Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A New Venue For WAR and More On Bloomfield and Tipton

Last August Troy Harrison wrote a great tribute to Sammy Swindell after he announced his retirement and the freelance writer out of Kansas has done it again with his summary of Jeff Gordon's impact on our sport. Take a few minutes and give it a read.

I sent another schedule update to the Webmistress today as the 2015 slate for the Wingless Auto Racing or WAR Sprint Cars was released and as I scanned through this one I came across a name of a track that I did not recognize. There are five race dates scheduled for the U.S. 50 Motorsports Park in Warrensburg, Missouri, and since they were each on a Saturday night I wondered if the Central Missouri Speedway in Warrensburg had changed its name. A check of the CMS website disproved that theory so I did a Google search on the U.S. 50 Motorsports Park and after funneling through their Facebook page I ended up here.

The History page states the following:

"Formerly known as Lasoski Speedway this track has been around for 15 years as a national level go kart facility. In 2015 the track is headed towards a huge expansion including widening the track and adding a catch fence. US 50 Motorsports Park will be home to Micro Sprint Racing and other forms of open wheel racing in 2015!! We will still offer karting events and 4 wheeler racing, including series races such as the MoKan series, MWEDT and other traveling tours."

Looking at the four pictures of the facility it looks like a nice go kart track that is going to require a LOT of upgrades, especially in regard to safety, in order to host full blown non-wing sprint cars! There is no guardrail or fence between the edge of the track and what appears to be the judges stand, only some tires to stop any stray karts headed for the building. There also does not appear to be any grandstand seating so it will be interesting to see if the planned expansion does yield a facility that is capable of hosting non-wing sprint cars in time for WAR's first appearance there on June 13th.

I am always intrigued by the attitudes of some whom, when a track shuts down its weekly operation, act like it should be a no-brainer for somebody else to just step right in and continue to make the "huge money" that comes with promoting a race track. And then, when nobody does, how they feel that it is the end of the world and a complete injustice for the drivers and fans who had supported that track for so long. Get over it people. As I noted yesterday, we live in the best area possible to be a short track race fan and our sport continues to have swings in its popularity. For many years life was good and we could have an overabundance of tracks operating in one region. Life is still pretty good, but there was not enough support to keep two tracks in our region operating weekly so they have scaled back for at least the 2015 campaign. Let's take a look at each.

In 2014 the Bloomfield Speedway ran weekly on Saturday nights and their average car counts by division were as follows:

Stock Cars: 16.7
Sport Mods: 13.9
Sport Compacts: 13.3
Hobby Stocks: 11.3

The track also had four nights where the Modifieds were also on the program and they averaged 7.0 cars in those appearances. These numbers along with the number of tickets sold were obviously not enough to have Chris Eggers signing on for a third year as a promoter and apparently the fair board did not have have a viable proposal for 2015. To their credit though, the board has scheduled four nights of racing at the facility to keep it active in the coming season and, if done right, I would guess that those shows will be quite successful.

So what is the effect on other tracks in the area? Yes, there will be some of those drivers that will sell out or park the car for the upcoming season, but the majority of them will continue to race. Look for some new faces at the Southern Iowa Speedway on Wednesday nights, the Lee County Speedway and CJ Raceway on Friday nights and on Saturday nights you will likely find some of those 2014 Bloomfield Speedway regulars at either Moberly, West Liberty or 34 Raceway. Yes, the tow will be longer, but if you want to race that is the hand that you have been dealt. At least the price of gasoline is nearly half of what it was last year!

We are still waiting to see if the Cedar County Raceway in Tipton schedules more than just the Sprint Invaders show at the 2015 county fair. It would stand to reason that the Friday nights when the Davenport Speedway is off for the Mississippi Valley Fair would be prime dates. Yes, they would still have Farley racing to the north and CJ Raceway to the south, but Tipton is closer to Davenport than either.

It is pretty easy to see why Tipton struggled on the P&L statement when you look at the average car counts from 2014. Their premier class, the one that paid the most money by position, the Modifieds had an impressive average of 18.5 cars per night. The support classes though struggled with 10.9 Sport Mods and 7.5 cars each in the Stock Cars and the Hobby Stocks. And the biggest problem with those kind of numbers is that you are paying out the most money at the top of the purse so it is likely that the last place Hobby Stock driver was taking home more money for his seventh-place finish than was the last place driver in the Modified division.

Once again, so what is the effect on area tracks? This one is perhaps easier to assume than Bloomfield as the Tipton regulars have Friday night options to the north in Farley, the east in Davenport and to the south in Columbus Junction. Heck, for some of the drivers it will be a closer drive to that new option than what they were making to race at Tipton, so again we are not talking about the end of the line for forty-five drivers and their fans!

