How Internet Slandering and Hype Affect Dirt Racing

How Internet Slandering and Hype Affect Dirt Racing

The Internet has had a profound impact on how dirt teams and manufacturers conduct their business.

Aug 31, 2017 by Dan Beaver
How Internet Slandering and Hype Affect Dirt Racing
By Jonathon Masters

In the world of dirt racing, we toss the word "family" around a lot. In the industry it is commonly believed we are all one extended family and whatever affects one member of the family affects all of us.

During times of hardship, physical ailments, and death, the family comes together to support each other. We compete to the bitter end out on the track but show our best side when we have to come together to support one another. It is a fantastic group. 

The problem comes when individuals -- many times fans -- feel the urge to contradict those common bonds. The invention of the computer and message boards -- where identities can be hid -- turned this into a severe problem back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I was between 12 and 15 during this time and saw the birth of this type of nameless slandering. Luckily, with today's social media being driven by actual names and identities this has become rare, but it still exists.

We've all seen it, but until you witness the consequences and the way it affects the real people being addressed it's easy to ignore. Behind that keyboard it is easy to forget every driver, manufacturer, promoter, and crew member being talked about are real people and have families. Perhaps some people assume those they are insulting or criticizing do not read the internet, or they simply do not care.

As a teen, I read all kinds of slandering words regarding my family and friends, and it hurt every time. I was able to see people saying terrible things regarding my father -- who built racing chassis -- online with a simple stroke of the computer key. Can you imagine going to a website at any age and reading attacks on your family and their livelihood?

It was hard for manufacturers, but I couldn't imagine the hell drivers and their families have gone through over the years. It makes me happy that many of the drivers who were victims of the worst of this waited until the last decade to have kids. Thanks to the shift away from hidden identities and towards social media, those kids have seen a lot less of this in the modern age.

The general theme is that people have taken the human aspect out of this sport in order to voice opinions online. It does not stop at insults and hurt feelings. The internet has been able to control public opinion in racing.

It has resulted in an industry that can be controlled by internet hype. Racing has always been written by the winners. It is why we all compete for the checkered flag. Everyone wants to be the person out front at the end of the night, but thanks to the internet, some winners get overlooked or overshadowed by the hype train.

Thanks to many factors, such as the location of media outlets, some areas get much more coverage than others. A lot of people can tell you who the hot drivers are in the Midwest but not who is dominating the Texas region or some other underserved market like the Deep South. Unless you live in some of those more localized areas, you probably have no idea.

There is also a trend towards pushing the "new thing" or "buzz word" in the racing media. There are myriad chassis companies, motor builders, and drivers we could not hear enough about during a 6-18 month time span but are now no longer a factor or have stopped altogether.

There was a time in the late 2000s when I started counting the number of mentions a certain chassis got in a single night. If you did a shot every time one of them was mentioned, you would have been clinically dead before the A-Main started.

The important point is that the chassis in question was not mass produced by industry standards. It was the new hot ticket that the internet media had chosen to champion at that time. Today that chassis is not around, but the trend still exists. God bless Mark Richards and Steve Baker from Rocket Chassis. They probably have 70 percent of the market right now, but their coverage still pales in comparison with whatever manufacturer is the current "buzz word" media darling of the internet.


The real factors in all of this are the fans and the industry. Just like how the 24-hour cable news channels can't control us, neither can the internet message boards or internet media. Go out there and make your own decisions on what you want covered.

The internet has changed the way we look at racing and how we treat each other. The positive thing in this is that that the internet is big enough for everyone, and we can now give the spotlight to every racer and series that deserve it: In mid-September, FloRacing is broadcasting the Fastrak World Championship, which features two great nights of racing with the best Pro Late Model racers in the nation. And thanks to the internet, these guys will get exposure from around the country.

- Jonathon Masters has a lifelong connection with dirt racing. His family has owned and operated MasterSbilt Race Cars manufacturing dirt late model chassis for 35 years. He attended college in North Carolina for motor sports management and has written for various industry publications. Jonathon was an account executive at The International Motorsports Industry Show, founder of the Heartland Auto Racing Show, and has been a racing industry professional for over a decade. 

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