vintage clubs, which aim to bring back the classic look of short track cars. Clubs in our area include the American Iron Racing Series, which races local dirt and asphalt tracks, with great looking cars with bodies from the 1950s through the 1970s. The Midwest Jalopies run old 1930s and 1940s coupes, bringing back the looks of the first cars to race the dirt. The Nostalgic Stock Car Racing Club is bringing back the racing and style of original late model cars of the 1950s through late 1970s, and even some from the early 1980s. Many more clubs are racing local tracks across the country, bringing great racing for fans wherever they are.
Many race fans don’t want to see their track closed. Local tracks don’t only provide a place for racers to let loose and have fun, they also create memories for the fans. I remember going to watch my father race at Davenport, Tipton, and Maquoketa, and being amazed at all the cars and their drivers. In Maquoketa, after all of the races were over and the cars were loaded up, they would let the fans into the pit area and we could all go check out and meet the drivers. The close connection between fans and athletes is the greatest thing about sports, and racing is no exception.
Stock car racing has a long and great history, just like any other sport. I encourage you to go watch sometime, you might enjoy it. So, go out and watch a race or two at your local track and help support a great motorsport along with its history!