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RANDY’S BLOG SEPT 17, 2007

WHY OWN A RACE TRACK?

 

Many times over the past 22 years I have asked myself: What the hell am I doing here?

Running a race track looks like fun until you get one. It’s almost like mission impossible. I have always loved racing of any kind. I have planned for 20 or so years to write a book. It will be named “THE WANA-BE” or maybe “THE RACER”. You see, I am a racer, I race to tie my tennis shoes. Define “RACER” if you can. A racer puts 100% of his effort into everything he does. Some try to say 110% but anything over 100% is a crash. I am a racer but more so I am a wana-be. I have always wanted to be or do so many things and I’ve been blessed enough to get most of them done. My life has been fun and exciting and I still love a challenge of any kind. My worst personal defect is I like to put myself into situations so I can show everyone how smart I am at getting out of it or fixing it. Sort of a Houdini of life. The only difference is Houdini never got into anything unless he knew how he was going to get out of it first. I just jump into things blindly and do my best. I wanted to race motorcycles after my first visit to a track. I can’t explain why, I just wanted to do that and I did not even have a motorcycle. My 20 inch bike with the banana seat did have a grip on the right that would twist like a motorcycle throttle and I provided the engine noise with my lips enough that I was racing or so I thought. My first MC was a M-65 Harley, a little two stroke moped type bike. It lasted 4 days before I blew it up. OK now I’m starting to get off track sort of like chasing rabbits. My story here is what it is really like to own a race track and run races.

I’ll leave the MC days out for now cause it’s a long story of it’s own. I’ll start with car racing. In 1978 I decided I had had enough MC racing. I had been traveling over 50,000 miles every year for 4 years and the road was just getting to me. So, my last pro MC race was on Aug 16, 1978 in Stockton, KS where I had a crash, it was only an easy slide down at about 90 mph in turn one of the half mile track at the county fairgrounds. The problem came as I slide down I slide off the end of the track hiting a fence post and into the hog pens where the prize hogs were. The slide down broke my right collar bone. I had previously broken both the RT and the LT once each in othe races years before so I knew exactly what it was immediately. The other problem I had was it had knocked the breath out of me and I was having trouble getting my wind back as I stared at that prize hog. Anyway that was my last pro race. My wife Tracy was with me and she drove us back home to Amarillo. I had no pain medication, back then I never took anything when I got hurt back then, Luckily I didn’t get hurt very often. I think she hit every bump in that old two lane road on the way home. After hunting around for a job for a couple of months, I got a job and soon we decided to have a baby. Then I went to the races, Labor day 1978 at the Speedbowl, then named, Amarillo Speedway. I saw a for sale sign on my favorite car, The Sid Stout Ford Special, it was driven and owned by Kenny Stidd. A few years earlier it was owned by Jack Moss who lived about 2 miles from my home during my teenage years. Jack had a son about my age and we were buddies for awhile, so I got to see several Sid Stout Specials being built in Jack’s garage. He had to run me off several times cause I bugged him real bad just asking questions like “why are you doing that” “What is that thing for” “How does that thing work” I didn’t even have a driver's license yet but I had been driving cars for