There has been a common winner in short track racing events throughout the Eastern United States thus far in 2019. Unfortunately, that winner has been Mother Nature.
Weather has prohibited many great short track events from taking place over the past month, across all disciplines and divisions of racing. Whether it has been asphalt or dirt, Late Models or Modifieds, the rainy weekends have postponed and canceled many races while complicating several others with reschedulings, delays and more.
FASTRAK Companies International has seen that play out on several fronts. From their FASTRAK-sanctioned weekly events to FASTRAK Racing Series and ULTIMATE Super Late Model Series touring events such as the King of the Commonwealth at Virginia Motor Speedway and last weekend’s Earl Hill Memorial at Tyler County Speedway (WV), a large portion of the FASTRAK schedule has not been contested thus far in 2019.
“It’s very frustrating,” said FASTRAK General Manager D.J. Irvine. “Everybody’s excited to get the season started. Mother Nature doesn’t seem to want to cooperate with us. To date, 66 percent of FASTRAK weekly races have been rained out, and that’s not even touching our tours. We’ve lost two FASTRAK touring races so far, three ULTIMATE races, the Northeast just lost the Earl Hill Memorial two weeks in a row at Tyler County, and the I-77 event for the Mid-Ohio Valley.”
With jam-packed schedules across six touring series, Irvine already finds himself performing quite the juggling act to reschedule postponed events without conflicting with existing dates, both with his own series and other Dirt Late Model tours.
“Making a schedule in itself is difficult, without booking on top of other schedules and series,” Irvine said. “It just takes a lot of work behind the scenes to get it all rescheduled. Fortunately, it’s still early in the year and there’s open weekends, but as we get further into the year it will be harder and harder to do that.
“Whatever the dirt racing world, and motorsports in general, we need to start apologizing to whoever we made mad,” Irvine joked. “We made the wrong person mad and we’ve got to figure out who it is.”
On the asphalt side, the PRA Tours Super Late Model Series’ inaugural event was originally scheduled for April 13 at Orange County Speedway (NC). That race, along with a race May 11 at Caraway Speedway (NC) have been postponed by rain, meaning the new Super Late Model series based in North Carolina is still awaiting its maiden event.
“It’s been a struggle fighting with Mother Nature this year,” said PRA Tours promoter Renee Hackett. “We moved our season opener now for Super Late Models to be part of the Rusty Harpe Memorial, which makes a big event even larger than it was. That will be great for the fans, they’ll get a lot of racing for the dollar. Hopefully they’ll come out and support it.”
Hackett noted the challenges of making the dreaded “call,” weighing the logistics for teams and fans attending an event while watching forecasts throughout the week.
“As a promoter, the challenge is actually deciding when to call an event,” Hackett said. “Fans may get upset when you call an event, but there are a lot of logistics behind the scenes with competitors and teams. We’ve been doing it so many years now, we’ve gotten used to it. It’s disappointing when the weather is not favorable.
“I think people in today’s society, they start planning mid-week for what they’re going to do based on the forecast,” she added. “I think that hurts us a lot of times. Even when they’re calling for rain and miss it, and we get to race, it hurts a little bit. Some competitors are on a budget, and they look at the weather mid-week and don’t want to take the chance of going to a race if it might get rained out. That’s one of the challenges we have now versus 15 years ago.”
While it is mostly bad news when Mother Nature comes to town, there can be occasional silver linings to even these dark clouds. Irvine noted that one weekend, the ULTIMATE Super Late Model Series benefitted as other racing series suffered rainouts.
“If you want to find a positive, it’s that sometimes everyone around you rains out and you’re the only show in town,” Irvine said. “It ends up being a phenomenal turnout, the races that do happen. We got to have Chris Madden and Jonathan Davenport at Dixie (Speedway, GA). If it hadn’t been for rain in other parts of the country they wouldn’t have been there. You get the opportunity to see some new guys, new faces, new teams.”
Finally, when your day in the sun comes, the payoff is often well worth the trouble. This was especially true for Stafford Motor Speedway over the weekend, as the 48thAnnual NAPA Spring Sizzler took place Saturday after three postponements.
For Stafford Motor Speedway Executive Vice President Lisa Arute and the track staff, it was simply a matter of making the most of the circumstances provided.
“You can’t control the weather, that’s for sure,” Arute said. “You just have to take it as it is. Luckily, we have a team here at Stafford that put forth everything we could to get the racing in, and they all cooperated, the teams cooperated and we were able to get it in.”
The final result was still an action-packed day of racing with solid fan and team support during “The Greatest Race in the History of Spring.”
“The teams showed,” she stated. “The Tour teams made a good turnout with 34 cars, all of them started. One of our divisions, we had a consi we had to run. I think everyone was excited about the return to racing and excited to start it out with the Spring Sizzler.”
In addition to those mentioned above, many other promoters up and down the East Coast have battled poor weather forecast throughout the spring season. Hopefully, more fans will be able to enjoy racing in May than Mother Nature allowed in April.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo