Keeping the Entry Level Classes Affordable is Key; Another Upper Midwest Race Track Re-opening in 2019

Photo from Austin Lammers Facebook page, taken by Curt Anderson

I am totally for having affordable entry level classes for young drivers to step into to develop their skills. Many drivers in those classes are young and just starting out. It is important to have feeder classes at every track — because in a lot of cases those drivers will be the ones moving up to the bigger divisions in the future.

I am not a huge fan of sanctioning those lower divisions even though there are some good reasons to do so. I think it adds to the bureaucracy of racing — you have to buy a license, more rules (tires, etc) — and frankly it takes some of the “run what you brung” away from racing. To me that is grassroots racing at its best when you can put a roll cage into a car from the grove and make it a race car.

The INEX Legends may be an exception as far as sanctioning — the class seems affordable and a good stepping stone for young drivers, particularly for those coming from go-karts. If you go to Red River Valley Speedway, Norman County Raceway and Buffalo River Race Park you see some pretty talented drivers who have bright futures ahead of them.

It is important to have a stock class of some kind (hobby stock, pure stock, bomber, whatever you want to call it). This keeps racing tied to its roots, plus there is a still a variety in those classes, compared to the uniformity of the modified divisions, for example. I like seeing a Dodge Dart run against a Plymouth Duster or Chevy Impala or Monte Carlo. The one downside I have heard about that class is being able to find parts, which isn’t always easy or practical.

It is also important to have a short tracker/sport compact/hornet/mini stock class. Unlike the pure stocks, you have all kinds of cars around that can be turned into a hornet (Dodge Neons, Chevy Cavaliers, Chevy Berettas, Pontiac Grand Ams among others). I think this class should be the most affordable (keeping safety as the first priority) at every track. It’d be nice if you could put one together for $2,000 and not have to invest a lot more in it during the season. And you know what, this class, puts on a good show — you should check out a Short Tracker feature at I-94 Speedway sometime.

Other thoughts:
***According to a press release on its Facebook page, the I-90 Speedway near Hartford, S.D., will reopen in 2019. Great news!

The 3/8-mile track, located 15 minutes west of Sioux Falls, has sat idle since 2015, and it is welcome news to fans in the Sioux Falls area, particularly with Badlands Speedway (formerly Husets) facing an uncertain future.

Rod Pattison — a guy I’ve known for a decade who is well known in the southeastern South Dakota racing scene — will serve as the track’s general manager, the release said. A good, experienced racing group will help Pattison run the show.

The track will race the Race Saver Sprint Cars, Late Model Street Stocks, B-Modifieds and Hobby Stocks. Some specials with the Midwest Spring Touring Series and the Tri-State Late Model series.

A press conference is set for Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. to announce a schedule, rules and more about 2019.

Another track in southeast Minnesota — Chateau Raceway, which sat idle for the first half of 2018 before being sold, reopened in July and ran a good number of races. Fairmont Raceway has a new promoter as Jon McCorkell announced on the track’s Facebook page he is taking over as promoter. The only track that I haven’t seen a promoter for is Redwood Speedway but will keep checking.

I realize I ventured out of my normal coverage area talking about these tracks, but it is important to remember that without the support of drivers and fans, tracks in our area could — and I emphasize could —face similar uncertain futures. Keep in mind, there was a big void in the area when Red River Valley Speedway was closed from 2013-15. We are fortunate in Fargo-Moorhead to have six racetracks within a 75-mile radius of the area.

***Speaking of Huset’s, on the Badlands Motor Speedway website, there is a clock ticking (21 days as of this writing) regarding the future of the track. That is the deadline track ownership has set for selling the facility, otherwise, the track will be torn down and turned into a wildlife sanctuary.

I’ve searched the internet and can’t find a current update regarding the facility which I don’t think is good news. Perhaps there is an underground movement raising money…one can hope.

***Sprint car fans in the Red River Valley will be happy to know that the World of Outlaw Sprint Cars will be in the area three times in 2019, according to press releases from Spieker Promotions. The tour — which features multi-time series and Knoxville Nationals champion Donny Schatz of Fargo — will be at the Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo, N.D., on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. Schatz won the event there in 2018.

River Cities Speedway will host two WOO sprint events once again in 2019 — June 7 and Aug. 16. Those stops have become highly popular for the 3/10-mile bullring. Schatz, for the record, has won eight of the last 10 WOO events at Grand Forks (thanks to Mike Spieker’s info).

If you want to know what is happening in the area sprint car scene and beyond, Mike Spieker is your guy.

***My very informal Facebook poll with 38 voters said overwhelmingly lower ticket/food prices will help attract more fans — and keep them coming — to the track each week. The final tally was 33-5. That doesn’t mean there isn’t validity to the too many classes argument — I happen to agree with that too — but clearly, it’s about affordability and value of the product to many fans.

***One thing I will be watching this summer is the impact, car count wise and crowd wise, of Buffalo River Race Park moving to Saturday. There is one potential downside, and that is the 1/4-mile oval will no longer draw cars from the Brainerd area, since North Central Speedway races on Saturday nights. It wasn’t a large amount of cars but a handful would race at BRRP on a regular basis. I am guessing BRRP management weighed that against the potential of having more fans and cars if racing on Saturday. Only time will tell but it will be something to keep an eye on.

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