EDITORIAL: Toxic response won’t help us get more drag strips

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Last week, a group of people announced a plan that would hopefully lead to a dedicated drag strip in Melbourne.

You’d think the policy launch would have been met with support from the obvious users of a drag strip – drag racers. But the response on social media was negative – often wildly so.

While the Liberal party (for our American readers the Liberal party in Australia are actually the conservative right wing of politics) was a long shot to win the election, leader Matthew Guy (pictured above) was approached with the idea of the proposal and he embraced it enough to take it to the media and hopefully secure a few more votes.

Here are a few comments from revhead-type social media pages who shared the story (pasted verbatim):

“Will never happen mathew guy is only worried about getting the top job”

“just an election promise to grab the cheap vote”

“More shit to feed the small minded people who believe politicians”

“What a pathetic vote grab on the eve of an election”

Reading these comments I tried to consider what was making people so angry. Politicians make promises, they break promises – sure, I understand. But rarely does drag racing make it into the realm of even broken promises. When it does it should be welcomed, but here the pitchforks and torches were out in surprising force.

Historically, state and territory governments in Australia have been remarkably kind to drag racing when we look at our leading facilities. Perth Motorplex, built in 2000 by a State Government that needed a new home for both Ravenswoood International Raceway and Claremont Speedway (which had a surprisingly high amount of support thanks to its location in the affluent western suburbs of Perth), was an early leader. Sydney Dragway followed in 2004, built by the NSW Government on the back of a strong campaign by Top Fuel racer Jim Read, Dragster Magazine editor Dave Cook and talkback radio host Alan Jones. Hidden Valley Drag Strip and Alice Springs Inland Dragway have both received significant funding from the Northern Territory Government to upgrade and host grand events.

So it is certainly not impossible for government to fund drag strips in Australia and other sports secure massive amounts of funding – they are in fact very good at it. They have strong communities of people who make sure their sports ‘give back’. They engage with youth. They build facilities that serve as multi-purpose venues.

Our community has instead been aggressively negative and selfish. Politicians monitor social media response to policy, and based on the response to a Melbourne drag strip, why would they bother with us? The feedback was toxic, vitriolic even.

Are we so keen to have our own beliefs about the political process validated that we will put our sport on a sacrificial block to do so?

All sorts of cliches come to mind. United we stand, divided we fall. If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it at all.

If you didn’t intend to vote for the Victorian Liberals based on their drag strip policy, it wasn’t necessary to say so. Perhaps respond with something like, “I tend to be a Labor voter, but this policy has my attention.” Maybe even a thanks for thinking about our sport wouldn’t go astray.

Drag racing can’t keep chewing up and spitting out people with good intentions. We’ve been through way too many of those people already, and inevitably they have moved on to other things.

Lachlan Craven was the instigator of the campaign and he is a guy who loves drag racing and wanted a new Melbourne drag strip. He took steps to make it happen. And for that he deserves applause, not criticism.

There’s a great quote about critics, and it rings true in this age.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

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