We all know Kyle Larson is an undisputed talent on the dirt track scene, but the driver is currently crediting his recent win at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals to one thing: Television.
Big-screen TVs and video boards are ubiquitous at most popular race tracks these days. They give fans a way to get close to the action, no matter where they’re seated. There’s just one problem, according to Matt Weaver of Racing America: On smaller tracks, drivers are able to plan their driving by just... looking up at the screen. At least, that’s what Larson said he was able to do. To prevent Justin Grant from passing him, Larson just looked up at the TV and took a defensive line based on what he saw Grant doing.
“I think everybody knows my views on big screens and like, what’s the point, right,” Weaver quoted Larson as saying. “Like, is anybody in this building watching the big screen during the green flag runs besides us? No.
“So why are we showing racing? I mean, during the intermissions and breaks? Yeah. Throw your sponsors up there, throw your cool videos up. And once it goes green, just leave the Chill Bowl logo on there. Again, what’s the point? It doesn’t help the racing that’s for sure.”
Larson was open about the fact that he doesn’t necessarily agree with the competitive ethics of his decision to drive in response to what he was able to see on the TV — but when you hand a racing driver a way to win a race, he’s probably going to take it.
Weaver, an avid follower of the dirt-track scene, does a great job outlining in his article just how strange the TV phenomenon is for many drivers. Some, he says, turn to look at the TV when the race gets boring from behind the wheel. Other drivers worry about “abusing” the ability to look at the big screen because they don’t want to become too reliant on that external help.
But the drivers seem to be in agreement: The big screens are an advantage that these short-track events need to eliminate. Screens see their best use in road or street racing events, where fans are only greeted with a small part of the action once every minute or so. But on these shorter tracks, where a spectator can take it all in from their seat? There’s not as much of a need.
The fate of the video board at many of these events is currently up in the air, but with such vocal criticism, I can’t imagine we’ll see them sticking around for long — or that tracks will at least take Larson’s advice and use the video boards to display race logos instead of showing the actual race.