Sports

Doug Auld Has a Need for Speed

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Doug Auld at a press conference Credits: Photo Courtesy of Joe Orth
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Auld during his days as a sprint car driver Credits: Photo Courtesy of Gene Marderness
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Doug Auld behind the wheel of his sprint car Credits: Photo Courtesy of Keneric
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MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Auto racing is in Doug Auld’s DNA. His father, Jack Auld, a retired dirt modified racer, would bring his entire family to the racetrack every Saturday. As a result, Doug attended his first racing event as a toddler.

“My dad raced before I was born, mostly at the Danbury racetrack before they shut that down,” Auld recalled. “From the time I was a kid, we went to the races every weekend, usually in Orange County. That was our standard weekend. We went as a family—my father, my mother, my brother and me.”

Auld, who grew up in Mahopac and is a 1980 graduate of MHS, now lives in Ohio. He has since gone on to have a distinguished career in auto  racing journalism, primarily covering sprint car racing. In June, he will be inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame under the Promoters/Officials/Media Members banner.

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“You never think you’ll wind up in a Hall of Fame,” Auld told Mahopac News. “It’s pretty neat and a real honor. When you look at the racing legends who are in there, it is pretty cool and an honor to join them.”

The induction ceremony and banquet will be held at the Marion County Fairgrounds in Knoxville, Iowa, which is also home of Knoxville Raceway, which Auld calls “one of the nicest dirt tracks in the world…a pretty amazing place.”

“I know I say this every year, but we truly are very proud of the work done by our 72-member National Induction Committee,” said Bob Baker,  the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum Foundation executive director. “I think we have a great group of inductees this year.”

Auld said his family will share in the honor with him the day he’s inducted.

“My family went along for the ride for a lot of years,” he said. “There were lots of late nights and traveling so I am glad to share it with them.”

Auld began his career as a journalist by creating and hosting “Short Track USA,” a radio show that aired on stations throughout central Florida.

“There was all this racing in Florida but no media,” Auld said about why he started the radio program. “I sold all my own advertising. The radio show was one hour a week but I worked about 50 hours a week selling my own advertising and I was actually able to make a living for a while.”

After leaving the radio show, Auld started freelancing for the Tampa Tribune and several magazines.

That led to a position as editor of Open Wheel Magazine, which, at the time, was the leading sprint car racing magazine. And up until that point, Auld had never really been behind the wheel of a sprint car, but his editorship at Open Wheel soon afforded him the chance.

“I never had an opportunity to drive as a kid,” he said. “But then I got to be a media guy and had the opportunity to put together a car—a winged sprint car—with Open Wheel.”

In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Open Wheel folded and Auld immediately founded Wheels-Up Publishing Inc. and began publishing Sprint Car & Midget Magazine, which quickly took the position formerly held by Open Wheel, as the “bible” of short-track open-wheel racing.

Under the auspices of his new magazine, Auld continued to race.

“I had the opportunity to race for a few years and it was a terrific learning opportunity on top of everything else,” he said. “I went to a couple of racing schools, but other than that there’s not a whole lot of training. To some extent you just had to jump in. The first year is always the hardest; that’s when you make most mistakes.”

But eventually the driving got to be too expensive and time-consuming and Auld had to step away.

“Just when I was starting to get good, I had to get out,” he said. “It is an expensive sport.”

But his publication, Sprint Car and Midget Magazine, continued to thrive and is now in its 15th year.

“[That magazine] is actually what got me in the Hall of Fame,” he said.

Auld notes that his print publication has managed to survive in the digital world while many other periodicals have folded.

“We have an older fan base and most have had newspapers and magazines in their lives,” he said. “We wanted to create an even better publication which I feel we have done. There is a lot of pressure to say it’s all about digital and internet and forget about print, but there is still a huge market for print. People like what they like. It’s like they say no one listens to music from the ’70s anymore, but every time the Rolling Stones or Bruce Springsteen or U2 tour they sell out stadiums.”

The key, he said, is to surround yourself with the best people.

“I hire people who are better than I am and that makes my job a whole lot easier,” he said with a laugh.

The induction into the Hall of Fame is not Auld’s first accolade. In 2005, he was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to the Sport Award by the National Sprint Car Poll, a division of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. In 2002, he was awarded the Gene Powlen Fan Appreciation Award by the Hoosier Auto Racing Fans (HARF) Association, one of the country’s oldest auto racing fan associations.

Auld said that sprint cars may not be as widely known as NASCAR, but noted that many NASCAR drivers, from Mario Andretti to Jeff Gordon, got their start in sprint car racing. He said many of them moved to NASCAR because sprint cars are extremely challenging to operate.

“They have a lightweight tube-frame chassis with an engine that puts out 800 to 900 horsepower with a drive shaft that goes straight from the engine to the rear end,” he said. “So, you are always in racing gear; there is no shifting involved. It’s always ‘go time.’ It’s probably the most difficult racecar to drive.”

Auld said he and his family still come back to visit Mahopac as frequently as possible.

“We try to get back every year on vacation,” he said. “A lot has changed in town but Mahopac is still home and if it weren’t for property taxes we might still live there!”

Actually, Auld’s first racing experience transpired while growing up in Mahopac.

“My first racing experience was the soapbox derby in Peekskill,” he said. “I finished second and then ran in one in Carmel the next year and came in third.”

He said he appreciates the town more now as an adult.

“Mahopac during the ’60s and ’70s was an incredible place to grow up,” he said. “You had the lake and could ride you bike around until it got dark. I don’t think I appreciated it as much as a kid but you realize it when you grow up. I played guitar and sang in a band. I wanted to be a rock star but that didn’t work out.”

So now Auld will be entering a different Hall of Fame instead.

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