Why bother scheduling races so early in the year?

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Fans want to see drivers such as Jimmy Owens race all throughout the year

A well known quote often attributed to Mark Twain declares that “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Well, in the racing business, promoters do actually do something about it. They schedule races that sometimes have to be postponed or cancelled during the late winter and early spring because of the weather.

That might cause some to ask “Why bother scheduling races so early in the year?” But the reality is, there are some very good reasons for including the early weekends of the calendar on the schedules of tracks and the various racing series.

On this second weekend in March of 2019 there were supposed to be a pair of World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series races held on two Tennessee tracks. Duck River Raceway Park and Smoky Mountain Speedway were set to offer their fans a look at that national touring series and its stars in a pair of features that would pay $10,000 and $12,000 respectively to the winners of those events. However, a forecast that called for a near 100% chance of rain on both Friday and Saturday forced those tracks and the series to reschedule the races for March 22nd and 23rd.

Those postponements came one weekend after South Carolina’s Cherokee Speedway had to re-set a $12,000-to-win Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series event for March 24th after a rainy forecast disrupted their plans.

Each of those tracks have had issues with race dates during this time of the year in the past. So again, some might wonder why they even bother penciling those races in on the calendar.

One obvious reason why tracks do bother to schedule racing early in the year is that there is no money to be made while sitting idle. Yes, there is a gamble involved as promoters and track owner go through the steps of preparing their facilities to race at a time of year when the weather can be iffy at best. Man hours go into caring for the racing surface while concession stands are stocked and souvenirs are brought in.

Of course there is a chance that money can be lost due to a postponement. But there is absolutely a guarantee that none will be made when the track sits idle. And consider that there are bank payments due and property taxes to be taken care of no matter whether the facility is being used or not. Promoters and owners have to put their property to use as often as they can to stay ahead of the bills.

Further, there are only so many spots available on the schedules of some of the touring series for tracks to secure a date. Whether it be the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, the WoO Late Models, or one of the various regional circuits, there are numerous tracks around the country vying for places on those schedules and many of those dates are already granted to traditional locales at particular times of the year. Placing races on the early part of the calendar may be the only way for some tracks to secure what could potentially be their most lucrative race date of the entire season.

Race tracks are meant to be raced on. Pasture fields are meant to sit idle.

And perhaps the best reasons of all for tracks to schedule early season races is because racers want to race and fans want to see racing. Just as tracks are meant to be raced on, race cars are meant to race rather than simply still up on jack stands in a garage somewhere. Drivers and teams lose money while their cars sit in a shop with all of the new pieces and parts not being used even though they had to be paid for in advance.

Cars such as that of Don O’Neal aren’t meant to just sit idle in a garage

More than that, it is just in the racer’s nature to race. There is only so much bench racing anyone can do before having to go out and actually do the real thing.

And typically by March, fans have spent as much time as they can handle sitting inside the house. They want to see their favorites tearing up the track. Race fans, perhaps unlike fans of any other sport, are completely devoted to that one activity more than anything else. While football or basketball on television may serve to pass the time, many race fans want to see racing.

All in all, there is nothing wrong with tracks scheduling races early in the season. It’s what they should be doing and in many cases what they have to do. While it may be more of a gamble, there is no guarantee that the weather will be bad in March just like there is no guarantee that the weather will be perfect during some other time of the year.

If Bill France, Sr. had listened to those who are always looking for reasons not to race instead of reasons to race, he would have never built the Daytona International Speedway because “that Florida weather can be tricky”.

So yes, Mr. Twain, race tracks are doing something about the weather. They are scheduling races just as they should be.

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