VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. — Weekly race tracks are facing a period of uncertainly.
Thompson Int’l Speedway in Connecticut is planning to run a special-events-only schedule in 2014. This does not come as a shock and other tracks are headed in that direction. I believe that weekly racing as we know it today is in big trouble.
Thompson has been a staple of regular racing since it opened as America’s first asphalt track in 1938. Owned all that time by the Hoenig family, the facility has a 1.7-mile road course which it will reopen next year. The very fast five-eighths-mile asphalt track has hosted mostly NASCAR modifieds for years but runs other classes. Some 15 divisions will sign for this weekend’s World Series of Asphalt Racing.
The ridiculously high cost of racing is hurting weekly race tracks like never before. It’s a domino effect. With the price of owning a maintaining a modified stock car going into six figure levels, few can afford them anymore.
In most cases this was a hobby. Owners got by for years just by breaking even. Now those who win are losing money. Even if you are able to run last years’ chassis, an “engine refreshing” can cost between $15,000 and $20,000.
Midget racing is suffering, too. Imagine spending $39,000 for a midget engine to win $2,000. Let’s not forget fuel, tires, shocks, transportation and paying your driver 40-percent of the winnings.
So what happens? There are fewer cars in the pits for the main attraction divisions. The heats no longer have a purpose because everyone qualifies. So fans stay away. They aren’t seeing the show they used to. Promoters to regain revenue, in many cases, add lower classes to up the back gate. Some weekly tracks run as many as six divisions, which also scares fans away because the show runs too long.
The promoters aren’t the bad guys here. They are not the ones who have made the race cars’ worth increase 15-fold since the 1960s.
I’m afraid other regularly scheduled tracks will have to resort to a truncated schedule. This is bad because the fans lose the sense of continuity. Another thing is the weather. Running fewer shows is risky because of a chance of postponements.
Everyone wishes there was a solution. There just aren’t any.