To keep things in perspective, lets go back to when the announcement was made that SMI would purchase the track. There was lots of speculation about the direction the new owners were going to take the track. Take the Nascar dates elsewhere and abandon it? Leave it as is? Add lighting and stands to the oval, killing the road course?
Lucky for us, they decided to keep operating the track and invest in improvements for all users. Now I didn't go to business school, but I bet you the decision makers at NHMS need to make sure the various operations at the track are profitable. Obviously Nascar brings in a lot of money, and us club racers benefit from some of the improvements made for Nascar events, but for the improvements to the road course, it makes sense that they would be funded from the revenue coming from the road course users.
I can imagine a scenario where our costs would not have changed much, but with much few improvements to the track if any. That might have allowed some racers with a tighter budgets to keep on racing, but at what future costs when it comes to attracting more users for the road course?
If the prices would have gone up and we would would not have seen improvements as a result, then it would seem justifiable to wonder if SMI is just trying to get as much money out of us as possible. The reality is we are getting better facilities in return for the extra costs, which seems logical to me.
To me, it does seem like SMI is indeed committed to growing LRRS and is willing to back it up with investing in the facilities, but I'm a realist and recognize that someone has to pay for those improvements so it's reasonable to expect my costs as a user of those facilities to go up accordingly.
We live in a free world so we all chose how to respond to this reality. I chose to continue racing, but I might cut back a bit on a race or practice here and there to keep my costs withing my means. Others will go race elsewhere, others with larger budgets might be able to absorb the extra cost without modifying their program while others might just quit altogether. On the flip side, improvements might reduce injuries which might attract others racers where safety concerns would override money concerns in their decision to race at Loudon.
It's good to have former racers such as Jay and Rich express their opinions here and I do hope that SMI does read this thread and get from it a better idea of how their decisions do affect the racing community. Ideally it will help them find ways to keep costs as low as possible while still improving what we get out of it.
Yeah, I get a bit angry at first when I see new fees pop up, but I was also very grateful to see new airfences in front of the tires I hit last year that sent me to the hospital with a concussion. That feeling of hope I get from seeing that the track is making real efforts to improve my safety more than makes up for the occasional sticker shocks.
Of all the choices SMI could have made with what to do with LRRS, I think they picked a pretty good direction to help improve local club racing in the long run. Remember, it could have been much worst...