NARC NEWSLINE, December 13, 2020, By Jim Allen … As you have probably already seen, the 2021 NARC King of the West Fujitsu General Racing Series has been published for the masses. The broad overview of this sprint car campaign is simple, featuring 20 410 sprint car events at 10 different dirt oval tracks … assuming this COVID-19 pandemic rides off into the sunset and never returns.
In fact, just about every track and sanctioning body has rolled out their 2021 plans, all with their fingers-crossed, praying that the world will become a healthier place in just a few short months. And let me tell you, and not to be the soothsayer of doom, but it needs to happen, or dirt track racing at State and County Fairgrounds in California is going to go the way of the cassette tape. You might be able to find one, but it will be a severely antiquated model. It appears that politicians in Sacramento and some local county fair boards have put targets on fairgrounds and dirt tracks because they are not generating much-needed revenue, totally not understanding how the whole process works in the first place. That’s like asking me to give you all the money out of a locked cash drawer (and I don’t have the key.)
So how much revenue did California promoters generate without a single “spectator” in the grandstands this year? Unless you skipped math class entirely, you were taught that anything multiplied by ZERO is still ZERO. And since revenue pays operating expenses and racer’s purses, ZERO doesn’t work unless you are talking about the number of politicians that serve motorsports best interests in the Golden State. The best quote would come from 90’s hair band Ratt, who had an appropriately named single entitled “Nobody Rides for Free.” That applies to racing promotion at fairgrounds also. You can’t fault the likes of a Scott Russell, or John Prentice, or Steve Faria for yelling at their flat screens as they watch Floracing and Dirtvision races playing out in front of full grandstands in other states. Yet just one paying spectator in the grandstands in California is still a crime that threatens their livelihood and our sport.
Along those lines, we were about to roll out a 21-race schedule for 2021, but one dropped out at Calistoga Speedway at the last moment. It was scheduled for the popular June 4-5th NASCAR weekend. As you are aware, Calistoga is still stuck in the middle of what can best be described as a “WWE Battle Royale” of political and budgeting bureaucracy. Pick your confusing scenario of the month, and I’ll guarantee it will change again before you finish Christmas shopping. The County wants to sell it, the City wants to buy part of it, somebody might want to lease it, a private entity might want to buy it, some local businesses and residents want to close it, and developers are drooling all over it – or something like that. And stuck right in the middle is promoter Tommy Hunt who just wants to put on some racing shows – some revenue-generating, fairgrounds-saving, fan-pleasing, developer-chasing, controversy-free racing events. That seems like a reasonable objective. Why can’t they make that happen? It’s not that tough.
As of right now, the next time the lights turn on at the historic half-mile will be the September 4-5th Louie Vermeil Classic. Assuming it happens, that will represent a lengthy two-year span between events. Heck, that’s substantially longer than my first marriage. By the time we race, they will have to cut the weeds down on the track with a corn harvester (just exaggerating a little bit.)
On the other side of that burnt Napa Valley hill, Rick Faeth is trying to keep Petaluma Speedway operating as a local entertainment choice. He’s got a couple of years remaining on his lease, but the local population is beginning to put the squeeze on the track. If the mall across the street gets any closer, we’re going to have an Applebees and a Zales Jewelers in the pit area next season. And when I say local population, I really mean builders and developers, who fantasize about Zillow land values with the same self-gratifying methods as their Pornhub subscriptions. At the same time, dollar signs are flashing in the heads of local officials who would love to balance their budgets with local taxes, rather than on the back of dirt track racing. That’s a hard battle to fight and even tougher one to actually win.
Meanwhile over in Chico, one of the big questions I’ve been asked is why Silver Dollar Speedway isn’t on the 2021 schedule. The quarter-miler was home to the Dave Bradway Jr. Memorial race for 29 years, before Mrs. COVID-19 showed up. The event has been moved to Placerville Speedway and here’s the reason behind it: Dianne and Dave Durica, who have spearheaded the lucrative fund-raising efforts for the duration, announced in 2019 that the 30th annual event would be their last. They plan to fade away gracefully into a well-deserved retirement. That’s the bad news! The good news is the Bradway/Tuccelli family announced that they are going to assume those responsibilities and wanted to move it to Placerville; a track where their family cut their racing teeth.
As a result, the 30th Bradway race has been relocated and rescheduled for June 12th, where it is now part of a big King of the West/Sprint Car Challenge Tour combo show at the quarter mile bullring. Chico’s Dennis Gage, who (unofficially) has the worst lease agreement and fairgrounds support among all the aforementioned promoters, needed the marketing viability of the Bradway event to get people in the grandstands. Without it, it’s not a profitable venture – hence no King of the West races at Chico for the first time since Ronald Reagan was president. Just in case nobody noticed, the grandstands at Silver Dollar Speedway don’t fill up like they did in the years past and the number of high-profile racing events has dropped. Rumor has it that Troy Hennig had to get a real job. As a side note, NARC visited the SDS 10-14 times a year in the late 90’s. Nobody is fond of change – me included, but the good old days of 2019 are gone. Bottom line: No Chico in 2021. Doesn’t mean we can’t go back in 2022.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s not a single promoter in California who has a business card printed up that states they are a “non-profit organization” – and rightfully so because they’ve got some serious bills to pay: Lease payments, lights, water, track prep, equipment maintenance, payroll, insurance, security, marketing, officials, trophies, clean up, and of course the racer’s purse. Track improvements like improving lighting and hauling in new dirt, fixing catch fences, remodeling bathrooms, and general facility maintenance are on top of that. Let’s not forget the part where they need to earn a decent living.
