We’ve all heard the old adage that says, “There’s no sense in complaining about the weather, because we can’t do anything to change it.” There is no arguing that we can’t change the effects of weather in the moment, but there is another train of thought that indicates we can take actions to ease the pain in the aftermath.
Enter Jim Long Jr. and his Fayetteville Motor Speedway. Less than a month after seeing his home state of North Carolina battered by Hurricane Florence, Long Jr. who operates and promotes Fayetteville Motor Speedway, is stepping up to the plate. His goal is to provide entertainment and the beginnings of a return to normalcy for his fellow “Tar Heel” state residents.
“Hurricane Florence was forecasted to be a category 4 hurricane when it made landfall, and while thankfully it was much less strong wind wise, it was incredibly devastating flooding wise,” Long Jr. comments. “It was an extremely slow moving storm and dumped tons of rain across the area. At one point, more than 700 roads in North Carolina were closed by flooding. Our immediate area of Fayetteville received some flooding, but it was much less than other areas.”
While Fayetteville Motor Speedway’s locale was spared from the brunt of the storm, many of the track’s patrons were not so lucky. “Locally we had some flooding and wind damage, but many of our racers and fans fared much worse,” Long Jr. continues. “Our weekly shows draw fans and racers from roughly a 70-mile radius, and some of these areas were devastated by 10 feet or more of floodwaters. It’s been heartbreaking to see, and we’ve been trying to do all that we can to help.”
Locally we had some flooding and wind damage, but many of our racers and fans fared much worse. – Jim Long Jr.
Long Jr. canceled the racing action for the last three weekends of September. The first of the cancellations came as the storm made landfall, while the remaining events were canceled, so that he and his staff could focus on helping their friends and family recover from the storm.
For the first time since September 7, the track plans to return to action this Saturday, October 6 with a Weekly Racing Series Event. Long Jr. hopes that the program will give those affected by the storm a chance to get away from it all for a few hours. “Clean-up and rebuilding is still a long way from even beginning to make a dent in the damage that has been suffered from Hurricane Florence,” Long Jr. notes. “In fact, while flood waters are receding for much of the state, some folks downstream are starting to experience flooding for the first time. It’s a very sad situation, and I just hope we can offer a few hours of entertainment to let area residents briefly take their mind off everything that’s transpired in the past few weeks.”
These guys are the bread and butter of our track. – Jim Long Jr.
This week’s return to racing at the 4/10-mile oval will serve as a tune-up for one of the biggest racing events ever held at Fayetteville Motor Speedway. On October 11-13 the fourth annual Cash Money 100 will come to life. In past years, the event paid $10,000-to-win for Late Models, but in honor of the facility’s 50th year of operation, Long Jr. made the decision to considerably up the ante for the 2018 edition. “We had a huge World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series event (First in Flight 100) back in May to celebrate our 50th anniversary, but I wanted to also do something special for our local Late Model division, so I added a ton of money to the Cash Money 100,” Long reveals. “These guys are the bread and butter of our track, and there’s really a lot of talent locally. Throw in the regional guys that will be coming, and this is going to be a fantastic field.”
In 2017, the Cash Money 100 paid $10,000-to-win and $500-to-start the finale. This year the purse has exploded to be $25,000-to-win and $1,200-to-start. In addition, there’s a non-qualifier race that boasts a $1,200 top prize. Between the Late Model purse, the local division purses, and overhead, Long Jr. and his staff are staring at a total purse of over $110,000.
Such a massive purse is daunting in the best of scenarios, but on the heels of a natural disaster it’s especially intimidating. “I won’t lie that initially I thought about not having the event at all or at least scaling back the payout,” Long Jr. admits. “However, my wife and I sat down and talked about it, and decided that we had committed to it, so we were going to move forward as advertised. It’s pretty intimidating, but I truly believe that our fans and our racers need something big like this to look forward to and distract them from the realities of life, even if it’s just for a few hours.
“I just hope that fans and racers from outside the area will support the event as well, so that we can make the race a success and grow it for years to come.” Lap sponsors are stepping up to help aid in the massive purse with circuits selling for $100 apiece for the big finale. Early indications from phone calls, e-mails, and early entries all point toward this being a blockbuster event.
“We had 49 cars last year, so if we could get to 60 cars for this year’s edition, I’ll truly be thrilled,” Long Jr. says. “It seems like every time I look at social media, I learn about a new driver coming, so that’s pretty exciting. Some people are saying they think we could have as many as 80 Late Models, but again if we can get 60 I’ll be happy.”
The event has seen steady growth since its inception in 2015 during Long Jr.’s sophomore season at the track’s helm. The inaugural edition, which was created as a tribute to the late Ricky Sullivan Jr., marked the first 100-lap event at the facility in more than two decades. Virginia’s Russell Erwin emerged victorious over a field of 38 entries.
In 2016, 42 Late Model competitors converged on the clay oval, and Virginia again looked to have claimed the $10,000 top prize with Justin Williams snaring the victory. However, the winner’s car failed post-race inspection and South Carolina’s Ben Watkins inherited the triumph.
In 2017, an event record of 49 racers set their sights on the winner’s check, and North Carolina finally scored top bragging rights as Roanoke Rapids racer Willie Milliken stood atop the victory podium. The event offers the opportunity for a wide variety of Late Model engines to be eligible to compete.
“We don’t have many Super Late Models in our area, so this event is targeted at our Late Model division, where drivers run Steel Head motors, CT525 crate engines, and a variety of other combinations,” Long Jr. indicates. “We came up with a level playing field, which allows racers from across the Southeast and Eastern seaboard to be able to come here and be competitive.”
Action starts with an open practice session on Thursday, October 11. The program on Friday, October 12, will include time trials and heat races for the Late Model portion of the event, while Saturday’s program will include B-Mains, a non-qualifier race, and the Cash Money 100 finale. Also, in action on those nights will be racing in the track’s Modified, Super Street, Pure Stock, SportMod, U-CAR, Super Stock 4 and Legends divisions.
Long Jr. concludes by thanking everyone who supports the track as well as by sending out his thoughts and prayers to everyone still battling the effects of the storm. “I can’t begin to thank all of the amazing people, who support Fayetteville Motor Speedway, and do anything and everything that they can to help me keep this place growing. Many of these same folks have endured their own heartaches and losses in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, but that hasn’t phased their support of the track or our upcoming events.
“I know that some folks in our outlying areas won’t be able to attend as they focus on rebuilding. Please know you continue to be at the center of our thoughts and prayers. We hope to get to see everyone back at the track again in the very near future.”