Early Friday, race teams that compete in five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park received word of the 2020 season schedule at the 5/8-mile oval in Connecticut. In the letter, Thompson Speedway CEO Jonathan Hoenig announced a reduction in both the number of race events and purse payout for all divisions.
Thompson will run a schedule of six NASCAR sanctioned events on the oval in 2020, down from the 10-event 2019 season. The letter went on to give the track’s reasoning for changes, along with additional items.
Here is the full letter released to competitors and published on RaceDayCT.com:
I hope you are having a nice holiday season.
Thompson Speedway and my family have been dedicated to motorsports, especially oval track racing, for 80 years as of this coming May. Throughout the generations we have endured many ups and downs, challenges and changes within the sport and the business. During the last decade we have experienced the most dramatic decline in interest in the sport. This was largely triggered by the decline in the economy in 2008 and was matched by a decline in national interest in NASCAR. Unfortunately, this negative trend continues today. I am sure this is not a shock to any of you when you look at the fan counts in our grandstands during a NASCAR Weekly Series (NWS) event or when turning on your television and seeing the absence of fans at most NASCAR Cup events. The business fundamentals and the interest in this category of motorsports is much different than they were 15-20 years ago. Low fan counts, increasing expenses, and continued losses on NWS events, have put us in a position where we need to make some significant changes in order to continue the legacy of oval track racing at Thompson into the next generation.
Our decision to invest in renovations in 2012 put us in a position to attract a new type of motorsport customer with a new business model that has allowed us to continue to offset the decline and the losses being incurred from the NWS shows. If it was not for this move, the NWS program would have ceased to exist years ago due to the mounting losses. Additionally, as you all are aware, the oval track surface needs an upgrade within the next few years. As of right now, revenues from NWS events simply do not justify this major expense. The track condition will eventually not allow for safe racing conditions which will lead to the inevitable abandonment of portions of the track.
We are dedicated to working hard to continue the legacy of oval track racing at Thompson, but with this will come some difficult changes in the fundamentals and financial structure of how we manage the NWS events. In 2020 we are introducing a six-event schedule (including the three major touring shows) and continuing our NASCAR sanction. These six NWS series events will be running under a reduced purse structure which you will see on the following page. In order to be able to continue hosting these events we will need full support from you, our valued competitors. We are asking for a response and commitment to this new structure before January 15, 2020. If we find that we are not getting the support and commitment in order to move forward with this new program, we will be forced to eliminate the NASCAR sanction and the NWS program entirely here at Thompson.
This is a very difficult decision to make on our part and we understand that this will also be a challenging change for most of you. Let us remind you that we are passionate about the sport and this business and are trying to do what is best to preserve the future of oval racing here at Thompson Speedway above everything.
We look forward to your response and feedback on these decisions.
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park
Thompson’s 2020 oval schedule will open with Icebreaker weekend April 3-5, with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour feature racing on a previously announced date of Sunday, April 5. The next three oval events will all be Wednesday night dates for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions on June 3, July, 8, and August 5.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will headline the final Wednesday night event on August 19.
The final oval event of 2020 will be World Series weekend, October 9-11, with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season finale on Sunday, October 11.
Speed51 will have more on this developing story in the days to come.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Content Specialist – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51