Richard: I’ve said for years that the one job in racing I am absolutely glad I don’t have is that of a promoter who has to make the decision of whether or not to race when weather is an issue. It truly is the ultimate “darned if you and darned if you don’t” situation.
Since everyone apparently takes weather predictions as the gospel, a long range forecast that calls for rain(or snow) for the weekend of a scheduled race will cause fans to immediately take to social media so they can let everyone within range of their tweets or Facebook posts know that it “is going to rain” and that they are going to make other plans. At the same time, drivers will remove that race from their schedule and replace it with another event or “off weekend” based on a forecast that is made days in advance.
So if the promoter sees all of this transpire and then goes ahead and postpones the race, fans and drivers will then take to social media to criticize the decision not to race before any precipitation has ever fallen. And further, if it should not actually rain that weekend, there will scores of “I told you so” posts made.
However, going ahead with plans to race will bring about a continuous stream of questions such as “will they actually race?” and criticism for causing fans and teams to drive some distance when “they knew they could not get it in”.
Smoky Mountain Speedway was faced with this very scenario this past weekend as iffy forecasts early in the week called for the possibility of rain or snow for Saturday. The track opted to go ahead with what is the biggest event of the year in east Tennessee($15,000-to-win). Qualifying and heat races were completed as scheduled on Friday evening for the Spring Nationals Super Late Model cars. And despite officials moving the start time for Saturday’s action up to 1:30, Mother Nature still had her way as persistent snow fell in the early afternoon and forced the feature race’s postponement until May 4th.
There just really is no way to win in this situation, is there?
Michael: It is a no-win situation for sure. You have one crowd that says the race should have been called off earlier in the week. You have another group that says they planned to call off to get people’s money. And you have others that aren’t happy no matter what takes place.
These promoters agonize over these decisions because of the possible backlash on social media and the hateful voice mails and emails left to them. They certainly don’t want that.
Smoky Mountain took a lot of grief a few years ago when a World of Outlaws race was cancelled and the sun was out in the afternoon around the scheduled race time. Since then, they have made it a point to race if they can. In return, they lost some money on a few races that probably should have been cancelled and got thrashed when last year’s Southern Nationals race was cancelled when it came a huge downpour around time for hot laps. If a promoter calls off and the weather turns out to be nice, they get bashed. If they try to race and weather doesn’t allow it, they get bashed.
It makes a person wonder why anyone would ever want to become a promoter.
Richard: The toughest part of the whole thing is that it revolves around something that no one can control. I’ve seen races get washed out when there was only a 20% chance of rain and I’ve seen races get completed when there was an 80% chance of rain.
In my opinion, the Smoky Mountain team did the best they could with the situation they were dealt. Not only did they give the race a chance to actually happen even though the forecast turned less than promising at midweek, but they also moved the scheduled start for Saturday’s action, knowing that would hurt their gate revenues by running the race at the earlier time.
I saw the SMS and Spring Nationals teams emerge from the building in which they had the meeting that ultimately resulted in the postponement and there were some long faces on those involved. But it’s not just the Smoky Mountain crew who do their best in these situations. I’ve seen the same thing at other tracks.
Despite what many fans and racers may think, promoters and track owners do want their racers to actually take place, don’t they?
Michael: Yes they do. In most cases, they are racers or former racers themselves. They want to race.
During the early part of the week when I saw people making calls the race should be rescheduled, the question I thought was what date could they move it to. As you have mentioned several times, there is no shortage of Super Late Model races in this area. It’s hard to find an available date. Add to that, many of the drivers looking to race this weekend were Lucas and WoO drivers. It’s also hard to juggle around those schedules in addition around other area events. That’s why a reschedule date was not announced immediately because there wasn’t much to chose from.
Richard: The May 4th date chosen by the track and the Spring Nationals officials ought to work out well for everyone. That’s on the Thursday before The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series races at Tazewell Speedway and the World of Outlaws Late Models race at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC. With the top-16 starters determined from Friday’s heat races being allowed to keep their starting positions for the race on the return date, that should allow regulars from both series to return to Smoky Mountain to complete this lucrative event.
It will make for a big racing weekend here in east Tennessee.
Michael: It will be a huge weekend for sure, provided the weather cooperates. If it doesn’t, I’m sure there will be some complainers about that. Or there will be complainers because it’s on a Thursday night. If somebody wants to take in two races in one weekend, it should be a good opportunity to do that.
Richard: In reality, it will actually be one of the biggest racing weekends(yes, I know it isn’t technically not on the weekend) in recent history for this area. East Tennesseans have an opportunity to show the world just how much this sport means in these parts.
Now to change the subject, this upcoming weekend will mark the beginning of the “real” national touring series season as the Lucas Oil series will hit tracks in Ohio and Indiana for a pair of races. I say “real” season because those opening couple of weeks in Georgia and Florida pile a lot of races into a short amount of time on a relatively small number of venues.
The WoO Late Models have a double header of races in Mississippi and Arkansas scheduled for the following weekend.
Now, teams will be hitting the road and logging lots of miles during long hauls between single races. It’s at this time when a team’s depth and availability of equipment can really be tested. Drivers and crews with experience at handling this sort of thing, as well as the necessary resources, typically begin to emerge as the true title contenders by April and the pretenders start to fall by the wayside.
This is when the “glamorous” life of dirt racing really kicks in, isn’t it?
Michael: Yeah, this is where you see the contenders start to assert themselves. During a number of the Speedweeks races, drivers from both series would compete in the same race. That made it hard to tell who is really marked to have a big year, especially when a driver wins two races in the other series.
The races in Georgia and Florida are kind of their own animal on each series schedule. The weather is different, the tracks are different, and there’s always a few rain outs mixed in. And in some cases, we don’t know who plans to follow the whole tour of a particular series. All of that sorts itself out in March and April.
Richard: To me, that’s one of the cool things about dirt racing that you don’t see in places like NASCAR or IndyCar. Those drivers and teams have only one possible place to go each week and everyone knows ahead of time where they are going. There’s a lot of fun and intrigue standing in a dirt track pit area just to see who will actually show up for that race as you watch haulers roll through the gate.