PHOTO: We love four-cylinder race cars, even if we don’t write about them all the time. (Alan Ward photo)
-by Justin St. Louis
Warning: I’ve got my dander up a little this week. Sorry in advance.
Vermont Motorsports Magazine’s writers are not “scoreboard watchers.” We are not at the race track simply to cover the top division and get out. The big story at the track is the big story at VMM. But, wonder of wonders, it turns out that ninety-five percent of the time the big story is… (drum roll, please)… the HEADLINE division!
Who woulda guessed, right?
In the instance that there’s a big wreck or controversy or an especially great race in an entry-level class, we’ll give them top billing or at least some expanded coverage in our race reports. We had a feature story on Josh Sunn’s amazing 31-win Mini Stock season last year, and just last week gave some ink to the Street Stock battle between Tommy “Thunder” Smith and Al Maynard. For that matter, Sunn was one of only nine drivers in the entire state that was nominated for the 2010 VMM Driver of the Year Award.
But honestly, how many times have you been speaking about the races with your buddies, and the first question someone asks is “Hey, who finished sixth in the third Bomber heat the other night?”
As you read this rant, please keep in mind that it’s coming from a guy who drove in four-cylinder divisions for five years, who knows that the best factory-stock front springs to run in a 2.3-liter, Fox-platform Mustang on a short track come out of the mid-‘80s V8 Mustang convertible, and who enjoys watching something about every division at every track.
I love four-cylinder race cars. I really do. I love the people that pour their money and sweat into them, and I understand everything they go through when they wreck on Thursday, blow up on Saturday, and have to figure out how they’re going to be able to take the day off from work to fix the car and race the fourth of July special on Monday, because I’ve done it, too. So have T.J. Ingerson, Shawn Sicard, and Alex Whitcomb, all of whom have been on staff here at one point or another.
But we also have a job to do here.
VMM tries to give adequate and responsible coverage to everyone, but, believe it or not, this website is a business that has needs and requirements that must be met. According to our website stats and other forms of feedback, our clientele — you, the readers — primarily come to VMM to find out who won Late Model or Modified races around the region, so that’s what we focus our coverage on. That’s why those classes are known as “headline” divisions throughout the industry. What we give to entry-level divisions is not “lip service” coverage as someone recently called it, it is what is asked — demanded, even — of us and every other media outlet that covers auto racing.
As it is now, VMM gives as much or more entry-level coverage than 90% of other media — including race tracks themselves. That’s not at all to suggest that other media are doing a bad job or that VMM deserves some kind of award, either, we just do it. Not everyone gets a feature story. As much as we would love to do that, it’s impractical. We do our best to at least mention the entry-level stuff, though.
Need an example? Scroll down and thumb through the 995-word (yup, 995) “results” section of this very column. Joe Rogers is one of four or five Vermonters that races regularly at Monadnock Speedway — in a Mini Stock, no less — and we dig and sift through a pile of finishes to give him his due every week. And who else in the region reports on four-cylinder youth division racers from Vermont? Anyone? Anyone? For that matter, did anyone else even report that the top Vermonter in the Modified race at Airborne last week was Vince Quenneville… in 15th? Did anyone else care to look? We did, we do, and we will.
But racers, if you want more coverage of four-cylinder racing, either have a compelling personal story, win ten races in a row and catch the media’s attention, or have a spectacular crash.
That, or front the money for us to build and justify operating www.MiniStockNation.com.
I won three features in my driving career, garnering me a grand total of three sentences in the local newspaper. Why? Because I was an entry-level driver and those particular 15-lap races were boring as hell.
A photo of one of my wrecks, though, made the front page of the Times Argus, and the Burlington Free Press wrote a full paragraph about it. The winner’s name was also printed in a one-line “oh, by the way” mention. Why? Because it was spectacular and it was a big story.
Look, I could go on forever about this and I mean no disrespect to anyone at all, but the fact is that people want to know what Brian Hoar and Patrick Dupree and Adam Pierson are saying a lot more often than whether or not Jim-Bob Warrior Driver should go with 35 pounds of air in his right-front tire or 35-and-a-quarter.
Entry-level race cars = Entry-level coverage.
I’m sorry. I love you all. I really do. But please understand that that’s the way it is.