In both cases the weekly programs at other tracks in the area will get a new shot in the arm and when (if) we get back to the point where the sport is on the upswing once again there will be an opportunity for these two fine tracks to get back in the business of weekly racing. In the meantime though, if you want that to happen, make sure that you mark those few race nights that they run in your 2015 calendar and be sure to attend. And oh yes, this time bring along a friend or two!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Special Events Galore; Poplar Bluff Goes Dormant Again; Pre-Season Top 25 Late Model Ballot

If you are a race fan here in the upper Midwest and you are not yet familiar with the Calendar Page at Positively Racing then now is the time to check it out. Checking the schedules for tracks in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri there are now more than 680 "special events" on the calendar for 2015. Amazing, isn't it? Proving once again that there is no better place to be in the United States if you a race fan who wants to take in a bunch of events each year. And that number is destined to grow well over 700 as there are still 65 tracks in the covered area that have yet to release their schedule for the coming season.

There was actually 66 tracks on that "to do" list for the schedule compiler (me) until today when I came across the following announcement on the Facebook page of the Poplar Bluff Speedway.

"Notice to Racers & Race Fans as of January 24th the Poplar Bluff Speedway has made the decision not to try and reopen for the 2015 season. We greatly appreciate the support that we have had. This saddens us to post this news as we all have a love for racing, we sometimes forget that the track is a business. Many friends was made and most likely some enemies too, but we greatly appreciate everyone that has been there for us at the Speedway. If anything changes or if someone wants to step up an give it a try we will notify you of the changes."

This is not the first time that this track has gone dormant as it actually bounced back to life a few years ago following years of inactivity. Crazy to think that Morgan and I were actually at the first race night ever held at this facility in southeast Missouri.

The track seemed to have found some life picking up cars from both the Malden Speedway and the West Plains Motor Speedway, both of which had shut down completely for 2014, but even with that prime opportunity to stand alone in the region obviously the results were not good enough to remain open. As far as I know Malden is still up for sale while West Plains announced back in December that they will be hosting four special events in 2015 (see calendar page) and perhaps that factored into the decision at Poplar Bluff.

Either way it shows that promoting races is still a struggle even in an area where there isn't four or five tracks within a 100-mile radius of each other competing for drivers and fans. Yet we still have people here in Iowa that just can't seem to understand why a facility like Tipton or Bloomfield cannot maintain a weekly show when there are multiple tracks within a short drive from each that are also racing, some even on the same night! Take a moment and be thankful that both are at least having some races this year. Bloomfield has scheduled four race nights while the Sprint Invaders will run during the fair at Tipton, plus there is the possibility that still more events may be scheduled at the Cedar County quarter-mile.

One of the racing bloggers that I check in on regularly is Ron Meyer's "The Rest Of The Dirt" and he and I have the honor of being a couple of the media members who send in a ballot each week for Dirt On Dirt's Top 25 Driver's Poll. Ron likes to share his ballot with his readers each week and while I will keep mine a little closer to the vest I will jump the gun on him this week and reveal my Preseason Top 25 list. I have provided the links to both Ron and Dirt on Dirt so make sure you check them out sometime.

1 Scott Bloomquist 
2 Jimmy Owens 
3 Darrell Lanigan 
4 Don O'Neal 
5 Jonathan Davenport
6 Steve Francis 
7 Chris Madden
8 Tim McCreadie
9 Rick Eckert 
10 Billy Moyer
11 Josh Richards
12 Bobby Pierce
13 Dale McDowell 
14 Mike Marlar
15 Shannon Babb 
16 Earl Pearson Jr.
17 Gregg Satterlee
18 Jimmy Mars 
19 Eddie Carrier Jr.
20 Casey Roberts
21 Donald McIntosh
22 Shane Clanton
23 Billy Moyer Jr.
24 Jason Feger
25 Rodney Sanders

Friday, January 23, 2015

Weekly Racing to Continue At BVR But Not at Bloomfield

More news on Iowa race tracks and their plans for 2015 are coming out and while the northwest quadrant of the state will be teeming with weekly tracks, there will be one less in the southeast corner.

Lee Meyer will return to promote the Wednesday night program at the Buena Vista Raceway in Alta, just west of Storm Lake. Meyer previously promoted the track from 2002 through 2007 and he will now serve as the manager for the Buena Vista County Fairboard as there are more and more tracks each year that are now operated by the fair with someone serving as the race director/promoter.

This will give drivers a unique opportunity to race five nights a week each week under IMCA sanctioning with Alta on Wednesday, Algona on Thursday, Denison or Spencer on Friday, Harlan or Britt on Saturday and either Raceway Park just across the border from Sioux City, or Mason City on Sunday.

