SOUND THE ALARM: Over 420 Drag Strips are STILL OPEN

Okay, okay… I’m being sarcastic. I’m sorry.

But just real quick – if you don’t mind – I need to vent.

Over the course of the last several weeks and/or months, I’ve seen more headlines than I care to count about the most recent drag strip closing followed by a string of clearly paid-for-by-the-word copy outlining the waning interest and aging demographic of our sport and, basically, the imminent demise of drag racing.

Of course, none of the websites and blogs hosting these headlines and borderline ridiculous takes on the state of affairs in drag racing take the time to cover or provide commentary on the almost never-ending stream of good news that exists in the drag racing community. Why? The same reason that I can post on social media about a personal breakthrough or business success and be rewarded with a solid 47 likes from my nearly 5,000 friends on Facebook and a much-appreciated “good job, honey” from my mom in the comments, but if I post a photo of the gas pump with a diatribe about how high fuel prices are? Or perhaps a “hot take” on the negative impact of electric vehicles on the environment or the automotive industry? Oh, buddy! We’re going viral! Look at me – an influencer!

Before I bust out a streetside psychology course on why this happens (it’s not that complicated and won’t take me too long, so don’t panic), let me share some information with you. To be honest, this writing isn’t really about optimism as much as it’s about accuracy.

Accuracy, you ask? Yes, accuracy.

Sure, there have been some drag strips close recently. We’ve seen some fairly high profile facilities shuttered here in 2022, and when it happens in relatively quick succession – I admit – it’s easy to get up in arms. Personally, I don’t know that there’s any imaginable situation that would see me feel good or be okay with a drag strip closing outside of it being turned into a golden egg factory or money tree farm (that I own or at least have access to).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way, shape or form comfortable with a facility like Memphis International Raceway being turned into a storage facility (or whatever). Storing junk cars at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park? Please excuse me while I vomit uncontrollably. Atlanta Dragway being sold to support commercial and residential expansion? Ehh…I get it. Wait, wait. I’m joking. That was a joke. Sorry, I’m still contending with some trauma stemming from Atlanta traffic and the race track is paying the price in my mind.

All joking aside, my heart breaks for the people impacted by these track closures. I don’t have the exact figures and statistics in front of me, but I know that the impact of a drag strip closing on a community and its local racer base is significant. There’s no doubt that there are weekend warrior racers who live near these strips that have closed in recent months that won’t race again. They’ll let their car sit, their trailer tires go flat, and eventually sell it all to buy a bass boat or trade it straight across for a tritoon. I can’t spin any of these track closures as a positive (give me time and I’ll surely try).

What I can do, though, is share with you the truth. Remember that comment about accuracy?

As of this writing and to the best of my knowledge, there are currently over 420 drag strips operating in this country. Consulting with my friend Rex Zimmerman of Winlight Bets last week while in Indianapolis for the grand opening of the new Performance Racing Industry Membership Headquarters, the exact number of active tracks in the country is actually 424 – per noted drag racing historian and statistician Bret Kepner and the TerraTracks Global Authority.

Regardless of the exact number, the message here is that there’s a whole lotta drag racing going on in 2022, and despite whatever you might read on Dr. Dial-Up’s Blog – the sport of drag racing is doing well and we are not in danger of running out of places to race. Again, according to Kepner, there have been as many as 450 drag strips operating here in the United States of America, but still being within six percent of that mark in an age of electric cars, five-dollar-a-gallon diesel and virtual reality gaming? Feels like victory to me.

Problem is that information like this isn’t popular, and it certainly doesn’t do for sites that generate revenue based on traffic and clicks what they need it to do – peak people’s interest by scaring them!

Alright, it’s time for a brief unpacking of human behavior and cognitive biases – one of the most powerful being the negativity bias.

If you’re wondering what the negativity bias is, it’s the well-documented phenomenon that is rooted in the understanding that we humans are not so different from the cavemen that came before us. That saying about bad news? That it travels fast? Yeah, it does that for a reason. It’s about safety. A million years ago, if you were out foraging for berries and you saw a tiger on your way back to the hut – it’s absolutely imperative that you share that information! If bad news didn’t travel fast in this scenario there could be lethal consequences – quite literally the difference between life and death.

Unfortunately, we behave much the same way today. People dread losses more than they savor or anticipate gains and criticism stings more than praise evelates. I read a book recently that says our memory is better for things that go wrong than it is for things that go right.

It’s a fact that global poverty has declined by 50-percent over the course of the last three decades. However, I recently had a conversation with someone who – based on what they see eight-hours-a-day on FOX News – is concerned about bringing new children into the world.

Research shows that negative information is three times more likely to be clicked on that positive information, so in a world where social media algorithms are designed to maximize such signals – it’s hard to tell if you’ll even see the headline for this article, let alone click the link and read it.

Here’s my quick thoughts on how we can defeat some of our inner cavemen and cavewomen…

At the bare minimum, I believe it’s helpful to be aware of these cognitive biases. They’re hard to outrun, but knowing they exist is extremely helpful. Secondly, I’d encourage you to latch on to these positive happenings or realizations – like the fact that there’s over 420 drag strips operating in this country right now. Lastly, consider investing as much time and energy spreading that information as you possibly can – even if that means clicking the “share button” on something that likely won’t generate a bunch of action on your newsfeed. If two dozen drag strips closed next week…how many people would you call to talk about it.

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