Evaluating the 2019 Season for RaceChaser Tracks, and Other Area Notes
A while back I wrote about some of the drivers who stood out to me in 2019. So this blog will focus more on the tracks themselves.
I “cover” eight tracks primarily for the RaceChaser blog: Jamestown Speedway, Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo, I-94 Speedway in Fergus Falls, Viking Speedway in Alexandria, Sheyenne Speedway in Lisbon, Buffalo River Race Park near Glyndon, Norman County Raceway in Ada and River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks. So looking back, what kind of years did tracks have (focusing more on car counts, etc.).
I think it’s hard to give a lot of those tracks grades because of the weather. The season got off to a miserable start weather-wise, and there were plenty of cancellations throughout the summer.
Sheyenne Speedway had a very good summer. Car counts and crowds were consistently good, and until late in the year, the track avoided the rainouts that plagued many other racetracks. I thought the racing there was pretty good all year on the nights I was there. They had excellent car counts for the Carpenter Memorial, the Dakota Dream and the NLRA Late Model shows. All in all I’d say it was a good year for them.
Up until the last show, River Cities Speedway had avoided most of the rainouts that plagued other tracks. In fact, after rainout out on May 24, the track had 18 shows in a row without raining out. The season finale was rained out, of course on Sept. 13. Sprint car numbers were down a tick this year which may be a concern. Car counts in the other three regular classes remained solid. The John Seitz Memorial had a great field of cars again and has turned into a really good racing event.
Other tracks faced some untimely rainouts but had decent years with some good racing. But it’s hard to establish momentum when you rain out so often, especially early. I-94 and Jamestown each had five cancellations this year; Red River Valley had four, including their much-anticipated World of Outlaws Show in August; Norman County had three, including their NLRA Late Model show in August. When they were able to race, What really hurts is when you have a big event — like the World of Outlaws or NLRA Late Models — planned and have to cancel. Those are nights when you usually draw great crowds.
NCR did have a great grandstand for the NOSA Sprint show, and the nights I was there, car counts were pretty solid. Plus, as I’ve said previously, that track has a very welcoming atmosphere, reminds me of the small town tracks I went to growing up.
Car counts were down at Viking Speedway, especially in the super stocks, and that is concerning. I do hope the 1/2-mile brings back the Wissota lates more often next year.
However, no track had worse luck weather wise than Buffalo River Race Park. Seven of the first eight nights were cancelled which is brutal. So it’s hard to evaluate the move to Saturday nights from Sundays because of that. Car counts were down a bit at BRRP, especially in the IMCA Modified and some of the nights the grandstand crowd didn’t seem good. But you have to wonder how much the rainouts impeded those things. The good news is, there was an excellent crowd for the Corn Cob Nationals which was a good way to end the year.
A big hope for next year — that the weather isn’t the big topic of conversation at racetracks.
Sheyenne Speedway More Improvements
Speaking of Sheyenne Speedway, there continues to be improvements to the 1/4-mile facility in Lisbon this fall.
Co-promoter Benji Froemke informed me 32 semi loads of dirt have been added to Sheyenne’s surface, with between 50 and 60 more loads scheduled to come this week.
The new dirt is located on the Sheyenne River banks about five miles from the track. The track added some in the fall of 2018 but realized more dirt was needed and it was a priority to do that this fall. Part of the issue was the wet, cool spring last year and not being able to work the dirt in as much.
The new dirt will allow Sheyenne to have a wider racing surface, and the goal is to have more 3-4 wide racing and at the same time, reduce dust. Jerry Lamb — who says he is retiring from driving after 50 years behind the wheel — has helped blend in and reshape the track with the new dirt. Lamb has done the blade work for many years at the track.
Truth is, Sheyenne’s surface is very challenging to work with — it dries out quickly — but they’ve made the best of it. The racing was pretty good I felt in 2019, and with new dirt and a wider surface, could even be better.
—Davenport, N.D., driver Dan Dowling hopped into a Limited Late Model last year, and even ran it at some Wissota shows. Next year, he plans to move up to a Wissota Late Model full-time for 2020. According to a Facebook post from Dowling, he plans to run the NLRA tour and doesn’t plan on racing one local track weekly. Dowling spent the previous few years in an IMCA Sport Modified.
—Then there’s the Huset’s Speedway saga. Remember, it’s been threatened several times that the track will be tore down and turned into a wildlife refuge. So far that hasn’t happened.
According to a Huset’s website, there has been a substantial price reduction on the track.
Here is what the website says: “The current owner group is willing to finance up to 50% of the purchase price for a new owner group at an approximate APR of 7%. There is also a finance group that will purchase the track from us if they find a suitable leasing partner. The lease amount would be approximately $60,000 per month with a substantial down payment and security deposit.”
If the ownership thinks they are going to get $60,000 a month for the lease, they are freaking dreaming. No chance. The quote above lists a finance group that will buy the track if they can find a leasing partner. We will see. It’s a shame to see one of the Midwest’s most historic sprint car venues sit idle.
—There’s been some social media chatter about Dakota State Fair Speedway in Huron and possible racing there in 2020; however I couldn’t find anything to confirm this. If something concrete comes out I’ll mention it in a blog.
— there are new promoters at Brown County Speedway in Aberdeen, and the 2020 schedule, or at least a tentative one, has been set. The opener is set for May 22.