(EDITOR’S NOTE: 51’s X-Factor is a new feature on Speed51.com that features opinions from 51 columnists on racing’s hottest topics. Rob Blount, the author of this editorial, is the Northeast Editor for Speed51.com. The views which are expressed in the following column are his own and not necessarily the views of Speed51.com and/or its partners.)
There are few, if any, race fans who have the passion for short track racing that New York native James Schaefer has. The man known as the ‘Long Island Modified Maniac’ has been doing fundraising for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events at Riverhead Raceway (NY) for quite a few years to raise bonus money for drivers electing to compete in the Tour’s two events at the Long Island bullring.
A year ago, Schaefer had an idea and he decided to take his fundraising efforts a step further.
He helped start the Tri-Track Open Modified Series in an effort to help the purses at the Seekonk Speedway (MA) and Star Speedway (NH) already-established open shows. He and Dick Williams added a third race of their own, one at Lee USA Speedway (NH) in an effort to give teams another opportunity to race for big money and give fans the opportunity to have some more fun.
All signs indicated that the Bullring Bash at Lee would be a race that many fans and teams would want to attend. Over 40 teams promised that they’d attempt to race for the $5,000 winner’s purse, but only 35 actually showed up. Still a strong field, but not what was expected, and honestly not what Schaefer deserved.
Schaefer busted his tail to try to spread the word about the event to as many race fans as possible, but only about 1,500 people walked through the gates. Unfortunately, that wasn’t much of a surprise. The race took place on Mother’s Day, and many cited that as the reason why they didn’t go, racers included.
This year, Schaefer learned his scheduling lesson. The race is not on Mother’s Day, which just passed. It’s this Sunday afternoon, May 17. Now, there’s absolutely no reason to not get out and support the event.
Talking from a racer’s perspective, this is a great race to attend. The winner will receive $5,000 in guaranteed money. With all of the lap bonuses available, there’s a chance that the winner could receive an additional $4,000.
From a fan’s perspective, it’s a great day of racing. $25 gets you through the door to see the Modifieds, North East Mini Stock Tour, and the inaugural North East Street Stock Tour race, plus heat races for each division. The Mini Stocks will run a 50-lap feature and the Street Stocks will run 35 laps. There’s also a B-Main for the Modifieds that will pay out an unheard of $1,000 to the winner.
This year the preliminary entry list boasts over 45 teams. Even if they all don’t show up, it will still be one of the largest and most talented fields of Tour-Type Modifieds seen all year long anywhere in the country.
Some of the best drivers in the Northeast will be there, like Doug Coby (Two-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion), Ryan Preece (2013 NWMT champion), Matt Hirschman (defending Bullring Bash winner), Woody Pitkat, Jon McKennedy, and even Andy Seuss (defending NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion) who will be travelling up from North Carolina to run this race.
It’s almost impossible to say that this day won’t be worth the price of admission.
There’s also a bit of an added incentive for the fans to come out. For the last few years, many fans have said that they long for the days of big Modified purses. Well, here’s your chance to see a large purse.
Schaefer has decided that if 3,000 paying fans walk through the gates on Sunday afternoon, another $5,000 will be given to the race winner.
Unfortunately, no matter what happens on Sunday, this will be the last time this race will be held. Amazingly, a lot of negativity comes with trying to do a good thing for racers and fans. Schaefer announced on Facebook that he won’t be bringing back the Tri-Track Series (which expanded to four races this year with a race at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl in Connecticut in September) due to the negativity.
Quite frankly, this writer can’t blame him one bit. He’s not a race promoter by trade. He’s not swimming in money, either. He’s a retired Long Island school teacher. He’s a fan, just like the rest of us. He just decided that as purses kept getting smaller and smaller, he wanted to find a way to get more money to the racers that he loves watching.
Modified race fans are some of the most passionate race fans out there. Maybe you’re not all maniacs like James Schaefer. And that’s okay, you don’t have to be. But prove your passion. Help out the most passionate among you. Get to Lee USA Speedway on Sunday.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor -Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Rick Ibsen/Speed51.com