several years and I wanted to drive that car just down the road. I was lucky just to sneak into the seat of that race car and when he would see me getting into it, he would make me get out of it. Ok, I’m still after those darn rabbits again. Stidd wanted $6500 for the car, trailer, and all his spare wheels and tires and everything. I though it was a bargain because I had just sold my racing XR-750cc Harley for that exact amount $6500. I thought I was getting a bargain so I bought it but what I did not know was that the car was obsolete and that was why Stidd was quitting because he would have to spend about 15 grand for a new 4 bar Super Modified to win. Now Stidd was a winner and he was used to winning races and winning championships, so if he was going to race he new he had to have some new fast stuff to get the job done. What I did not know did not hurt me for awhile, I was having a great time. The Ford powered car had one of those real special 302 Boss engines and it was still a Chevy eater and very fast for the times but the chassis was out of date and too heavy. I took it to OKC and got a 5th place finish on the half mile track and thought I was going to be A.J. Foyt from Amarillo. Well, it took me about half of a season to see that I had a knife and we were having a gun fight every Sat night but I was having fun anyway for awhile. I won one feature and was rookie of the year in 1979. In 1980 I blew it up 3 times in 5 weeks and went broke and had to park the hot rod. But I said I’LL BE BACK. It took me until 1983 to make enough money to go racing again. I got into the building business and I built 40 houses in 1982, 1983, and 1984. I thought I was going to be Donald Trump, although I had never heard of him back then. So, I go and buy a brand new NANCE chassis that cost me 17 grand plus a Carroll Caudle engine that cost me another 15 grand and I was ready. My first racing plan after getting it all together in Aug 1983 was to go to OKC and Tulsa and run the N.C.R.A. series. The only problem was they ran most of the series races on Sunday nights. I was able to run in the top 120 usually 7th to 10th place but The Sunday night deal was real bad for my building business because you need to plan the whole week with your sub-contractors on Sun night and by the time I talked to them on Monday, they had their week planned and I was lucky to get them on my job site by Friday. I got so busy having fun racing one of my houses had the 6 month construction note come due before I could get the house finished. So, for 1984 I decided I would have to race at home on Sat night and take cars of my business. I had just started on a group of house with plans to build 20 homes that summer. I was very unhappy with the home track’s organization and did not really want to race at home. So, I programmed myself to just go race, win the championship, take what ever they paid me and without counting it just shove it into my pocket and be happy. I did just that and I won over half of the races that year and won the championship by double the points of second place. You know second is just the first loser and nobody remembers who got second. I can’t even remember who was second that year. At the end of the season, I decided that I could not do it anymore. The options were to quit racing or buy the track. Well, we know what I did. DUMBEST THING I EVER DID IN MY LIFE. 1985 was my first year to promote car racing but I had been promoting MC racing since 1979. I had promoted about 70 or 80 MC events and I thought cars or MC what‘s the difference, It’s all racing, boy was I wrong. It’s so different that one of them might as well be a rodeo. Enough rabbits, I’ll get back on the topic.

