There may be a small bright spot to take away from the cancelation of the 2016 Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown, which was scheduled to be held at Virginia’s Langley Speedway on April 21. That bright spot comes in the form of a bigger and better event in 2017.
Event coordinator Buck Reuss told Speed51.com powered by JEGS Thursday afternoon that although the decision to cancel the race was tough, it was the right decision given the uncertainty surrounding the future of Langley Speedway.
“The outlook on everything at the time was great for sponsorship, especially with the placement of Langley Speedway,” Reuss explained. “But with the uncertainty about them being unable to open the gates the decision had to be made and unfortunately it was to wait until next year. We just decided to take a break next year and come out swinging for the fences in 2017.”
Reuss now looks forward to a full year’s worth of preparation that he believes will lead to a bigger and better version of the race in 2017. He’s hoping that bigger and better version of the event includes an increased purse and more of NASCAR’s stars competing in the race.
“Overall with what we have built from the beginning with Limited Late Model races at Southside Speedway to a full blown NASCAR Late Model Stock event now, I think it’s really going to give us a chance to make the event much larger in 2017,” said Reuss. “I think we’re going to be able to really concentrate on getting high caliber stars at the event.
“It’s been year-to-year so previously we’d have to wait until this time to make sure that somebody’s date book was open to give us a maybe, now we have over a year to say, ‘Keep this day open please.’ It’s hopefully going to be a blessing in disguise.”
Since the news broke on Wednesday afternoon about the cancelation of the race, many have asked why event organizers didn’t attempt to hold the race at another local race track such as South Boston Speedway (VA), which hosted the 2015 running of the race. For Reuss, the answer to that question is quite simple: there isn’t enough time to negotiate contracts and tie up all of the loose ends that are required to host a major stock car racing event.
“We’ve thought about South Boston and just going back, but they gained another Modified race and just a bunch of other things,” stated Reuss. “The planning time just isn’t there to do what we want to do. The last time we had something like this was when we couldn’t back up our date at Southside Speedway and we had to jump to Richmond International Raceway. Unfortunately, that was one of the big losses we’ve had financially for the foundation.”
Promoting an event with the purpose of raising money for charity also throws a curveball in the equation and makes decisions like canceling the race even more difficult. Although the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown is a major short track racing event and draws racers and fans from all over, the fact remains that the main purpose of the event is to raise money for the Denny Hamlin Foundation.
“As much as we all love racing in the end it is a charity event,” said Reuss. “Our associations with St. Jude’s and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation especially, that’s been one of Denny’s beneficiaries since he’s been in karts, all of that tied in with the wing we have at the Richmond Children’s hospital at VCU. It’s all kinds of different things that we have to do to make sure we’re making the money to fulfill our promises to the different foundations that we donate to after we gain the money.”
Moving forward, Reuss said that he is unsure of which facility will host the event in 2017. The initial plan was to host the race at Langley Speedway in 2016 and 2017 before returning to South Boston for two years in 2018 and 2019. All of that is now up in the air and he says that next year’s race could potentially be held at either Langley, South Boston or potentially the new Dominion Raceway, also in Virginia.
“We were coming back (to South Boston) after the two years at Langley and we had already started talking about looking at Dominion for the following two years as a possibility,” Reuss stated. “We want to try to keep it in that regional area so that it’s easy to get the drivers to and from Richmond International Speedway to these facilities.
“I’d actually leave all three up in the air right now because the good thing is that we have over a year to watch and observe what happens.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com