As a result, the way California’s track promoters must operate their business has probably changed forever. They have been forced to hop off the grader and become lobbyist in order to stage events. That means dumping the 1995 Gold Cup t-shirt and jeans in favor of a dress shirt and pair of slacks to glad hand (fist bump in pandemic times) the mayor, the health department, the ABC, BBB, CoC, the City Council, the fair board and God only knows who else just to stage a practice day. And the voting isn’t exactly democratic – try to act surprised – because it usually only takes one “NO” to override multiple “YES” votes. That’s because everybody is afraid of getting sued, which happens often in a state with the second most lawyers in the nation. I just remembered … we do this for fun … right?
With all that in mind, please be patient and stay healthy. Everybody associated with dirt track racing in California is working towards a common goal and that is a return to normalcy. It may look a little different than the normal of the past, but it will be the new standard of excellence. We may need you to assist with petitions and letter writing campaigns, or to attend city council meetings in the future so stay in touch on social media. Along those lines, PLEASE keep things positive on social media. If your opinion is that you think your states Governor or local politician is a self-serving, money-grubbing crook or douchebag, you are probably right, but please post that opinion on your personal site – not the racing organizations (or risk being blocked forever.) We want to keep things professional to help encourage sponsorship participation by corporate America. Thank you.
OTHER SCHEDULE NOTES: There are only five NARC King of the West races scheduled during the first half of the year. That gives us a little safety margin to enjoy a normal schedule, assuming the new vaccine works out as planned. … March 20th is the Salute to LeRoy Van Conett season opener at the Stockton Dirt Track. … The “Fastest Five Days in Motorsports” will feature races at Placerville (August 25th), Merced (August 26th), Ocean (August 27th), Stockton (August 28th) and Petaluma on August 29th. That is guaranteed to be one great roadshow. … We’ve got two races scheduled at Santa Maria Raceway. One will feature a wheelie contest, the other a pit crew competition. … October is loaded up with the Morrie Williams Legends Tribute and the stout $21,000 to win Tom Tarlton Classic, both at Hanford. That’s freaking awesome! … Just in case you’ve been in a cave the past year, there will be two – yes, two – Trophy Cup extravaganzas in 2021. The first one represents the rescheduled 2020 event and will encompass the Memorial Day weekend. The second one is on its normal October dates at Tulare. … We tried to work Antioch Speedway on our schedule, but it is still a year away. Promoter Chad Chadwick has done a phenomenal job restoring the place, but feels he needs to do a lot more before making his primetime debut with the NARC King of the West series. They need to add an electronic scoring loop. Fair enough. … Look for the NARC King of the West Fujitsu Racing Series to make a four-race adventure to the Pacific Northwest in 2022. It will be centered around the Memorial Day weekend (assuming the Trophy Cup doesn’t get postponed again.) …
NARC NOTES: Justin Sanders captured the Tribute to Gary Patterson at Stockton to end our four-race season. Maybe we should say the “new and improved” Justin Sanders, who spent most of the year touring through the country racing in Larry Antaya’s XXX chassis. Both proudly said they learned a lot from their adventure, which should make them championship contenders next season. … Congratulations to Rodney Tiner for winning the Billy Albini Mechanic of the Year award. It was presented at Stockton along with $1000 cash and MoY ring by Mike Andreetta and Chris “Cajun” Good. It was much deserved and overdue. … The top eight finishers – the only finishers – at Stockton were Sanders, Rico Abreu, DJ Netto, Bud Kaeding, Austin McCarl, Justyn Cox, Matt Streeter and Mark Barroso. That would be “best ever” finishes for Streeter and Barroso. It was a rough night on equipment. Blake Carrick and Chase Johnson both destroyed cars in scary accidents. Both were shaken, but both walked away under their own power. … Turns out some fans figured out what a “COLD PASS” was at the Stockton Dirt Track. Saw many of them sitting in the main grandstands! …
… By the way, have you ever noticed the 90 or so trailers that are parked in a row outside of the Stockton Dirt Track back straightaway? Want to guess what is in them? Chances are you will be wrong. All 90 are owned by the State of California and are filled with hand sanitizer. Yup, they are leasing the space to store 90 trailers of hand sanitizer! State officials have even hired guards to protect the contents just in case someone is looking to fill up their swimming pool or something. … Just in case you need the answer to the trivia question that will be asked in 2030, here it is … Bud Kaeding claimed the mythical four-race drivers title and Joshua Bates/Roger Hamilton were the alleged car owner championship team. Due to having less races than fingers on one hand, we did not crown official 2020 champions. …
With that, we are all caught up on one of the strangest years in existence … 2020. My wish to all of you is that you stay safe and healthy this Holiday Season. May you enjoy a Merry Christmas and to all of us … a Happy New Year. See ya!
Great write-up with the appropriate sarcasm and noted greed of politicians and developers