It’s that time of year, when racers and fans alike are feeling that desperate crave to feed their relentless need for speed.
You know that all-too-familiar feeling. It’s the one that makes you nearly break your neck as you try to turn and look at a racecar hauler, when it passes you on the interstate. It’s that drive that leaves you scavenging the internet in January and February for photos of new cars and videos of races from year’s past.
Now here we are in March when racing around the country is doing it’s best to swing into full gear. Fans are ready. Drivers are ready. Promoters are ready. Mother Nature – however – is not quite ready, and as it turns out she holds those ever-so-important trump cards.
“I’m a racer, so I’m ready to open the gates as early as possible, but you just can’t control the weather,” said Magnolia Motor Speedway’s promoter Johnny Stokes. “Back when I was just driving, I would want to race no matter what the weather was like. Now that I’m a racer and a promoter, I lean a little more towards being conservative. Trying to force a show can be bad for everyone involved. The track might lose money, the racers might tear stuff up on a rough track, and the fans might have a bad experience.”
Stokes’ comments come on the heels of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (LOLMDS) postponing the upcoming weekend’s events at Ohio’s Atomic Speedway and Indiana’s Brownstown Speedway. After taking a long hard look at a less-than-favorable forecast, track and series officials came to the amicable agreement to move the races to April.
“We’ve worked closely with the management at both tracks all week,” commented LOLMDS Director, Rick Schwallie. “We held out as long as we could in hopes of running this weekend’s events. It’s unfortunate for the fans who have cabin fever and are eager to see racing. The promoters at both tracks have worked diligently to prepare for this weekend’s events. However, a suitable make-up weekend in April was the best option for everyone involved.”
Watching social media and internet forums revealed that while some fans were thankful for the postponement, many others couldn’t fathom why the shows were being nixed.
Speaking firsthand as a lifelong racing enthusiast, I can say with complete certainty that there’s nothing fun about sitting in frigid conditions to watch a race. Sure, there’s some diehards that will support a show regardless of the conditions, but the reality is that the lion’s share of fans just aren’t going to buy a ticket to a show that is being held in cold weather. There’s too many other options for entertainment that offer more comfortable accommodations.
It’s easy to cast a stone at promoters, who pull the plug early on a big show, but when you are staring at a purse in excess of $60,000 it can change your viewpoint in a hurry.
This doesn’t even take into account the cost and headache of trying to coordinate food deliveries and other logistics for an event that might not even happen. It doesn’t matter if a corndog ever gets cooked or if a beer ever gets cracked open to that wholesale food and beverage supplier. Once they’ve delivered it they want their money just the same.
Sometimes the weatherman has the greatest impact on the success and failure of a show. If they throw cold temperatures and a 70% chance of precipitation at a forecast, it really doesn’t matter how the weather ultimately turns out.
“In the past I’ve had races where we didn’t get a drop of rain, and it was a beautiful night, but we still lost big money,” I-30 Speedway promoter, Tracey Clay painfully recollects. “That’s when I came to realize that what the weatherman says on tv or what the forecast says on your phone determines your fate long before your gates ever open. I’ve had some criticism for pulling the plug on shows a day or two before, but sometimes you just know when the cards are inevitably stacked against you.”
Clay continues, “Running a race track is no different than any other business, and you’ve got to be smart with everything you do. It’s like if the local news reported that a restaurant was likely going to have food poisoning cases. It doesn’t matter if the restaurant ever actually has a single issue. The public will already have their mind made up to not go there.”
For racers, similar business decisions have to be made.
When Vic Hill isn’t building race-winning powerplants at his East Tennessee-based Vic Hill Race Engines, he likes to get behind the wheel of his familiar No. 1v Dirt Late Model. However, just like race promoters, he has to decide if it makes financial sense to enter events that are threatened by the effects of weather.
“When it comes to running early season events, it’s about more than just what the weather looks like on race day,” Hill comments. “You have to take into account what the weather has been like the past month or so. Here in East Tennessee we’ve had a pretty cold and wet winter, so I know that most of the tracks around us are probably going to be rough early in the season because there’s been limited opportunities to work them. As a result, I haven’t been in a big hurry to start racing. It’s a long season, and there’ll be plenty of more chances in better weather.”
It can definitely be frustrating to be planning to attend a race, only to learn that it’s been canceled or postponed. It’s a risk that can happen at any point in the season, although it seems like early Spring and late Fall events are the ones that are most prone to weather impacts.
This all bears the question of whether or not racing season has become too long and has pushed us into the “not-so-fun months” of the year in search of adequate dates. That subject is a completely separate topic, which will be investigated in a future article.
At any rate, thanks for taking the time to check out this article. I’d love to hear your input and thoughts on weather. Would you rather a track try to host a big event, when the forecast is less than favorable? What’s your biggest pet peeve regarding racing and the weather?