First, let’s look at where it all begins. Auto racing writers and reporters get involved coming from different avenues. Some went to college, received a journalism degree and got assigned to cover NASCAR or a local short track event. While others grew up in the sport and he or she found a position to write stories and press releases for a local racetrack or race team.
This writer’s path started in 1992 working in the concession stands at Madison International Speedway in Oregon, Wisconsin. After two years of flipping burgers and brats, an opportunity came to become part of a pit crew for a driver named Wayne Whitford.
What is someone, who really isn’t knowledgeable about the ins and outs of an engine, doesn’t get how to set up a car and take forever to change a tire, supposed to do on a team? The natural thing is to be in charge of lap times, writing down tire temps, tire pressures and sizes. Our team had a smooth operation when Wayne would come in from being on the track. We were almost like a Cup pit crew; heck we could do all of that within two minutes.
Going to school for a marketing degree came in handy for the team. School projects turned into marketing portfolios, newsletters for sponsors, and writing press releases benefited each side, team and education.
20 years ago, we won the track championship at Madison, a feeling that still feels like it happened yesterday.
After that, the driver and team basically went their own ways and the next thing to come along was to work in the tower as a hand scorer at Madison and Jefferson Speedway. If anyone wants to learn how to focus and multitask, try hand scoring a race on a quarter-mile track.
In 2002, the public relations position opened up at Madison and was encouraged to take over the spot.
If you want to talk about being thrown into the wolves, working for a track that goes into foreclosure at the start of the season is a good way to learn how to work as the go between the promoters and the media.
The track was able to work its way through the season and was sold in 2003. The new owner hired Roy Kenseth to promote the track and Roy asked me to stay on doing the public relation duties.
What kind of luck would a guy have to work under someone during a racing season and see their boss’s son become the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup champion? One could guess that it could be close to winning the lottery.
The opportunities to work with various people within the auto racing industry provides a different perspective than those who come out of college or have their own path to where they are today.
Not many can say they helped work with a series in its infancy to what is now a very successful Midwest racing series.
Not many can say they worked under the tutelage of someone who helped build the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series from the beginning to being a part of the first ever American style stock car race in South Africa.
Not many can say that they worked and learned with someone who has been involved on the television side of auto racing that created their own racing news website because there was a void to fill in the early days of the internet.
From these opportunities, that person has met a lot of people and built rapport and relationships with many in the industry.
It is from working under those people that you learn that those opportunities are an honor and a privilege to be involved in auto racing in any capacity.
Those people have shown this writer that respect comes from all sides.
That respect leads to understanding and appreciating that each promoter has their own way of doing business. While one may scratch their head at a decision made within the sport, it is up to us to be fair and allow them the opportunity to explain why in their own voice, not someone else speaking for them, and allowing both sides equal time.
Someone recently said that short track racing is in a decline. Well, if that is solely based on what someone reads on social media, message boards, and certain individuals, let’s remember that many times negativity gets more attention than positive stories and comments.
For this writer, the job is to share those stories and pass along any news that comes across the desk. To be fair to both sides, and dare I say be transparent with the subjects in the story. A person will respect you more when they know what you are putting in your story, positive or negative. It is a respectful thing to do.
There isn’t a battle between media and those who work at tracks, series, teams, etc. There is more camaraderie than one would guess.
Honestly, both sides are actually on the same page. They would like the coverage and we like to provide that coverage.