Smoky Mountain Speedway is being made ready host what is typically one of its biggest events of the season when the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series makes a return visit to the Maryville, TN facility for the 7th annual Tennessee Tip-Off. Last year’s version of this race featured one of the biggest crowds in the history of the track and promoters are hoping the 2020 event will be no different.
SMS General Manager Casey Moses points out that fans can expect a new look when they walk through the gates this Saturday night(March 7, 2020) as crews work to complete several projects designed to improve the race day experience of the patrons.
“We’ve had a tough off-season because of weather related issues,” Moses explained in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “It’s really killed us most of the year, but in the last few weeks we’ve actually got a lot accomplished. We finally got to build the new restrooms that we were supposed to have this past year. The permits were our biggest hold up last year but we now have it built and we’re working to finish up with some plumbing and the HVAC system. We’ve got a pavilion connected to the grandstand concessions and it’s really nice. It’s huge but just looking at it in pictures doesn’t do it justice.”
A new access road for cars entering the track was added last season at the exit of turn two which requires drivers to leave the pit area and roll behind the retaining wall of turns one and two. To both create a better look and to provide a safety barrier for those cars outside the track, new signage will be added for the 2020 season.
“We’re building a new framing area for these big 8X10 banners we’re putting up,” Moses said. “Those will also serve as a safety barrier between turns one and two and the track entrance road we built last year. We’ve got a lot of sponsors on board this year giving us more support than we’ve ever had, which is good, but it’s added a lot more work trying to get all these banners created.”
The opening of a new season brings about numerous challenges for track promoters. Restrooms, concession stands, cleanliness of the facility, and countless other items have to be taken care of well in advance of race day to create an atmosphere that fans will want to return to time and again.
“It is endless,” Moses declared of the number of details that have to be tended to. “Everyday I come up with a new list when I haven’t even finished my other one. We’ve really been hard at it the past few weeks. It’s things that blow my mind sometimes. I’m calling the fire department to make sure they’re lined up, the ambulance service, ordering the tickets and the armbands, cleaning bathrooms, picking up the trash that has been accumulated with this restroom project, taking down old banners and creating new banners. There are tons of things.”
And to further complicate matters the World of Outlaws Late Model Series will bring in fans from far and wide due to the national nature of the series. That only adds to the amount of preparation needed.
“Having a national event and the first race of the season really throws all the work at you at once,” Moses stated. “You’ve got all of your initial stuff like making sure you’ve got plenty of ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper and all of that. You have to get extra employees too. We have to have extra hands for this first race that we usually don’t require. All of our events are big events but we always expect a big crowd for the first race and with the World of Outlaws.”
For any track, getting everything right for one of these national touring series races is essential for the overall health of the business which is why so much time and effort goes into an event such as this.
“Without those races I don’t think this would be possible at all. It’s kind of a make or break. It’s always a nerve racking experience at the first of the year when you have your first big race, especially in March when you don’t know what the weather is going to do. It could be your biggest loss or you could have a chance to come out a little ahead to make it through the rest of your season.”
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