RODDA: The Perfect Racing Program

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Ron Rodda

LINCOLN, Calif. – A recent column written by well-traveled announcer Ben Shelton absolutely hit the nail on the head.

His take on short track racing woes is that the lack of time management leads to a track being its own worst enemy.

Along with overly long shows and how much tracks violate their own time schedule, matters are often made worse by running the top division last, sometimes after midnight.

Although the Southeast part of the county has not been visited by us, reading the reports on the trackchaser website (roamingtheraceways.com) about some of the tracks from that area are mind-boggling. Some of them suffer from complete lack of organization and time management such that they could be prime examples of how not to do it.

Our thinking eventually turned to the thought, what track has stood out as a prime example of how to do it right? While many tracks that we have not been to may qualify, one that has been attended on multiple occasions stands out as a perfect example of how a weekly short track racing program should be presented.

That track is Eagle Raceway.

The third-mile dirt track located just east of Eagle, Neb., has been the site of five or so enjoyable visits for us over the years, but one stands out in particular. On July 16, 2016 we saw the perfect Saturday night weekly racing program at Eagle.

The visit prior to 2016 was also excellent, except for a night ending decision that left us with less than a warm glow towards Eagle, although briefly. The night’s final main, the RaceSaver sprints, was getting really good when a yellow with five or so laps to go was needed.

The problem? That was followed by the checkered flag! It was only 10:35 p.m. and they threw a yellow checker? The reason was every race at Eagle is on the clock and when time has expired, it is over at the next stoppage. Our respect for having and enforcing that rule erased the frustration of the shortened race.

How much we wish all tracks used such a simple rule, each race gets a certain number of minutes and when time is up, the next yellow ends the race.

Eagle has a policy that any main that goes nonstop, the drivers get in free the next time.  At the drivers’ meeting on that 2016 night, it was stated that nine times it had occurred that season. That number jumped by evening’s end when three of five divisions had nonstop main events.

A cluster of cars in all five divisions raced at the front for the win, creating a wonderfully entertaining night. Start time is listed as 6:30 p.m., but this is Eagle and they started five minutes early. A field of 139 cars ran heats in 78 minutes and cars that caused contact pay the price.

Eagle’s officiating is exceptional, no hint of rough driving is tolerated and the flagman is outstanding, throwing a yellow only as a last resort. The IMCA rule of cause a yellow in a heat race and you are done is one of the best rules in racing. Eagle makes it even better by enforcing the rough driving rule.

The entire show took three hours and 16 minutes, with 16 minutes of that used for an intermission. This was done even with each main having a trophy presentation before the next race came on the track. A $100 bonus went to the driver with the best winning celebration, a clever and inexpensive way to add entertainment to the evening.

Eagle uses two announcers, often a recipe for audio disaster, but not so at this track. The pair stick to being informative with a touch of humor, without any trite chatter. They were entertaining without trying to be so and it works very well.

Not insignificant is the concession setup. Many tracks have long lines due to a lack of windows. Eagle has multiple locations with additional satellite booths serving a limited number of items. Obviously some thought went into their concession arrangement to serve the fans efficiently.

The track understands that they are in the entertainment business. Owner Roger Haden has assembled a staff that makes the very nice facility into a showcase for short track racing. Another visit this summer for us is a top priority.

While Shelton’s comments are unfortunately accurate, we hope he can some day spend a Saturday evening at Eagle Raceway and enjoy a track that does it right.