Lots of choices......will there be enough drivers and fans to go around to make them all work? Guess that remains to be seen.

Down this direction, just a couple of days after Tipton announced that there will be no weekly racing there in 2015, the Mountain Dew Bloomfield Speedway issued a press release stating that there will be just four nights of racing scheduled in 2015 including back-to-back race nights during the Davis County Fair.

Promoter Chris Eggers gave it a good shot the past couple of years at Bloomfield running a weekly Saturday night show, but likely the economics just didn't work out for him and the fair board apparently did not have any offers that they wanted to, or could accept from other prospective promoters.

I love the track over at Bloomfield! I just wish that it had a little more seating capacity, but it is what it is and anybody who wants to try promoting the place down the road would need to structure the show to what would. And, and this is always a big "and", the drivers and fans would need to understand why things would not be as "big" as they have been in the past.

If "big" worked, then it would still be happening......

I have already shared one idea of how racing could happen at Bloomfield in this entry from a couple of years ago, and I might even have another concept that I might want to pitch them directly hear in the near future.

The ASCS Warrior Region schedule was released today and it included a Friday September 4th date at the Scotland County Speedway in Memphis. Stay up-to-date on the Special events in our area on the Calendar page at Positively Racing. The webmistress will continue to update the page when time allows.

Thirty years ago in February I was at Speedweeks in Florida and while at East Bay Raceway south of Tampa I saw a thirteen-year-old kid by the name of Jeff Gordon compete in a winged sprint car race. He was nothing spectacular on that night, noteworthy only because of his age, but we all know just how big of an impact he has made on the sport of auto racing. Using dirt, and some pavement open wheel racing to make a name for himself Gordon was a "new breed" of driver when he moved to NASCAR and his success opened the door for other drivers to take that similar path. Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson to name a few. 2105 will be Jeff Gordon's last full-time run for the Cup, but he has been careful to not use the word "retire". Either way it is good to see him go out on his own terms and still competing at a high level that he has consistently performed at for more than two decades.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

For Today At Least - Net Zero

Near the end of Monday's notebook I mentioned that a post had been made about the rebirth of the Mineral City Speedway in Fort Dodge and now there is confirmation in the form of a press release from The Messenger regarding the new Frontier Sports Park and the newly named Frontier Speedway.

A firm known as TJK Entertainment LLC that was founded by Fort Dodge residents Tim and Kellie Guderian after they won a $220.8 million Powerball jackpot about eight years ago has purchased the property and has some exciting plans for it even above and beyond the racing. I know, I know, the old saying of "you know how to make a small fortune promoting auto racing? Start with a big one" might be going through your head right now, but I have already purchased my Powerball ticket for tonight's drawing worth $208 million and one of the things on my to-do list with the winnings is also to purchase a race track. So hopefully I will have an announcement to make soon as well.

One thing that did jump out at me in that press release was where "Jerome Moulds, the newly hired director of operations and promoter of Frontier Sports Park, said racing there will begin in mid-February and continue throughout the year." Perhaps they plan some snowmobile racing to get things started?

Mineral City Speedway ran just a couple of events before shutting down last year so this is yet another track coming back to weekly life out in that part of the state. Recall that they already gained one with Spencer now running weekly on Fridays, Britt moving to Saturday and Algona shifting to Thursdays.

The news on this side of the state is not so good in regard to weekly racing, at least when it comes to the number of tracks that will be running weekly shows as it will remain to be seen if that quarter of the state can support that many tracks.

Late this afternoon former track promoter Kathy Dlouhy posted the following on the iowastockcars.com forum:

"I am posting this on behalf of The Cedar County Fair Board:

Unfortunately there will not be any weekly racing at Cedar County Raceway in 2015.
We are very sorry for the delay and the late notice but it was unavoidable. We are still working hard to get these issues resolved so we can move forward and possibly have some specials.
We will still have the Sprint Invaders at the fair on July 10th as planned. I will keep everyone informed of any news on specials.
This was one of the hardest posts I’ve ever made; it is truly a sad day for racing…"

Yes, it is a sad day for those drivers and fans who have been supporting the track in Tipton, but the problem is that there just has not been enough of either over the past few years to keep the track up and running weekly. There are still opportunities (see final paragraphs of this link) to have racing at the track that I have enjoyed several great nights of action at over the years, but for now weekly racing is just not feasible.

Things can change though, you just never know. Somebody in town might win $208 million tonight......

