INDIANAPOLIS — “Rain, rain go away; I want to race today,” has been a redundant phrase I have used throughout April and early May.
With saturated forecasts plaguing races in unusually high numbers, (I say this every year, but it’s especially true this spring), it’s difficult not to have some feelings of disappointment and frustration.
April 8 at Anderson Speedway: Raced
April 16 at Terre Haute Action Track: Postponed to May 7
April 23 at Indianapolis Raceway Park: Postponed to May 26
May 7 at Terre Haute Action Track: Postponed (AGAIN!)
The number of races canceled and/or postponed due to weather is not only subjective to my schedule. Many other series, divisions and race tracks across the country have been dealt the same, or a similar, set of cards. It seems to be never-ending.
As we all know, no one can control Mother Nature, and that is an unfortunate dependency of our sport. But it got me thinking about how race cancellations can impact the pit area from a business-economics standpoint.
Since taking ownership of my team, my involvement and responsibilities have expanded far beyond just being a driver. Specifically, I oversee and manage the cash flow – one of the many items that contribute to the effectiveness and efficiency of the operation.
With that said, and strictly based on my own observations and perspective, a lot of race team funding comes from personal investment, family money, rental-ride income and/or sponsorship. In this day and age, it would be difficult to say team owners racing within select series are in motorsports to make money, outside of the potential networking and marketing opportunities available that are subject to the line of work in which they may be involved.
They do it because they love it … and because it may or may not be a tax write-off for some.
The cars, engines, trailer, tow vehicle, parts, pit cart and racing machinery are assets to owners and have vastly appreciated to a certain extent recently to where owners may be able to experience a return on investment when sold. The reoccurring retrospective costs are what make budgeting a melancholy experience.
In some regard, it can be considered a good year if a majority of the sunk costs like paying for fuel, tires and labor can be covered by the retained percentage of a team’s collective winnings. Purse money, for some divisions, has not kept up with the gradual rise in costs of the sport and, as of late, the hyper-inflated market.
But payouts still matter to some teams in order to contribute to and aid the overall expenditures, which tend to add up quickly.
On the other hand, drivers who race for a living and rely on their purse payout and at-track merchandise sales to live are handed a similar, yet different set of circumstances. They need to race in order to pay for food, living expenses, gas/fuel, etc.
For some, if they can’t race and bring home a check, providing for themselves and/or their family may be difficult until they can get back on track.
So, when races are canceled like they have been this spring, it is a financial hinderance for a lot of people involved with those particular events, whether it be the teams, drivers, track owners, promoters, sanctioning bodies or vendors, to name a few.
Most likely, teams already bought fuel and tires that they can’t recover for until they race again; drivers are unable to make their wage money; and track owners/promoters are not able to recoup money spent on marketing the race, concession stand food that may have to be wasted, labor costs to prep the track and/or to clean up the grounds leading up to the event, etc.
Racing, like anything else in life, is a gamble, but with great risk often comes great reward. I also find it important to hold on to what you can control and let go of what you cannot. Unfortunately, the weather is not an element in anyone’s wheelhouse.
As the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers,” meaning that even after long periods of adversity, good times will follow. In the same regard, hopefully, April showers will bring plenty of racing in May and June. Perhaps that’s what makes racing so special during the month of May, specifically throughout the state of Indiana.
Our upcoming schedule began May 19-20 at the Belleville High Banks and included the Carb Night Classic, the Little 500 and a June 10 sprint car event at Berlin Raceway in Michigan.
I’m also looking forward to a Women in Racing event at the Automotive Hall of Fame.
See you at the races.
This story appeared in the May 24, 2023 edition of the SPEED SPORT Insider.