Silver Lake, KS – Over the next few days we will be handing out some awards here at ITP. The first one is our 2013 Promoter/GM of The Year! It shouldn't come to anyone's surprise that our award is heading down south in to Missouri. Dan Robinson, the GM of Lucas Oil Speedway, did a phenomenal job in 2013. While most area tracks saw their car counts dwindle, Robinson had large weekly car counts, promoted the Lucas Oil MLRA and hosted some of the biggest specials of the past season. It was a great year at Lucas Oil Speedway.
We had a chance to sit down and ask Dan a few questions….
ITP – How did you end up at Lucas Oil Speedway?
DR – I have been involved in racing in Southwest Missouri since the early 90′s after moving here from WI and I had heard rumors of this "Lucas Oil" company coming to Southwest Missouri for years before it happened but once it did, I knew that for me to work full-time in racing and live where I do in Bolivar, that I had to get involved and I just got involved early on in the process and eventually became the GM in 2009.
ITP – Is this your dream job? If yes, why?
DR – I would say yes it is a dream job but maybe not for all the reasons you might first think. I thought working in racing was a dream job but I have done that with a couple other companies and it wasn't like working for Lucas Oil. What makes this a dream job is Forrest and Charlotte Lucas and the entire team they have assembled. Whether you work on the ranch, in the oil plant or at the race track they treat all their employees with such respect and appreciation that that's what makes it a dream job. Of course I do like the racing aspect of it and I get to live, work, breathe breath racing so that is definitely a plus.
ITP – What would you consider a perfect race night?
DR – This is tough but really at the end of the night, as long as the fans go home with the attitude that they can't wait to come back next week, that is what we're after and that makes it a perfect race night. Of course good car counts, great crowds, starting on time, great on track action, and getting done at a decent hour are all measurable items that are important, it's really about the feeling of the fans knowing that they had a great time and can't wait to come back next week.
ITP – What is it that motivates you in your position at LOS?
DR – I am driven to always do better than last time whether it be last week, last race, last year, etc. I always want to improve fan count and income from previous events. Of course I want to always put on a better show than the last time as well so that the fans are starving for more each time they leave. I love to visit with the fans as they are leaving and gauge their reaction on the night. I can either leave really happy with the night's results or I can be up all night trying to figure out where we went wrong or what we need to do better.
ITP – Last season at LOS were you surprised with your turnout on a weekly basis?
DR – I'm not sure I was completely surprised but maybe a little bit. On the fan side, I feel like we try to offer fans a good show and some of the best racers in the region race here weekly so it's really like a special here every night. As far as car counts go, I am very pleased with the car count. Adding B-Mods a couple of years ago back to our program was an important step and also rotating the classes each week with a featured class with a bit of extra money has been positive. We averaged 118 cars last year in (4) Weekly Classes so that it a pretty good number I believe.
ITP – With your special events, boat races and just about everything else, what all do you do? Or at least have a hand in! LOL
DR – I really oversee 100% of it and do a lot of it myself but I have great staff that really helps me out. I do almost all of the scheduling, marketing, and operations and coordination but our staff puts my crazy plans into action as there is no way I could do it all myself. I like to be hands on and I really try to watch every aspect of the event but there is only so much I can do. I trust my staff and I'm proud of the job they do week in and week out. I am generally the first one here and the last one to leave but at the end of the day it is my responsibility so I want to be sure we have done everything that we set out to do.
ITP – Is there any moment during the season that you feel your doing too much?
DR – I really struggle with this more in the off-season like right now thinking how in the world are we going to do all of this but it usually works out OK. Really once the season starts, I settle into a routine and it goes pretty smoothly. The sheer amount of things that we do on certain weekends can be overwhelming like running Drag Boats and the Dirt Track on the same night but we know what we're dealing with and we have just learned to pace ourselves. I do struggle with not having enough hours in the day as it can be a difficult balance between the track and family but that is just the nature of the business.
ITP – Do you ever get a chance to sit back and just watch a race at your track?
DR – I do watch races sometimes but I really watch so much more that I don't focus on the race. I watch the track more than anything to see how it is developing and what we need to do to it to stay on top of it. I always strive to have the raciest track around and we haven't always had that but I believe we are on the right track and the second half of 2013 was excellent. Probably the race I really just sit and watch is the Show-Me. By then, all the hard work is done and I usually sneak up to the Lucas Oil Suite and just sit and take in the event with a cold beer. I am a fan first and foremost so I do take great pride in watching the 4-wide and the fireworks roll off and of course the absolute best racers in the country running here. I get chills every time.
ITP – We know that you are not a one man wrecking crew, how important is it to have the great supporting cast at LOS?
