Promoter’s Corner is a new feature on Speed51.com powered by JEGS that allows racers and fans to see a side of short track racing promoters that we don’t often see.
Speed51.com has assembled a group of 10 well-respected promoters from different short tracks and disciplines of racing throughout the country. On a bi-weekly basis, promoters will take their turn sharing their thoughts on an interesting short track racing topic or giving a behind-the-scenes look at what they do.
Our panel of promoters who have kindly agreed to be involved in this feature include: Alan Dietz (Pro All Stars Series), Doug Hobbs (Evergreen Speedway – WA), Gregg McKarns (Madison Int’l Speedway – WI & ARCA Midwest Tour), Jeff Hachmann (World Racing Group), Joe Skotnicki (Race of Champions), Josh Vanada (Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park - CT), Larry Collins (Kern County Raceway Park – CA and SRL), R.J. Scott (Champion Racing Association), Tim Packman (Lancaster Speedway - NY) and Tim Bryant (Five Flags Speedway - FL and Southern Super Series).
For this edition of Promoter's Corner on Speed51.com, we asked five members of our panel to answer the question: What steps do you take when there is a possibility that weather may impact your event and what helps you make your ultimate decision?
Gregg McKarns - ARCA Midwest Tour & Madison Int'l Speedway (WI)
Nobody ever 'wins' when it comes to weather-impacted shows. The way I was raised, if we can race, we race, because there is no guarantee that the weather will be any better the next day, next week, alternate rain date, etc.
That being said, if it is apparent that we are not going to be able to get the show in, I try to call it before the haulers leave the driveway to head to the track. We don't always have that luxury, but for a weekly show I will try to pull the plug an hour before the pit gate opens. On our traveling shows, either when we are somewhere with the (ARCA Midwest) tour or we have traveling teams visiting Madison, we understand the miles the teams and fans logged to come support the races, those are among the toughest decisions.
Likewise, I have never been afraid to adjust the schedule to allow ourselves the best chance of getting the feature races in. While I understand the passion our fans have for this sport, I have always looked at this as the lesser of two evils. Would you rather see heat races, then wait until 11pm, the next day or who knows when to see the features, in many cases the feature events would NOT be rescheduled; or would you rather see the feature events run or attempted to be contested on the advertised date? We are already there, everyone has made the investment to be there for the race, so let's hold the race.
There is all sorts of data, everyone has the radar in their pocket now and we could all be meteorologists. Weather impacted days wear me out, we have tens of thousands of dollars on the line, often we are jumping through hoops to make the show happen, losing a substantial amount of money, realizing the amount of time and energy we put into an event only to have it washed down the drain, all the while being criticized and second guessed by a vocal minority. But each night when I go to bed, I sleep well knowing I played the best hand possible with the cards we were dealt.
A lot of factors run through a promoter’s mind before pulling the plug on an event. It not only takes a large team to put on an event but likewise it takes equally as big of a team to determine if an event should be postponed or cancelled due to weather.
First and foremost, as an organization we want to make sure the environment for every event is the best that it can be, not only for the fans but also for the competitor. World Racing Group prides ourselves on trying not to cancel an event based off of a forecast. However, if a facility is unable to sustain a certain amount of rain, we will use that factor towards making the final decision on the status of an event. Nevertheless, our organization takes all necessary steps to get an event completed on the original scheduled date.
Through constant communications with Track Personal, Series Officials, Teams and Series Executives, we will look at all available options to complete an event including potential rain dates. Once it has been determined that an event can’t go on as scheduled, our organization will work quickly and diligently to put out messaging to the teams and the public. Messaging regarding the alternative schedule of events and updated ticket information for an event are relayed through the Series and respective Track website, social media and local media outlets.
World Racing Group believes that a rescheduled date very rarely mirrors the original date; the look, the feel, the attendance. Our goal for every event is to give the fans and competitors the best racing surface, track grounds and entertainment possible whether that is on the original scheduled date or during a rescheduled event due to circumstances out of our control.
It’s gut wrenching when faced with weather that might impact one of our events at Kern County Raceway, or for the SPEARS (SRL) Southwest Tour Series. Once weather becomes an issue for an event, if you get the race in or not, for the promoter it’s a big loss in nearly every case.
If we’re dealing with weather with one of our touring events, we try to make the decision early to cancel if rain is in the forecast, to keep the teams from traveling a great distance just to turn around and go back home.
For local races, we try the best we can to get the race in. We will also do all we can to get a tour race in, if the teams have already made the trip and are on the raceway grounds.
You have compassion for the competitor, but the promoter typically takes a big financial hit if the event is cancelled or rain affects the event, even if you get the race in.
Tim Bryant - Five Flags Speedway (FL) and Southern Super Series
Mother Nature. She can be our best friend, or our worst enemy. Planning a race event that has the potential to be impacted by weather can make for one of the most gut-wrenching decisions a promoter has to make. With the help of modern technology, everyone is a meteorologist these days.
We've postponed events several days ahead of time, and we've also held races on nights where the forecast said we couldn't. Sometimes you just have to go with your best instincts, and hope you're right. We always try to be considerate of racers and fans who are traveling.
If the forecast is bad enough, early enough, sometimes its best to simply re-schedule, provided you have an opportune date of course. Make-up dates have gotten increasingly difficult however, especially with big Late Model shows, because we don't like to conflict with other tracks or series events. For this reason, it's our policy, if we can race, we're gonna race! It's not a matter of red ink or black ink with us, at the end of the day, we try hard to gain the faith of our competitors and our fans.
Tim Packman - Lancaster National Speedway (NY)
When I first started this job, I would fret about the weather at least five days out...now I'm down to two. The first decision is when to call it because we have fans and teams who travel several hours to Lancaster. Then, I discuss with the staff as to what the back-up plan is and if we can reschedule that event.
From there, it's working with Dave Buchanan, our Media Relations Manager, to craft up the rain out announcement. We post it on our website, Facebook page, Twitter and RainedOut.com. And, finally, we change the recording on the phone because nobody seems to read our website, FB pages or Twitter. (smirking when I say that)
After all that, I curse Mother Nature under my breath and tell her to send all the rain down on Sundays and Mondays in the future.