PENN YAN, NY — Blog by Race Chaser Online New York Correspondent Steven Ovens — Photos By Curtis Berleue — North Wilkesboro. Rockingham. Two former NASCAR level tracks that relied on fans support to keep them open that were sadly let down. NASCAR level races disappeared from Rockingham and Wilkesboro is buried in weeds after several failed attempts at raising the funds to rebuild and reopen. The one common theme- poor fan attendance and support.
Even though this article is going to be about Dirt Modified racing, the opportunity for fans to influence change is just as great going into tonight’s Seneca Lake Shootout at Yates County Speedway.
Now, granted, Yates County Speedway won’t open or close based off of Friday’s attendance. The decision to bring Modifieds back to the 4/10-mile Dundee, NY oval, however, could be swayed greatly based on the attendance to Friday’s 50-lap $4,000 to win event between the small-block and big-block modifieds.
“That’s all I’ve heard since I took over the track,” said Dan Harpell on Tuesday night’s edition of Turn 5 Live.
“If you bring the Modifieds back, that’s how you’re going to get people in the stands. That certainly didn’t prove to be true in our midweek show. I’ll give you a mulligan on that one. This is your second opportunity to prove that this is a viable option for next year.”
Well race fans, consider that a great race track promoter putting the ball in your court. You have the chance to come and prove everything you said you have wanted since the announcement of Harpell taking over the speedway.
I will admit that I was one of the race fans that hoped the second big announcement to come from the speedway in the Spring was that the Modifieds would return immediately starting in 2014. The reality at the time of Harpell’s takeover of the speedway was that sweeping changes were off the table for 2014 as it would have been unfair to those who had built cars to run already.
Harpell felt this would be an opportunity to ‘test drive’ where the fans stood when it came to having Dirt Modifieds on a potential weekly basis looking ahead to 2015. Race officials and fans alike talked candidly with each other about how important that first Modified show was going to be in showing the Yates County Speedway promoter that the Modifieds needed to return weekly.
Come Tuesday July 22nd, the race fans that had clamored for the Mighty Modified return dropped the ball. Some used the scheduling of a Tuesday night as an excuse, some used mother nature as an excuse and others just simply didn’t show up.
After the races that night I vividly recall standing next to Dan in the media tower looking out over the speedway and Dan saying, “If we’re going to bring the modifieds back, we’ve got to do better than this.”
He was right. If we as race fans don’t come together to support this show on Friday night we will only have ourselves to blame when the GM Crate Sportsman Modifieds are the headlining division in 2015.
This time around we are racing on a Friday night- which happens to be the same night that Yates County races on a weekly basis. The weather report has shown nothing but sunshine all week long and as this article is being typed there is a 0% chance of rain for Friday night. Sounds like we couldn’t have a better night to go play in the dirt!
Other factors that go into it were mentioned by Harpell on Tuesday night.
“Now that we get into September, the season is pretty much over. Guys realize they want to go racing and there are only a few limited number of opportunities to do so. Some guys tend to travel more when their regular season is over.”
In the names that have popped up as verbally confirmed to attend the Shootout, this traveling theory certainly rings true. 7-time Yates County Speedway track champion Steve Paine has entered his name into contention. It has been several seasons since the name ‘Paine’ toured the 4/10-mile. Paine had been banned from the speedway by a previous promoter. Now Paine, “has a new lease on life at this speedway,” according to an interview Harpell gave in the spring.
Previous multi-time modified winner at Yates County, Matt Sheppard has announced he will be attending. HBR teammate Jimmy Phelps will be coming to race his HBR 98h. Pat Ward, Vic Coffey, former track champ Billy Van Pelt, local hero Brady Fultz, Derrick Podsiadlo, Alan Johnson and others have also tossed in their hat.
The stage is set, the track is ready, Dan Harpell’s staff is ready to welcome you and names that could make up a Super DIRTcar Series All-Star race are planning to attend.
With the future of Modified competition at the speedway potentially on the line this Friday night, the question remains- will you?