Summary of TrackChaser Group History

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On a 1980s date lost to history, what is now known as the TrackChaser group began as an offshoot of RON HEDGER's annual "Superfans Contest" in National Speed Sport News. That contest celebrated race fans that attended the most auto racing events each year. A few of us were more interested in visiting different race tracks than in the total number of races, and started our own group that would track the number of tracks visited in a lifetime as opposed to the number of races in a year.

GUY SMITH was the first to organize the group when he started collecting the lists of tracks visited from friends who knew each other from meeting up again and again at various and far flung race tracks. We all looked up to ALLAN BROWN and used his "National Speedway Directory" and the various racing trade papers such as Area Auto Racing News to learn about the various tracks.

Guy eventually typed the collected track conquest information into a common format and published his first booklet to distribute to the "Top 10" in 1994. At that time, the group was called "All-Time Superfans" to highlight our connection to Hedger's contest, and also to differentiate from it. There were no written track counting guidelines at the time.

Eventually, Guy put together a questionnaire with ten questions about what kinds of racing we should include in our tallies, and the results were fairly predictable as the original ten TrackChasers all came from the US and from a short track oval racing background. The yes/no results from the original questionnaire were used to compile the original counting guidelines that were first published in the 1997 annual booklet, now called the Yearbook. By that time, Guy had dubbed the group "TrackChasers" (most tracks) to differentiate from "Race Chasers" (most races).

At the turn of the century, WILL WHITE took over as the group statistician. The final "Yearbook" was published by Will in 2003 (covered through 2002). By that time, Will had increased the original "Top 10" to "Top 20." There was also an "annual" winner (Andy Sivi) and an "all-time" leader (Rick Schneider).

Will took the group to the next level in several ways. In 2000, he created the TrackChaser Listserve in YahooGroups which allowed the group members to communicate with each other and share track information in a much easier and faster format. Will eventually turned over ownership and moderation of the listserve to ANDY RITTER, who eventually assigned those duties to GUY SMITH. The listserve continues today, and has over 22,000 posts archived as of February 2019.

An even larger Will White contribution to the group was the creation of the first TrackChaser website to host the group stats. Now, instead of waiting for the annual booklet or yearbook, group members, as well as anyone else, could see them at any time as long as they were online. Will also increased the number of members of the group from 20 to 40 as the online access resulted in much greater interest and we met up with like-minded race fans from all over the world. As the group expanded beyond 40 members, at first only the "Top 40" displayed on the site, and we had "bumping" as those near the 40th slot automatically moved in and out of the displayed ranking whenever the site was updated. Eventually, the "Indy-500" style bumping was eliminated and anyone with at least 200 tracks (or 100 for anyone living outside of North America) visited was displayed without limit.

Will's most important contribution to the group was the creation of the online TrackChaser Database. This allowed the TrackChaser statistics to be displayed in many different ways including by country, by region, by track type, by surface type, etc. resulting in a far more interesting site as the comparisons were almost limitless. The "track visits" section of the database currently holds over 69,000 first-time track visits.

Allan Brown and Guy Smith teamed up to fund what we dubbed the "Roscoe 'Pappy' Hough Memorial TrackChaser World Cup Presented by National Speedway Directory," a perpetual trophy to be held by the member of the group who has visited the most tracks. To date, six different individuals have their name etched on the cup.

At the end of 2010, Will decided that after 11 years he no longer wanted the responsibility of being the group statistician and the good-naturedly dubbed "High Commissioner" responsible for making track counting rulings as he wished to concentrate fully on his other racing website: Auto Racing Records. Will's database of track visits was transferred to Guy Smith's brand new Roaming the Raceways website and the group stats were displayed in a mostly similar fashion on the new site. At the beginning of 2011 there were 57 "fan" members of the group. As of February 2019, that number has more than doubled and there are now well over 125 including more than a dozen from outside North America. TrackChasers is truly a world-wide organization.

At that time, TIM FROST, the new owner and publisher of the National Speedway Directory, stepped up and offered to award plaques to the top 5 most active TrackChasers in each calendar year. Those plaques were named "Ed Esser Memorial Annual TrackChaser Awards" after Ed Esser, who had passed away that year as the group member with the most all-time tracks visited. Tim was instrumental in pushing to get more race fans involved in the group, and led to 100 tracks visited becoming the world standard, replacing the sliding 100-200 place scale that had been in place.

Will White began the practice of adding race drivers that qualified for inclusion by racing at the required number of tracks. But it was group member ROLAND VANDEN EYNDE of Belgium who really started the process of researching specific driver careers with the intent of the world's most well travelled and versatile drivers having individual pages to honor them on TrackChaser. At the beginning of 2011 there were 12 of the "Researched Drivers" that had pages in the group. As of February 2019 there are over 120. Daytona 500 driver and USAC champion Ken Schrader has been known to travel with a printout of his track list from the website in his truck. Indy 500 driver and USAC champion Bryan Clauson said of his assembled track list "That's awesome. Very cool!"

A 2011 addition suggested by photographer Rick Young was to allow tracks that don't fit the group guidelines to still be somehow displayed on an individual's track page should they choose to do so. This has resulted in the "Non-TC" track option. Tracks that fit in this section appear at the bottom of each page, but do not count in any of the tallies. The categories for the Non-TC tracks are: 1) Tracks with non-countable classes or formats, 2) Non TrackChaser tracks, 3) Voluntarily deleted tracks, 4) Rained out or cancelled while at the track, and 5) Tracks visited on non race day or defunct tracks. Nearly 1,000 Non-TC tracks are now in the database and displayed on the site scattered on individual pages.

The next big group project was the "Track Picture Collection Project." The goal is to publish annotated pictures of a minimum of 2,500 different tracks on the website, and perhaps eventually in book form. Although the publishing part of the project is off to a slower than expected start, contributions from the group have been staggering, with pictures from approximately 2,000 tracks already in possession including a contribution sent directly from Kyle Larson's mother.

In 2018, Guy and EDWARD CORRADO started the TrackChaser Facebook group. And just as the Yahoo Groups listserve increased the ease of communications between group members in 2000, the FB group did the same in 2018. Posts, often with pictures included, are a daily occurrence and FB has become by far the preferred form of communication between group members.

The latest group project is the USA/CAN TrackChaser Track Census. This is an attempt to chronicle all TC tracks in those two countries that have races scheduled and then held as they occur throughout the year. The goal is to help all group members be more aware of their racing options. The Census is shared to the group via the listserve.

Two other alliances have been formed to create multi-sport partnerships. "RTR Dual Citizenship" is an affiliation with Andy Ritter (former listserve owner an moderator) and his new Roaming the Rinks ice hockey group. And "Races & Bases" is a two-sport union with the Minor Trips baseball publication and its former editor BOB CARSON.

The group experienced a few rough years in the 2000s due to the over competitiveness of a few, but the ship has righted itself during the current decade and hopefully the group will continue to thrive, expanding in both the number of participants and the number of activities in which members can choose to participate.

A huge thanks to everyone that has joined the group and participates in the various group projects. Special thanks to those whose names were capitalized in the narrative above for stepping up and taking a leadership role at some point during the group history, or playing a major historical role in its creation. --Guy Smith, February 2019.





Copyright © 2019 by Guy M. Smith, all rights reserved.

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