What Happened At The Rockford Speedway? [Expert Review!]

In recent years, the Rockford Speedway has been a hub for motorsport fans, with many famous racing drivers competing in the weekly Thursday night draws. The track has also welcomed touring car stars, IndyCar champion and even a World Champion! It was also the testing grounds for many new racing cars, with over 150 various makes and models being launched there since the facility first opened its doors in 1924. So, being the birthplace of the automotive industry and a hub for motorsport, it is probably no surprise that the Rockford Speedway has seen so much activity over the years.

But what exactly happened at the Rockford Speedway? How did Motorsport in general, and the Thursday night draws in particular, come to an end? And what is the future of motorsport in general, in North America, in particular, and the Rockford Speedway, in particular? Let’s take a trip back in time to explore these questions, and more, in this special article. We will begin by looking at the changing face of motorsport and the decline of weekly racing as we know it.

The Changing Face Of Motorsport

Over the years, motorsport has seen a huge number of changes, many of which have been for the better. Most tracks have switched to all-digital timing as well as digital scoring. This has made a big difference, as we now have much more accurate results, which is great when trying to find out the order of winners. It has also made it much simpler for spectators to keep track of what is going on, as all of the numbers are clearly displayed on large billboards placed around the track. In fact, many tracks have switched to a configuration where the racing is held in the centre of the track, with grandstands placed either side, so that everyone can see what is happening.

Unfortunately, there have also been some changes that haven’t been for the better. Most notably, the number of cars and spectators at motorsport events has declined in recent years. This is largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent global shutdown. It also didn’t help that many tracks, including the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway, didn’t renew their lease for the upcoming year. This left many fans wondering if they would ever see motorsport in person again.

The Decline Of Weekly Racing

The weekly racing at the Rockford Speedway, as well as many other tracks, has been on a downward trend for many years. This is largely due to the increased popularity of touring cars and supercars, which aren’t as dependent on quick turns and high speeds as much as they are on down-right-hooks and proper high-speed cornering. Naturally, this means that they require a lot more work, which many race promoters aren’t willing to give up, especially during a time when they need to be focusing on other areas of their business.

This was made clear in an interview with Motorsport.com, when the topic of declining Thursday night draws was brought up. According to Larry Dickson, owner of the Rockford Speedway and several other tracks across the country:

“It’s hard to say. I mean, [the decline] has been going on for years. Certainly, there are changes that have been made to make it more enjoyable and exciting for the fans. But I think, ultimately, it’s just that people aren’t as interested in watching cars and driving cars as much as they used to be. So, whether it’s the internet or social media or just plain ole’ boredom, I think it puts the nail in the coffin as far as people going to see auto racing.”

In recent years, tracks have tried to combat this trend by holding more events, increasing the number of qualifying sessions and moving them to earlier and earlier in the day, which is great for fans who want to be sure of getting a good spot. Naturally, this has driven up the ticket prices, which has in turn, driven down the number of people who can afford to attend these events. It’s a vicious circle, and it’s one that tracks don’t seem interested in breaking, at least not yet.

Tourism Versus Motorsport

Tourism is one of the largest industries in the United States, contributing billions of dollars to the economy each year. As mentioned, many tracks, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, had to shut down during the pandemic, leaving many fans wondering if they would ever see a race in person again.

It’s been a tough 18 months for tourism, with many venues, including the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway, struggling to figure out ways to bring in revenue during those times when there are no events.

Now that things seem to be returning to some sort of normal, it’s time for racers, fans and venues to figure out a way to have fun and enjoyment again. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to consider sharing some of the revenue, especially since there are likely going to be a lot more empty seats during the pandemic, anyway.

One way to do this would be to explore the idea of holding a virtual race. With technology advancing at such a fast pace, it would be feasible to have a full-blown virtual race, with all of the cars, riders and tracks controlled by programmers, rather than humans. So, while the track may never be the same, as least the experience will be.

There are also other options. For example, fans could purchase a premium package that would give them access to all of the content from a given race, including practice, qualifying, and the race itself.

The Future For The Rockford Speedway

There are several options for the future of the Rockford Speedway, with many people, including Larry Dickson, hoping that things can somehow be salvaged. And while it is quite clear that this place is not built for COVID-19 (or any other sort of virus for that matter), it is also quite clear that it is built for motorsport. So, it would be safe to assume that, eventually, cars, bikes and maybe even some track configurations, could be brought back to the Rockford Speedway.

As it stands, the facility is currently without a tenant for 2021, with many options, including some very reputable ones, being explored by the track’s future owner, Larry Dickson.

“[The Indianapolis Motor Speedway] is a different story. We had an option for three more years, and we chose not to exercise it, for a variety of reasons. But we’ve got a good relationship with the community there, and they still want to see us come back. So, we’ll see what happens.

“The economy is picking back up, and that usually means that people have money to spend, which often means that they want to go out and spend it on something fun, like a vacation or a ball game or a concert. So, we’ll see what happens. We’re still holding out hope that something will happen.”

The Rockford Speedway may never be exactly the same, but at least it will always have a special place in the heart of every motorsport fan.

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