Owning a race track or running races is a thankless job. It’s damn if you do and damn if you don’t. My objective was to make it FAIR. Boy was I dreaming. I told the drivers that I was going to check their cars and engines. So, about 4 weeks into the season, I knew several were cheating. So, one night after the mains I inspected 7 cars. My rule book at the time said the track could inspect anyone at anytime and that they could protest each other for a $25 fee. All 7 driver sat on top of their hood in the tech area and said they would not tear down unless I paid the protest fee. After I saw that they all 7 were going to refuse the tear down and I was fully prepared to DQ them all, I felt that we needed to prove them illegal so I agreed to pay the fee if they were found legal. Well, I had to pay only one of them. The other 6 were found to have too much cam lift. The rule was the 390/410 lift cam and I put a dial indicator on their push rods and found out exactly what each one was running. 5 of the 7 drivers never came back to race. again They were now known to be cheaters with lots of egg on their face and I wazs hte sorry S.O.B.  But, I said wait a minute that just cost me 3 or 4 hundred dollars a week in revenue that I would no longer be taking in. But I knew it was the right thing to do and stood by my principles. I still to this day have inspected 2 or 3 times as many racer’s cars than any other track that I know of anywhere. It did cause a lot of enemies but if you do the job right you can not worry about being friends with any of the drivers. In fact it’s the ones that you think you are friends with or the ones that you think would not cheat that you end up having the biggest problem with. They would say things like I thought we were friend and then you tear my engine down. I’m here every week and I support the track every week with my pit passes and my family buying tickets and then you tear me down. I would just say you and everyone must run legal I don’t care if you are my brother, you still got to be legal. Well, most of my dissenters over the years were drivers that just flat out got caught cheating and then told lies about how I screwed them. The politics of running races is mission impossible. You have one person in each class that is happy each week, the winner. Some of the losers are so mad that they bitch about the color of the bathrooms doors. It’s mission impossible. You get things all ready for a race, the bathrooms cleaned up the track worked, the weeds cut, everthing you can think of is just right and then a cloud comes up and ruins it all. It’s mission impossible. I worked at it for 6 years losing money every year but no way was I going to give up before I finally got all my class structure and rules the way they needed to be to work well. 1992 and 1993 I had it right and then what happens. My 10 biggest bitchers conned cousin Bill to building a new track. I had suffered through the money losing years. My wife and kids left because of the track. I had to put the track’s corporation through a chapter 11 re-organization bankruptcy and I had to declare chapter 7 bankruptcy on my personal debts after losing all that money. It was hell. I learned a lot each year and I paid dearly for that education just to watch it all go up in smoke when the new track opened up. Oh well that’s life. I still love racing and I still stand for making it fair when nothing in this life is fair. Not love, not war, not racing. But at my track I will always try to make it as fair as I can. You see those 8 or 10 bitchers told cousin Bill their side of the story and He suckered for it. Then, my 10 bitchers became his bitchers and I don’t think any of them are still racing today. It's Mission impossible for Cousin Bill too. I watched Jimmy King from Lubbock try mission impossible too. He built a track for 750 grand and was losing 50 g’s a year until he sold it to Barry for 225 grand. That was a half million dollar loss. I guess I should be happy cause I made back most of the money that I had lost in those first 6 years but if I had a half million to lose I would have lost that much too probably. You see I was putting that 100% into what I was doing. When my wife, Tracy said in 1988 that if I want to stay married I would have to walk away from the track and go get a job. I said, I’m sure going to miss you, but I had no idea how I would miss my kids and not get to be a full time dad and had no authority in their raising. They are both having problems with life in the real world and I so wish I could had more time with them to try to teach them more. I was just too busy with my mission impossible. You see I had thousands of dollars invested, lots of blood, sweat and tears invested and I just don’t give up on things. I fight to the end and most times I have found that how far you get in life is exactly where you quit or give up at anything you try to do. I thought I was out of the promoting business and I had not done a car race in 7 years when last year in the summer time I get this Idea to run races on the holidays when Cousin Bill was closed. It seems that I had no power to just say no. Maybe it’s an addiction. Maybe It’s my calling. Maybe I’m just nuts. I don’t know why I’m still trying to do this thing called RACES. Every now and then I say no, I don’t have to do this and decide to just cancel my planned events and give up. You see I have plans to sub-divide the property into 1 acre plots for trailer homes and that would be the most prudent thing to do. Every time start thinking this, some one will call or someone will say something on the forum that makes me know I’m right where I’m suppose to be. It might be some driver that calls wanting to enter a race and he’ll say stuff like I sure like racing at your track or Some real dumb ass that has no idea what they are talking about will post something on the forum that I have to tell them the straight deal. A lot of the new racers have just learned to race wrong. Like if you get up to the door of a car that you are passing then you take them out if they try to block your pass and it’s ok or put what ever cam in the engine that you want cause they won’t tech inspect it. Most think cheating is ok. Some say cheating ain’t cheating unless you get caught. If you win a race by cheating you have done nothing but if you get out run by a cheater, what are you going to do. You are helpless to protest. So it is just wrong to cheat, it defeats the sport of racing and winning. Anyone who cheats should not be proud of their win. It's like stealing. They just stole it. I’m not sure where we are going with the Speedbowl but I know I can’t physically do it without more help It's just too much work and I'm getting older every year.  I’m not sure how much help I can afford and still make a profit. You see, I will not do it if I lose money at it. I just won’t do that. I would even spend money to fix up the place and run races for 3 to 5 years if I can make it work right. So time will tell just what I decide to do with the old track. Anyway, sorry to make a novel out of this blog but it’s just how it is and I still love racing and a challenge. It’s kind of like racing to put on an event and if it makes money I win , if I break even it’s like running 2nd, if I lose money it’s like spinning out. I just love racing.

You’ll have fun racing and I hope everyone has fun at my races.

Racing Randy the wana-be racer. I’ll always want to be something more and take on the monsters and mountains in the mission impossible.  see ya at the races.