While the Coronavirus pandemic has certainly been detrimental in the short-term to the drag racing world — as it has with every other sector of society — the need for social distancing and reduced physical contact required to reopen racing facilities has, depending on your personal preferences and tech-savviness, had its positives.
Numerous race tracks and racing organizations have, largely out of pure necessity, been shifting to paperless operations in recent weeks, from printers and paper into the 21st century with smartphones and tablets. While some, particularly the younger crowd more fluent in apps and gadgets, may see this as a long overdue development, others are likely to see it as an unwanted shift from tradition — from card-stock tech cards, from exchanging cash at the gate, signing the waiver, and from waiting for a time-slip that you can hold and feel and take home as physical, lasting evidence of your efforts.
While in reality an inconvenience compared to this new-age tech, remember that writing out a tech card and waiting in line at the time-slip booth with anticipation or dejection to see the outcome of your run have been traditions from the sport’s beginnings in the 1950s to, well….now. And some may not want to give that up, but life’s about progress.
The World Wide Technology Raceway (WWT) in Madison, Illinois has been one of the early adopters of paperless systems, something its Director of Public Relations, John Bisci, Jr., says largely came about out of necessity, but has quickly proven its benefit for all involved. The St. Louis-area track, in compliance with state guidelines required to resume racing, quickly began exploring options for going paperless in order to reduce the possibility of virus transmission between racers and staff. The track is now employing online entry and waivers — including entry payments — and digital time-slips through a smartphone app developed by Dyno Geeks…and it has no intention of looking back.
To incentivize this shift, WWT has been providing an extra time-run for entries done online during it’s weekly bracket racing program. It’s time-slips are digital-only and Bisci says it will remain that way even when the pandemic subsides. And many other tracks are following suit.
Bisci notes, “I’ve worked the time-slip booth, and it can be a real headache…the printer stops working, or you’ve got five or six cars backed up waiting on their slip. This system is much more efficient and it allows us to reduce our raceday staff by one person.”
Digital time-slips will of course, in a sense, change the sport forever: complete run data, previously only available to you and whomever you happen to run against, are now out for the world to see, on-demand…even if you’re sitting at home. And so the days of keeping your reaction times and your incrementals throughout the day close to the hip will soon be a thing of the past. Instead of carrying those white paper souvenirs home in your log book, you’ll screenshot your phone and store them in your photo app.
The embrace or rejection of this change is likely to be generational and perhaps a bit controversial at first, but regardless, it’s coming. And for that, we have Coronavirus to thank.
What’s your take: do you welcome this change to a more impersonal and less tangible operation, or do you value your paper time-slips and cash payments?