- September 8, 2010 by Sam Holbrooks

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It's finally official, it was a hot summer. My local newspaper printed a story yesterday stating that the summer of 2010 was the eighth hottest summer of all time, or at least as long as they've been keeping records. I'm sure whereever you're from, you know that it was hotter than normal. The heat ruled the days and nights as we huddled in our air conditioned rooms wishing for cooler weather.
The dog days of summer barked out record breaking degrees that kept many fans home surfing the net, hoping to catch the next text message result or video rewind. It's just too easy today to stay home during the hot summer or for that matter, the cold weather, or any uncomfortable weather and not actually go to the races.
The changing landscape of finicky race fans that would much rather hear who won races, or see a video clip, than actually go to the races, is mind boggling to me. The thrill of racing cannot be heard, felt, smelled and experienced without being there. It's hard to even call yourself a real race fan if you don't.
My thoughts on all this probably apply to those races in your own back yard and not necessarily those hundreds of miles away, but do they? What lure does someone have to travel today to big shows and tracks that are long hours away? Not much, if you ask me, if all you care about is knowing who won and can see the sports center highlight minutes after the race. Maybe I'm just too old and cranky, or just not "with it" in today's world. In my opinion, all this "stay at home and get the results" attitude is hurting the sport. Without butts in the bleachers, actually attending races, how much longer do you think there can be racing?
I'm not saying you can go everywhere, or go all the time, but you know what I mean and you know who you are. Racing takes active participation from all of us to survive. You have to sweat a little, get dirty, you might even need some safety glasses and ear plugs, but the net sensation to your psychological soul is what being a race fan is all about.
I never feel old when I'm at the race track, and it never gets old for me to go to races. It's as if racing is my eternal fountain of youth. I've been going since my early teen years and in many ways I still feel this way when I'm heading off to some track somewhere. Back in the day before air conditioning, computers, and cable TV, my world was different, and that old world still influences me today. If you wanted to see something, or do something, you had to go out and do it - experience it!
Growing up down the hill from the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds and Davenport Speedway has left me with lingering impressions that stamped me with who I am. My earliest memories of Friday night racing where those Locust Street sounds that I could hear from my open bedroom window. It was hearing those race car sounds of summer from a mile away that pulled me to investigate what stock car racing was all about. Even on those hottest summer nights with the box fan blowing I could hear those race car sounds. I would even turn the fan off and put my head near the window, wishing I was there.  I would pretend I could hear the announcer and see the race before I drifted off to sleep. Before long I was old enough to go, and then I got my first Chevy, and I was off to the races.
I love to think about the cars and stars of racing that shaped my racing personality. Seeing races and reading about the different tracks fueled my appetite to experience it for myself. I worry about the future of racing in our short track dirt world, only because it's just too easy to stay home and be comfortable. It's too easy to stay cool in the summer, warm in the winter, all while we surf the tube, and the net. The moral of the story is; there are two types of race fans in today's world. There are real fans who go to races on the weekends and virtual race fans who stay home on the weekends, surf the net, get tweets, and watch video clips. Unfortunately, without enough of the real race fans, the virtual race fans will have to move onto Fantasy Football.
My portal to becoming a race fan was not an Ethernet connection to a digitized reality, but an open summer time bedroom window to my dreaming mind. It all became real when I could see it, smell it, and feel it for myself. Turn off the TV and computer this next weekend and open your windows. The sounds of racing are calling you via real messaging. Answer the call, become a real race fan again.
Mike Ruefer


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