The Decline of the Big Money Midweek Shows…

Remember the days when racetracks hosted mid-week specials that paid really good money? They seem to be gone.

There are a few exceptions but for the most part, they have disappeared. Tracks are running specials on their regular race nights on weekends, and even then, in several cases, there is a modest increase in purse for the event and not huge money offered.

Examples of Exceptions:
—The Dakota Classic Mod Tour in western North Dakota runs a six-day tour that includes stops on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Draws extremely well in terms of fans and crowds.
—The Little Dream Street Stock Race in Wisconsin — which paid more than $16,000 to the winner in 2018 — is held on a Tuesday in August and draws well in terms of car counts and fans.
—Brown County Speedway still runs a few midweek specials. The World of Outlaw Sprints will be there on Wednesday, July 3; the Lucas Oil Late Models will be there on Tuesday, July 16.

The Gopher 50 Late Model race — which was highly popular in Owatonna, Minn., in the 1980s and 1990s — was held on a Wednesday night for many years. Packed house each time I was there and LOUD. The event is still popular and is held on Saturday night in July at Deer Creek Speedway south of Rochester but I think from a fan standpoint lost a bit of its appeal when it moved to the weekend. Why? Because most race fans have a weekly track they go to on the weekends.

Most RaceChaser area tracks do not run a midweek special. (I won’t include Norman County Raceway in Ada because that track runs regularly on Thursday nights.). Viking Speedway, Buffalo River Race Park and River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks don’t run any midweek big money shows. River Cities does run the World of Outlaws but those events are on Friday nights, their regular race night.

I-94 has the Wissota 100 in September but no midweek special events during the regular season.
Red River Valley has one Wednesday night show — its Cruise Night on Aug. 21 when the NLSA Lightning Sprints are in town. The track has run on some Wednesdays in the past, including some mod specials.

Jamestown Speedway runs a July 4 special which is popular. NCR runs a few special events during the county fair, and Sheyenne Speedway in Lisbon also runs an event on a Thursday during the Ransom County Fair.

Viking Speedway used to run some midweek events — USMTS mods, Challenge Series late models, for example — but hasn’t for a few years. I attended the USMTS event a few years ago that Brady Gerdes won — great car counts, not a good crowd. Way back in the day there was the Busch Tour Late Models at Viking.

The Advantage RV Tour runs on most tracks regular nights as does the Wissota Late Model Challenge Series.

Keep in mind, this isn’t a knock at tracks, because I think there are legitimate reasons for not having these big money shows during the week.

I think there are two major reasons for the decline in midweek, well-paying specials:

  1. Crowds. Tracks are worried to death about paying out a big purse and having an empty grandstand. Most smaller tracks can’t absorb having a $10,000 purse and having 200 paid fans in the stands. The risk isn’t necessarily worth the reward to most tracks.

I was at a modified special in Wisconsin in 1999. It was a Wednesday night show that paid $1,000 to win, and drew some big names like Ron Schreiner and Craig Thatcher, two of the best in that part of the world at that time.

There were like 20-some mods — a decent field — but I counted the people in the stands, and there were less than 60. I won’t name the particular track but I am sure it took a major financial hit. Because if your advertise a good purse for a special event, you’ve got to pay it, no matter how many people show up. Many promoters don’t want to take the financial risk anymore and frankly, I don’t blame them.

  1. Car counts. You might draw a good crowd and charge $20-30 to get in for a $10,000 to win late model show show, let’s say, and you draw 15-18 cars. Most fans won’t be happy, and I am not sure the promoter would be happy with that car count, either.

If you draw poor car counts, the fans aren’t likely to come back the next time you have such an event. If you want to put on a good show, having a good field of cars is pretty vital.

In the end, it comes down to money, and it’s hard to argue with a track that doesn’t want to risk losing a lot on a special event.

That doesn’t mean as a fan I don’t miss them.

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