One of the things I hear a lot about from drivers is the weekly purse and how much tracks pay. So I put out a Facebook poll asking the question — would drivers rather race for more money to win the feature or have balanced pay throughout the field for weekly shows.
There were 51 votes, and 41 said they’d rather see a more balanced purse throughout the field rather than running for more to win. So that is a landslide. That doesn’t mean the other side doesn’t have some merit but it’s clear what most racing people think.
I will say right away that if you are looking to make big money in weekly racing you won’t be ever be satisfied. To me looking at things as a fan racing is about competition on the track, camaraderie and having fun and not how much money you take home. You won’t get rich doing this unless you are a touring pro like Donny Schatz, for example.
That being said, it is important for dirt tracks to remember the budget racer who is loyal to your racetrack when determining the weekly payout just because it Those drivers may not win as much or even run towards the front — but they pay the same entry fees as the drivers who win. They spend money weekly on their cars like anyone else and for some, making it week to week to a racetrack is tough financially. I totally get that as well.
This is what inspired the poll question — Fairbury American Legion Speedway in Illinois made an announcement on its Facebook page recently that it will pay $2,500 to win the DIRTcar Late Models and $1,500 to win the UMP Modifieds on a weekly basis. The late models will get $300 to start the feature while the modifieds will get $175. That is a dang good weekly purse. Ticket prices will stay the same — $10 general admission at the gate and $25 for pit entrance fee. I sent an email asking if a sponsor was putting this money up for this increased purse or if there was any driver fees that needed to be paid. I didn’t get a response but from what the article says it doesn’t sound like the drivers would have to pay more to race there. The 1/4-mile track has a seating capacity of 4,500 people and maybe it draws big crowds weekly, not sure.
I think the focus a lot locally is on how much tracks pay to win weekly but maybe it should be on the overall purse. If you see events advertised then it usually is how much a race is to win (and sometimes how much it is to start) but you don’t always see the purse in between. If you pay $500 to win mods but like $250 for second I wouldn’t consider that a good purse.
So it begs the question — if a sponsor offered to add $1,000 to a weekly purse on a given night — where should the money go? Let’s use the modifieds as an example. Would drivers rather run for $1,500 to win the feature with the chance to win bigger money, or would they rather have that $1,000 spread through say, the top five places? Or top 10? If you spread it through the top 10 each driver would get an extra $100, is that worth it?
I also have heard from some drivers who say that some tracks don’t pay well enough to win so they don’t race there. Those are some questions promoters have to answer and it isn’t easy. Not everyone will be happy.
If you pay $600 to win the mods and pay $300 for second and maybe $150 for fifth (purely hypothetical) I don’t know if that goes over well. If you paid $500 to win, $400 for second and balanced out the purse better, that seems to be a better route.
That being said, I also see the argument of racing for bigger money weekly to win. Drivers who win would like to see the reward of doing so besides getting a trophy. It’s nice to get $500-600 to win a modified feature, for example.
I should also add that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for big money races during the year either but those are usually special events. Justin Vogel, for example won a big street stock race at Southwest Speedway in Dickinson that paid $2,465. A great payday. Kyle Dykhoff picked up a big check for winning the Brad Wall Memorial Street Stock race in July at Red River Co-op Speedway in Winnipeg. I think special events have a place at area tracks and I’d hate to see them go away. But those events are maybe 2-3 out of a season at a racetrack, the rest are regular, weekly shows with a regular purse.
It’s an interesting discussion point and I am guessing you’d get a lot of different answers from drivers and promoters.
It also makes me think of another question — should tracks to point funds for their seasons? that’s another blog.