WALTZ: Let’s Not Forget Older Fans

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Keith Waltz
Keith Waltz.

HARRISBURG, N.C. — Promoters, don’t forget about us.

By us, I’m referring to a rather significant group of race fans on the backside of the baby-boom generation who have not jumped on the social media bandwagon.

There are many of us who still get our information from sources millennials consider archaic, but which we believe have served us well for many, many years.

I’ll admit it — I still use a flip-phone, I don’t text and I’ve never taken a selfie. I rely on my laptop for email, visiting websites, following friends on Facebook and checking out an occasional old racing video on YouTube.

But for me, there’s no Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr, Reddit or any other social media platform. All of those are as foreign to me as rear-engine cars were to American race fans in 1963.

I’m part of a demographic that is either recently retired or can see that rapidly approaching life milestone not too far off the horizon. Many of the people in my age group have more disposable income than in years past and some have considerably more time on their hands to do things they enjoy — like going to races.

As more and more race tracks, both large and small, focus on delivering their message solely via social media, a significant number of older people — me included — are being left in an information vacuum.

This point became very clear following NASCAR’s announcement concerning its revamped Cup Series schedule for the 2020 season. While talking with a colleague the following day, I noted a lack of major media coverage concerning the sweeping changes.

The colleague, who has promoted major NASCAR events for more than 20 years, responded, “But it lit up social media.”

As an entertainment industry, motorsports is at a crossroads. It is extremely important to communicate with a younger demographic and cultivate a new generation to fill the grandstands for years to come.

Obviously, the best way to reach this audience is through social media.

At the same time, there is constant conversation about the “graying” of the sport, which leaves me to believe members of my generation are still buying a considerable number of tickets across the motorsports spectrum.

It’s extremely beneficial for promoters to communicate with this segment of their audience, and it’s even more important to realize a considerable number of those fans will never see a schedule update on Twitter or a photo of last week’s late model feature winner on Instagram.

The time will eventually come when all promotional aspects of motorsports will be done through social media — or the next great communications platform that has yet to be unveiled — but until then, don’t forget about us.

– As someone who has spent multiple summers baling hay in the sun-drenched fields of southern Indiana, I can confirm it’s just as hot and humid in July as it is in August. That’s why the Fourth of July weekend date for the 2020 edition of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway makes absolutely no sense.

For years, IMS officials pointed to the August heat and humidity as a primary reason for wanting to move the NASCAR Cup Series event to a more accommodating time of year. They finally got their wish in 2018 when the race was shifted to September. However, next year it’s back into the frying pan.

– One of my most vivid memories occurred 50 years ago this month during the Little 500 at Indiana’s Anderson Speedway.

Sitting in the grandstands, I was only nine years old when the car my father was fueling — the No. 89 Jack Cookson sprint car driven by Leon Thickstun — caught fire during a pit stop. It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life.

Fortunately, my father was not seriously injured. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he was treated for burns to both arms and was back at the track soon after Buzz Gregory took the checkered flag.

It’s interesting to note that I’ve been extremely afraid of fire ever since that incident.