No matter what part of the country, weather at this time of the year can be challenging. But over the past couple of weeks, the southeastern portion of the United States has seen unusually cold and snowy conditions, even for winter. And with dirt racing schedules seemingly beginning earlier each year and extending longer into the fall months, weather has become a major factor in determining when or if those scheduled races will actually run.
Of course, weather has always been a determinant as far as racing goes. A sudden thunderstorm in July can bring about the cancellation of what had looked to be an action packed racing night in just the matter of minutes. But with races now being set for February and early March across many parts of our region, the hazards run even greater.
As many long time observers of this sport know, the forecast of bad weather is often worse than an actual weather event for race tracks. If a long range prediction calls for rain or cold temperatures during the weekend, fans and drivers may decide as early as Tuesday or Wednesday to make other plans. Dirt track owners and promoters know this. As a result, events are often cancelled or postponed well before their scheduled date.
With so many races already on the calendar in this and other regions across the country, any postponement can lead to a scheduling nightmare and/or conflicts between tracks and series. That is already proving to be the case for tracks and series around our region.
The annual ‘Bama Bash’ had long been scheduled for this past Thursday-Saturday(Feb. 26-28) at the East Alabama Motor Speedway in Phenix City, Alabama. In Addition, the Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC had set their season opening race up for the following Sunday(March 1). Both events were to be sanctioned by the Southern All Stars Dirt Racing Series.
As has been well documented, winter has wrapped its icy grip around the southeast over the past couple of weeks. For that reason, track and series officials at both EAMS and Cherokee were forced to alter their schedules.
The Cherokee race, still to be sanctioned by the Southern All Stars, was moved to March 29. As had originally been the case, the race will be contested on a Sunday, which will not directly conflict with any other previously scheduled event.
The East Alabama show, however, has now been reset for March 6-8, also to still be sanctioned by the Southern All Stars. Those dates put this event into conflict with several others being held in the southeast.
The ‘Toilet Bowl Classic’ will be contested in Clarksville, Tenn. on March 6th & 7th, with Super Late Models among the classes competing. Also, the Ultimate Super Late Model Series has races set for March 7th at the North Georgia Speedway in Chatsworth, Georgia and March 8th at the Lavonia Speedway in Lavonia, Georgia. Further, the Volunteer Speedway has its ‘Homecoming at the Gap’ on the docket for March 6th & 7th with an unsanctioned Super Late Model race among the classes racing there.
The annual Skylar Trull Memorial at the Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, NC had originally also been scheduled for this upcoming weekend but will now run on the dates of March 12-14 under Carolina Clash sanction.
The first full weekend of March looks now to be quite crowded in terms of dirt racing within the region. Of course, there will be many weekends throughout the year in which all of these tracks and many more will be running at the same time. But those will be regular weekly shows while the events listed above area all special features.
Further, with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the World of Outlaws Late Models in a bit of a lull following their recent SpeedWeeks run through Georgia and Florida, many track and series promoters no doubt hope to attract some of that star power to go along with the drivers who normally run each of the series in question in order to draw larger crowds to their facilities.
Quite simply, this current run of bad weather has put everyone in a bit of a bind. Tracks face the prospect of dividing the fan base while fans face the possibility of the drivers they hoped to see race going somewhere other than their track of choice.
I don’t believe tracks and series ever want to run their big events on top of each other(except in rare cases of vengeance). But with a seemingly narrow window to work within due to the large number of already scheduled big events throughout the southeast, officials have found themselves in that very position.
As has been seen in recent times, Mother Nature is quite the force in the dirt racing world. Just one outburst from her can throw a myriad of kinks into the system, and only two months into the year, that appears to already be the case in 2015.