Commentary: We Miss Open Haulers More Than We Realize
Ah….the romantics. They’re what help make the dirt racing world so cherished among fans. You see part of the thing we have in common, all of us in dirt nation (fans, drivers etc) is the bank of amazing dirt track memories we’ve collected over the years. They linger so vividly in our minds, and make an imprint on our consciousness.
So for a few minutes, please allow me to expound on one of mine…
|From Mark Elsie|
You see back when I was young (shortly after electricity made it’s wonderful debut), I couldn’t have been more than about three or four years old, I’d probably been to the track younger but have no recollection, there were open haulers. Anyhow, on any given Saturday night during the season in the southern tier of upstate NY, right between three to five pm, if you happened to be riding around with your folks, you almost always saw something that piqued your interest. A beautiful looking race car being towed to the track. And when I saw one, I simply drove my folks nuts! “Race car!” I would say with a rising voice while I pointed hoping my parents would get the hint. And not every night, it’s good for a kid not to get everything they ask for, but on some nights, my father would turn around and say “wanna go bud?”
I’ve been addicted to the sport ever since….
Open haulers were wonderful, they gave glimpses as to who was going where, especially when you followed them all the way to the track, and showed off the handiwork of the builder. They could be parked in front of gas stations, and customers would ask where it raced and who drove. You’d see them going up and down all the two lane roads on the way to the track and knew that it was race night as you went wild with anticipation. And they were also free marketing.
|Aaron Clay Photo|
They served as a reminder to people in the community that racing was alive and well, and that the sport was nearby. There wasn’t much to them. Just a car and a tire rack, and some tools, and they brought people to the track. People that might not have thought about going otherwise, people that had never been before, and those people became fans and came back years afterwards. I’m not saying that they were more important than they were, but their importance at the time shouldn’t be forgotten either.
Their time has come and gone for the most part. They’ve dwindled in numbers to the point that a handful of drivers use them and they have their reasons. They’ll not be making any comebacks in the near future either. We’ll remember them fondly, those of us that saw them in their heyday. But as their decline continues, ask yourselves a question.
|From Mark Elsie|
Other than the sign at the entrance fan and driver entrances, is there anything about your community that points to a dirt racing facility being anywhere in the vicinity? And yes, we’ve seen the late model in the sky above the Wythe Raceway (VA) entrance road. I’m not saying that we should litter the highways with a million billboards saying “Racing Here Every Saturday Night”. But there should be something in our communities that says to the public that racing still exists here! Maybe have them on display in more community parades perhaps, something to bring the car into the public eye where people can get curious about them and fans can start being created. Otherwise, it’s a road full of non descript white haulers and toters that could be going anywhere, containing anything, maybe even landscaping equipment.
Want to know the one of the best parts about open haulers, when drivers stopped to get gas or at a restaurant, you could get out of your car and talk with them, get to know them, then root for them at the track, and that was a great thing. Because even though dirt racing is a relatively small niche sport with very few visible public figures and drivers that few have heard of, to the 7 year old shaking hands at the gas station, that driver is a superstar. The day of the open hauler is behind us sadly, but we still need to replace the great attention they brought to the sport.
I may be young and never gotten to see them in their heyday, but I was still that same little kid you where. Now that I'm older I'm on a team at thathe little track and we use an open trailer. It's nice to see those kids come up and ask you questions about the car.
I remember well the open trailers on the road going to the track. It always was a point of interest when seeing one on the highway. It occurs to me that one thing that could be done to increase fan awareness/interest is to add a graphic to the trailers depicting the race car inside (or even a generic car of that type). Most haulers I'm familiar with may have the team name, drivers name, car number, but nothing else that really identifies what is in the trailer! This is true all the way from the top down. I know there is an expense involved, and I realize that many local teams don't even put their names on the trailer, but it might help generate fan interest.