The owners of Shepp's Speedway in Alexander, Illinois, announced today that they will be closing the quarter-mile oval and that the property will become the new location for Sheppard Auto Sales and Salvage owned by veteran UMP Late Model driver Steve Sheppard Jr. The track has been in operation for the past three seasons offering Sunday night racing action.
This should just be another case study for those fans and drivers that think that all track owners and promoters are getting rich at their expense. Granted, the fact that Steve's son Brandon is a 19-year-old phenom who will be one of eight drivers competing for the Rookie-of-the-Year title on the World of Outlaws Late Model series in 2012 may have something to do with the decision. After all, as a father would you rather be home prepping and operating a weekly race track, or be out on the road helping your son as he builds his career? Unless that track is making some pretty big profits, the choice is obvious.
Shepp's had already indicated that they would be moving from Sunday nights to Fridays this year and that was part of the motivation for Quincy to go with UMP Late Models for their Sunday show. Quincy officials Jack Walbring and Doug Miller told me this past weekend that there was already a good deal of interest coming from the Springfield area and, with this announcement, it is a pretty good bet that you will be seeing both Late Models and Modifieds who used to race at Shepp's popping into Quincy on a pretty regular basis.
In the summer of 2010 Morgan and I made a bit of a detour on our way home from Haubstadt, Indiana, to stop at Shepp's for a Sunday night show. But when we arrived we learned that the start-time had been pushed back an hour due to very hot temperatures. Rather than waiting around for another hour, and then getting home another hour later on a night where we both had to be at work early the next morning, we decided to just catch a quick peek at the facility and then head home. It looked like a neat little race track, one that would definitely keep you on the edge of your seat all night no matter what division was in action. Both of us agreed that if not for the hot weather and the later starting time it would have been great to stay and watch and that we would make it a point to get back down to the facility again as soon as our schedule would allow. With today's announcement, I regret that we didn't stay and watch that night.
Shepp's joins the Central Missouri Speedway in Warrensburg as a closure for 2012 although owner Earl Walls still has that track on the market. As of right now it appears that the Lake Ozark Speedway in Eldon, Missouri may set idle this year, although the ASCS still has the annual two-day show on Labor Day weekend on the schedule, and 24 Raceway in Moberly is still looking for someone to buy or lease the place. And another track in Missouri, Butler Speedway, appears that it will be dark in 2012 as well.
If you take a line and draw it from Butler over to Alexander, all of those tracks are within about a fifty mile distance of that line. Not trying to draw any conclusion to that, I just find it interesting. Up north a little further, here in Iowa, there would have been a few people that would have taken the odds that there would be a few track closures up this way for 2012, but as of now that would not have been a good bet. And in fact, with Bloomfield resuming a weekly schedule under Chris Eggers, that offsets the fact that Memphis, Missouri, is backing off to a Specials schedule under the direction of Brandon Savage.
As we draw closer to the upcoming season it looks as though the roster is set and, as always, we wish each and every track nothing but success for the good of the racers, for the good of the promoters and of course for the enjoyment of the fans. Check the Specials Calendar and start mapping out the events that will add to your weekly show watching for your 2012 season today!