DR – The staff is the most important thing there is here or anywhere. We have spent a couple years getting things to where they are now but I wouldn't trade who I have working with me now for anything. They are all so passionate and so consumed with putting on a great event each week. They love having the fans and drivers come each week and they live and breathe it like I do.
ITP – With the way the economy has gone, is there anything you worry about for your racers or fans of the sport?
DR – Cost is always great concern whether it be the price of a ticket or the cost to go racing. We try to keep our ticket prices in check and offer great incentives like the family pass so we don't break the budget of the average family. We want this to be their entertainment destination so not only do we try to keep ticket prices down, we do everything we can to offer a full night of entertainment for fans of all ages in addition to the racing. As far as the cost of racing, it is really hard to save racers from themselves. There are a lot of rules intended to keep costs down but most of the time it costs the racers more money. We try to keep close tabs on it but it is a difficult balance not only for tracks but for racers as well.
ITP – If there is one thing you could change about local weekly racing, what would it be?
DR – Really the first thing is change the name of it, I really hate nothing more than to read a track schedule and see "Weekly Race" or "Regular Event". Who is going to come to that? I'd wait for the next "BIG" event if I was a fan. We try to have something special every night. Weekly racing can get really stagnant to the fans if that is all the tracks focus on. We try to shake it up and bring in great marketing partners that do nightly promotions and we involve local radio stations each week. In 2014, we are going to significantly expand or television presence and will include those promotions on our "Weekly Racing".
ITP – Away from the track what does Dan Robinson like to do?
DR – I love to spend time at the lake or, mess with old cars, or just hang around the house but honestly what I like to do and what I am able to do don't always work out. Working 35-40 weekends a year or more doesn't leave much time for normal relaxation like most people.
ITP – Is there any other position or title you aspire to have?
DR – I would definitely like to be more involved with Lucas Oil's Motorsports programs on a regional or national level at some point but I am very happy and comfortable where I am at. Running a racetrack like this can take its toll and you have to really guard against burning out but as of right now I'm doing OK. As Lucas Oil continues to grow and expand however, I would like to broaden my scope a bit and do some different things. I don't want to promote a race track forever.
ITP – What can fans expect that come to Lucas Oil Speedway in 2014?
DR – Fans can expect more of the same great entertainment value that they have come to expect in recent seasons but we also always continue to add new attractions and new events to enhance their experience. We are working to expand our campground and we always continue to improve our facilities with more fan amenities.
ITP – What can the racers expect that come to Lucas Oil Speedway in 2014?
DR – Racers can expect to race against what I think may be some of the best competition in the country here each and every week. The ULMA Late Models have been outstanding as have the USRA Modifieds as 4-5 of the top-10 in USRA National Points ran here weekly or nearly every week. We have sanctioned the B-Mods this season with USRA which I think will increase the level of competition and bring in an even stronger field of cars. Finally, our weekly Factory Stock class may be the best field of stock cars in the country. We will continue to have the featured class every night and we will continue to try to add more special events and extra money nights for our weekly racing series.
ITP – Where do you see Dirt Track Racing headed in the future?
DR – This may sound like a broken record to a lot of people but Dirt Tracks are going to have to realize that the racing just isn't enough any more. The fans want to be interactive and they want to come to the event and visit with the friends and be entertained. We have to all do a better job of entertaining rather than simply racing. The ones that get it will rise up and the ones that don't unfortunately will be left by the wayside.
ITP – Are there any surprises or secrets you can give us for 2014?
DR – No real surprised or secrets for 2014, we will just focus on doing what we do better than we have done in the past.
ITP – How long will it be before LOS hosts an NHRA Drag Race?
DR – No real time table or solid plans have been made on a Drag Strip. We do have space set aside for one if we decide to go that route in the future but as of yet no real movement or focus on that.
ITP – What do you plan on doing during the short off season?
DR -The "Off-Season" is one of the biggest misconceptions about this job or industry. I work way more hours now than I during the season. There is so much planning and preparation at a facility of this magnitude that we are wide open trying to be ready for 2014. As a matter of fact it is Saturday morning in November and I am at my desk trying to catch up on all the emails I am behind on so it really never quits. We also go to a lot of trade shows and banquets in the off season so we really work year round.
ITP – When you are done being a GM/Promoter/etc. how do you want to be remembered?
DR – I haven't really ever thought about this. I have always been a race fan and worked on race cars so I guess I would just like to be somebody that was remembered for making sure the fans had a good time and that the racers enjoyed racing with us.
ITP – What was your best memory from the 2013 season?
DR – Wow, this is really difficult as there are so many. I really guess I would have to say watching Brian Brown driving the #77 at the ASCS Jesse Hockett/Daniel McMillin Memorial as hard as anyone I have ever seen driver a sprint car trying to win that race in honor of Jesse and Daniel. He gave it all a man could and that is all you can ask for. There are so many great memories each season it is hard to pick one particular one out.