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Notebook: January 19, 2015

Rico Abreu held off four-time winner Kevin Swindell to score his first Golden Driller as the champion of the Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Oklahoma Saturday night. With more than 330 drivers in competition, the most ever for the storied indoor midget race, it is another impressive accomplishment for the up and coming driver from California who, along with his winning driving style, is quite unique. Several have suggested that the 4' 4" Abreu is on the fast track to a NASCAR ride and can you imagine the marketing possibilities should that come to fruition? First though I would love to see him continue to rise in the ranks of open wheel racing, perhaps following up his 2014 USAC Midget National Championship with a run at Rookie-of-the-Year honors with the World of Outlaws. One thing is for sure though, if he does make it to the Cup ranks it could end up being a story made for Hollywood as it was just six years ago that Rico caught the racing bug driving go-karts against another teenage rising star from California, Kyle Larson.

The Wild West Shootout drew to a close last evening with six events over nine days in near perfect weather down in Tucson. I have made several trips to Florida for SpeedWeeks over the years and while I did not make the trip to Tucson this year, I have been there for at least a portion of the series the last two. In Florida the weather is more of a crap shoot both in regard to temperatures and precipitation while in Arizona, yes it did get a bit chilly on me one night two years ago, but rain is seldom if ever an issue. And the track is very racey, proven once again by the video summaries of each of the six races on Dirt of Dirt.

Darrell Lanigan won the opener and then followed up with a win in the fourth race driving the Childress Racing #F5, but his Shootout ended early when he suffered a broken thumb in an accident on Thursday night. Lanigan will now have about three weeks to heel up a bit before his defense of the World of Outlaws title begins on February 6th at Screven, Georgia.

Missouri's Tony Jackson Jr. and defending USMTS Modified champion Rodney Sanders scored victories in nights number two and three before Jimmy Owens became comfortable in his new seat owned by Bryan Rowland and won the last two races including the $10,00-to-win finale. In that last event New Mexico's Garrett Alberson was the early leader before his engine grenaded handing the lead over to Iowa's Chris Simpson. Owens drover around Simpson mid-race, but Chris stayed within striking distance and appeared to have the runner-finish secured until a late caution for Jason Krohn slowed the field. Jimmy Mars took advantage of the restart and snared second away from Simpson who had his best showing of the series finishing third.

Lanigan looked to have the $2,000 Keyser Manufacturing point championship all but locked up before his injury, but in his absence it was Sanders who claimed that bonus ahead of California driver Jason Papich who has shown great improvement after spending 2014 on the Lucas Oil Late Model Series.

Super Late Model racing now takes a break before Speedweeks kicks off in Georgia on February 5th, but for a look at how the Back Stretch Dirt Late Model standings look after the January events, see below. Points are awarded for each event, weekly races and specials, with the point-scale determined by the winner's purse. And, if you really want to see the names of a bunch of Late Model drivers, check out the final points from 2014.

Brookfield, Missouri's Hunter Marriott won the $1,250 in the second night of action at Arizona Speedway's Snowbird Classic for IMCA Modifieds. North Dakota's Marlyn Seidler was the winner the first night.

The Tipton saga continues with no confirmed news despite the fact that some not so anonymous forum board posters seem to think that everybody needs to know exactly what is going to happen here at least three months before anybody would be thinking about having the first race there for 2015. As if there are no other tracks that a driver could go to if he just went ahead and prepared a car for the upcoming season......

No news out of Bloomfield, but I did see that a gentleman indicated that the track in Fort Dodge may return to action this year as Frontier Raceway Park. Remember how I have said that while it seems like we are losing race tracks from year to year, we are actually net even?

The "Back Stretch"
Dirt Late Model Points Through 1/18
Pos. Driver Hometown Points
1 . Darrell Lanigan Union KY 10
2 . Jimmy Owens Newport TN 10
3 . Jimmy Mars Elk Mound WI 6
4 . Tony Jackson Jr. Lebanon MO 6
5 . Rodney Sanders Happy TX 5
6 . Billy Moyer Batesville AR 4
7 . Chris Simpson Marion IA 4
8 . Donald McIntosh Dawsonville GA 4
9 . Jason Papich Santa Maria CA 4
10 . Tim Roszell Coldwater AL 4
11 . Adam Hensel Barron WI 3
12 . Russell Brown Jr. Valdosta GA 3
13 . William Thomas Phenix City AL 3
14 . Jeremy Faircloth Swainsboro GA 2
15 . Riley Hickman Ooletwah TN 2
16 . Stormy Scott Las Cruces NM 2
17 . Walker Arthur Forest VA 2
18 . Chase Junghans Manhattan KS 1
19 . Joe Kump Hollywood FL 1
20 . Larry Damitz 1
21 . Stephen Breeding Isom KY 1

It is sad to say that we still have a long way to go to realize the dream