Craig Murto: The joy of open trailers

Do you ever drive by a landscaping trailer and strain to see if there’s some indication on it as to what’s inside? No? Me neither.

Every year I see fewer and fewer open trailers at racetracks. Even Four-Cylinder and Street Stock division competitors are buying enclosed trailers these days. It’s sad, actually.

When I see racecars towed on open trailers I usually stop to thank those people, especially in Late Model divisions.

For one thing, it indicates to me that they’re putting their money where it matters; in the racecar. I almost chuckle when people with $250,000 haulers for their Late Model team gripe about the cost of racing. Many of the racers of yesterday would balk at spending so much money on comfort when there were parts to buy. Decades ago racers didn’t have the fancy haulers and comforts we have today; they survived with open trailers, enduring the heat, the cold or the rain. Racers were tough back then, they didn’t need air conditioning, satellite TV, or even a roof over their heads while at the racetrack.

Do you ever pass a hot rod, or a custom-made motorcycle, or some sort of racecar on an open trailer and strain to get a good glimpse as you go by? Come on, admit; so do I. Well, what do you think happens when a car with a child in it passes a racecar on an open trailer? That child gets excited. When I was that child, I asked my father to follow the trailer wherever it was going; sometimes he did! I never asked him to follow an unmarked enclosed trailer.

There’s an old-school charm to open trailers, an appeal that doesn’t exist with enclosed trailers. For the few of you racers still towing with open trailers and putting what resources you have back into the racecar to make it to the track each week, thank you. You have my respect.

And all of you fans out there need to give a big thumb’s up when you pass a racecar on an open trailer; let them know you appreciate their efforts and their passion.

It seems at any short track in America, in any series, there are young “development” drivers, some with passion and some without. If you get closer to Charlotte — where many believe they need to race to be seen — you see a lot more young faces behind the wheel. But these young up-and-coming racers are everywhere.

There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just the way it is today. Everything changes, and that’s how our sport’s changing. There’s also nothing wrong with the fact that somebody — usually a parent — has to foot the bill for the young upstart racer. Racing isn’t cheap.

So, who’s going to make it? It’s going to be the racers with the passion.

Tired of seeing young racers get into a Late Model as young as 12 and then never heard from again by the time they’re 18, I asked a “racing dad” to please tell me that if his son doesn’t make it we’ll still see him racing on a short track somewhere. After all, the odds of becoming a rock star are better than the odds of making it big as a racecar driver.

“This isn’t a hobby for us, this is a business venture,” the father told me, explaining that he’s the third generation in the family business and if his son doesn’t make it to the top of NASCAR, the son will become the fourth generation.

That’s sad. Not only is it sad because the young racer has ability and is fun to watch, but it’s sad because chances are we’ll hear nothing from him in just a few years.

Obviously, there’s no passion there. Racing isn’t even a hobby. Obviously he never heard that to make a small fortune in racing, you start with a large one.

He’ll spend that fortune buying his son the best coaching and the best rides. But the best of everything can’t compete against passion. Maybe the young driver will learn to enjoy the sport enough that when he’s the fourth generation to run the family business, he’ll also race locally. But at this point, if he sees racing as just a business venture, he won’t see the top.

You can bring talent to racing. You can bring money to buy the best rides. But if you really want to make it in this sport, you’d better bring the passion.

And bring that passion on an open trailer.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.