Record Rainfall Leaves Tracks, Fans, and Businesses Scrambling

Rain falling at Eldora Speedway. Photo by Heath Lawson

As a race fan, there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing a scheduled night at the races nixed by Mother Nature. It doesn’t matter if it’s a weekly show or a mega event, we all love our racing. For me, a rainout sometimes feels like being cheated out of a good time.

If rainouts trigger disappointment in your life, then odds are pretty damn good you have been less than pleased with this year’s weather pattern. Honestly, the bleeding doesn’t stop there. The 2018 season also saw its fair share of events affected by rain. In fact, statisticians recently reported that 64 cities in the United States have now experienced their highest, 12-month rainfall total on record.

Precipitation difference from normal over the lower 48 states from May 2018 to April 2019. Amounts shown are in inches. (High Plains Regional Climate Center)

A good friend of mine, who is an avid race fan, recently made a cynical quip about the frustrating situation. “By now, I’ve usually seen a dozen or so races, but this year I haven’t got to see a damn one,” he said. “Usually, I only like to watch Sprint Cars, but at this point I’d watch any race for any division, anywhere.”

While rain is tough on those who love to enjoy racing as a hobby, it’s especially devastating to those who are financially vested in the sport. For me personally, I’ve forfeited a decent chunk of cash this year after seeing scheduled announcing gigs nixed by rainouts. I’m lucky enough to have other ventures allowing me to generate revenue from the comfort of my office even on the rainiest of days. Others aren’t so lucky.

With all the rainouts, Billy Moyer Jr. has felt the crunch as a racer.

“When I don’t race, I don’t make money, and that gets old quick,” Super Late Model racer, Billy Moyer Jr. recently told me. “Just because I’m not racing doesn’t mean I don’t have bills. I have hauler payments, full-time crew member costs, and other things I pay money on – whether I race or not. That doesn’t even factor in the cost of living for my wife, daughter, and I.”

When I don’t race, I don’t make money, and that gets old quick. – Billy Moyer Jr.

For Moyer Jr., who is a regular on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, the fact that everything is getting rained out most weekends is almost incomprehensible.

“We’ve had several weekends where the weather rains out our scheduled events, so we just figure we’ll go somewhere else,” he said. “However, when you start looking at the forecasts for other races in other places, you realize quickly that it’s raining everywhere. All you can do is laugh and just do your best, until you can finally race again and generate income.”

Federated Raceway at I-55 has seen several weeks of action cancelled by area flooding.

Racetracks have been especially hard hit by the wet weather pattern. Normally by May, most tracks have at least a handful of events under their belt. However, this year has been brutal. While the rain has been the culprit in delaying events across much of the country, some tracks are still battling the white stuff. In fact, Minnesota’s Proctor Speedway found their season opener on May 12 delayed by ten inches of snow that fell in the area.

While it’s tough losing season openers and weekly shows to the weather, it’s especially nerve-racking when promoters have to battle less-than-favorable forecasts on major events. Such was recently the case for Jim Long Jr. and his staff at Fayetteville Motor Speedway.

Fayetteville Motor Speedway is looking ahead to better racing weather.

The second annual First in Flight 100 with the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series was scheduled for May 10-11 at the North Carolina oval. However, a dismal forecast for the second-day of the show forced Long Jr. to postpone the entire event earlier that week.

“Man, it just really stinks,” Long Jr. painfully noted. “It’s already been a tough season, where we’ve seen multiple rainouts. Then you get set for your biggest event of the year, and the forecast looks awful for half of the weekend. I mean, we have over $140,000 in liability for the weekend. When you get a forecast like that, you know you’ve already lost fans and racers, whether you get to run or not.”

Proctor Speedway saw their opener on May 12 snowed out.

Withstanding the assault from Mother Nature wasn’t the only battle Long Jr. had to endure with his decision.

“Most folks understand it only makes sense to postpone or cancel the event, but others just don’t get it. They get mad at you, and some even get ugly. At the end of the day, I have to run this racetrack as a business and make the hard decisions that come with it. I’ve learned over the years you aren’t going to make everybody happy, and that’s alright.”

With the event postponed, Long Jr. made the decision to run a weekly show on Friday evening in an effort to get at least one night of racing completed. He was successful with the race. Meanwhile, as forecasted, severe thunderstorms canvassed the area late on Saturday afternoon.

At the end of the day, I have to run this racetrack as a business and make the hard decisions that come with it. – Jim Long Jr.

“As much heat as I caught for not having the big show, I’m sure glad I didn’t because we would’ve put a lot of racers and fans in danger. The right decision was made. Hopefully Mother Nature will become a race fan for the remainder of the season.”

While fans, drivers, and tracks adjust to the wet weather, racing businesses are also left scrambling.

“The unprecedented amount of rain across the country has certainly impacted our normal, seasonal sales patterns,” shared COMP Performance Group COO, Chris Douglas. “Racers simply haven’t been able to get on the track, which results in less excitement about upgrading parts. Also, when you can’t race, you don’t need rebuilds or repairs.”

Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, has endured severe flooding this year. (Beard Productions photo)

Douglas went on to reveal that potential revenue for businesses missed early in the year isn’t typically recovered during the second half of the season.

“Unfortunately, for track owners and motorsports businesses, when you lose revenue from the front part of the season you rarely gain it back later in the year. In many ways, it seems to be a momentum business and a slow start can often linger for many months to come.”

It’s up to the industry, collectively, to make sure the rest of the season is a great one. – Chris Douglas

While Douglas is less than enthused about the impact weather has had on the racing industry, he does maintain a positive outlook.

“Despite the challenges we’ve all faced this year, this too shall pass. It’s up to the industry, collectively, to make sure the rest of the season is a great one. It’s time this industry start taking control of our own destiny and build the sport, rather than in-fighting and tearing it down. Let’s use the adversity of the weather to make us stronger and energize us to grow the sport throughout the remainder of 2019 – when it finally stops raining.”

In closing, there is good news for our sport. A peek at the long-range weather forecasts shows a drying pattern for much of the nation. We can only hope these forecasts are correct. After all, I think we are all more than ready to play in the dirt again.

About the author

Ben Shelton

Ben got his start at historic Riverside International Speedway. His accomplished motorsports media career includes journalist, race announcer, and on-air personality.
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