Motorsports promoter Kenny Dobson knew that livestreaming his weekly sprint car series events at Jacksonville Speedway — absolutely free of charge to the viewer — could be a bit risky.
Lo and behold, what he suspected might happen actually did.
"It's become quite common that we have more viewers on YouTube than we do at the racetrack," Dobson said.
As it turns out, however, Dobson sees this as more of a blessing than a bane, a positive result of a calculated gamble.
"The way I saw it, free livestreaming is a way for people to get familiar with what we do and see the product that we offer," Dobson said. "The more people watching — however they can watch — the more interested they're going to become and the feedback that we've gotten on it has been overwhelmingly positive. We've actually had an attendance boost at the track because of it."
The fear of a plurality of people staying home and watching the events for free never panned out. The livestreaming, in reality, piqued interest that normally wouldn't be there and contributed to what ultimately became a gain at the gate.
Dobson also realizes getting people to the track is only half the battle, but believes if the promoters do their jobs properly, keeping them coming back will take care of itself.
"The biggest advantage to being at the track is the sensory experience and sharing that experience with those around you," he said. "In the livestreaming, you can watch it and you can hear it, but you can only get the full experience from being there.
"Then, as a promoter, you have to make sure you have an exciting product that's well run and gets over with in a timely manner."
With the Midwestern dirt track racing season shifting into gear this month, area promoters such as Dobson are continuing to seek the magic bullet that will reinvigorate their tracks.
Farmer City Raceway opened with its annual Illini 100, World of Outlaws Late Model Series race two weeks ago and ran its initial UMP weekly series event last Friday night.
The weekly series picked up where it left off a year ago, with reigning track champion Kevin Weaver winning the late model A-Main.
The track's signature events this year will once more be the Farmer City 74, MARS/ALMS late model series race scheduled for May 10 and a UMP Summer Nationals series race slated for July 5.
Lincoln Speedway had its "Season Opening Door Buster" last Friday night, highlighted by a Midwest Street Stock Championship Series 40-lap main event won by Jeremy Nichols.
With Adam Mackey doing the heavy lifting at Lincoln for promoter Track Enterprises, the speedway has seen an uptick in interest in the past couple of years.
Lincoln runs twice monthly, rather than weekly, with a heavy emphasis on special events.
A string of those specials are slated from mid-June until the end of the season and will include a healthy mix of dirt late models, POWRi National Midgets and MOWA Sprint Cars.
Fairbury's American Legion Speedway (FALS) is easily the most ambitious of the area's county fairgrounds bullrings and new track owner Matt Curl has taken an interesting tack toward increasing interest in the weekly series events.
With a top prize of $2,500 up for grabs in each of the track's UMP weekly series late model features this year, Curl is nearly doubling the winner's share of the weekly purse.
At first glance, this appeared to be outstanding news for Weaver and Manhattan's Mike "Opie" Spatola. Between them, they were virtually unbeatable at FALS a year ago.
However, the downside for them is that the increase in the winner's share will likely attract some stiffer competition on a regular basis.
FALS traditionally opens later than other tracks in the area and this year is no exception with opening night on May 4.
The first of nine special events is slated for the following week.
FALS will feature a nice mix of racing disciplines on its special event card, highlighted by a World of Outlaws Sprint Car race on June 4. POWRi Midgets and MOWA sprints also are slated to return this year.
The track's signature event, the Prairie Dirt Classic World of Outlaws Late Model Series race, is set for July 26-27.