The Hill was denied a 2017 sanction, with the sanctioning body providing the response that they are located too close to the already sanctioned Outlaw Speedway in Dundee, N.Y. A quick glance at one of my favorite apps, MapQuest, shows that The Hill lies a full 73 miles and 90 minutes away from Outlaw Speedway. That is, of course, if you don’t count in the nightmare that is driving through Watkins Glen in the summer time. Those that have done so know exactly what I’m referring to.
It seems as though IMCA’s thought process is that they are banking on IMCA Modified drivers to travel to the only sanctioned track on Friday nights at Outlaw Speedway. They want to see a full 24-car field at their sanctioned track versus 10-12 cars weekly that Outlaw saw in 2016. What they don’t seem to understand though, is this large pocket of racers in Northeast Pennsylvania cannot make sense of driving past a racetrack in their back yard and hauling tail 90 minutes just to race at a sanctioned track.
The cost of hauling nearly two hours every Friday night far outweighs the payouts offered this division, even with the contingency program IMCA offers. You’ve got fuel costs on top of the cost of purchasing the IMCA driver license, which is required to be purchased before you compete in any sanctioned events per the IMCA rulebook.
The decision made by IMCA this week leaves teams too far away from Outlaw Speedway feeling as though the sanctioning body doesn’t care about what makes sense to the racers. These teams are left with more questions than answers for a division that has seen a steep decline in the last handful of years.
Why wouldn’t it be beneficial to the teams and the sanctioning body to have 25-40 cars competing in sanctioned racing across two or three tracks, as opposed to 10-15 at one facility? If this was a business decision on behalf of the great folks in Iowa, why would you risk the sanctioning, licensing and weekly purse fees that could be generated from a potential 40-car contingent versus the 10-15 you will now likely see in 2017?
I reached out to IMCA, trying to better understand the decision and what it means for this group of racers, but to-date have not received a response.
The other player in this situation is Skyline Raceway Park, who has announced that they will race on Friday nights in 2017. Though they are only 60 miles away from Outlaw Speedway, they are still a 90-minute drive away, similar to The Hill Speedway.
As you compare the point standings between Skyline and Outlaw, only two drivers who finished in the top-10 in points at Skyline competed regularly at Outlaw. Only six drivers, out of the 38 that scored points at Skyline in 2016, competed on even a semi-regular basis at Outlaw.
If you’re a numbers person like me, you can see why there was such an uproar this week on social media when The Hill and Skyline were left in the cold. IMCA appears to be missing the boat on an opportunity to grow their form of motorsports here in the Northeast, while also thumbing their nose at the teams that have kept this brand of racing alive in this area.
My bold prediction on the IMCA division in 2017 is this: the only IMCA sanctioned track on Friday nights will still draw no better than a 15-car field on a great night and will be just slightly closer to a full 24-car field for the few Empire State Series races they hold.
I think IMCA will see a record drop in sanctioned drivers in the Northeast, with racers only racing where they can afford to do so. The sanctioning body will see their track sanction and weekly purse fees drop as well due to the reasons just stated. The non-sanctioned tracks will do what they can purse-wise to help keep their tracks competitive and appealing to drivers stuck on the fence about what to do.
After presenting the above information, it’s hard to see how this division survives even through a five-year plan here in the Northeast, unless the national sanctioning body takes active strides to GROW the division in this region.
Otherwise, the next racing Ice Age may well freeze out what’s left of a fiercely-passionate group of racers here around the Southern Tier, and four-wheeled popsicles just aren’t a good look nowadays.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, the Performance Motorsports Network, Scorpion Radio Group, their sponsors or other contributors.
About the Writer
Steven Ovens is the Northeast Dirt Correspondent for Race Chaser Online and the creator and host of the Turn 5 Live dirt track racing radio show, airing at 7:30 p.m. Eastern every Tuesday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Ovens has spent his lifetime in the sport of dirt track racing, growing up in the garages of the Kerrick and Ovens families. He spent 11 years behind the wheel between go-karts and 4 Cylinder Mini Stocks which brings a unique perspective to his dirt track editorials.
The 29-year-old has a career in the growing health care business world, and is also entering his second season as the full-time announcer and media director for Woodhull Raceway in Woodhull, N.Y.
In addition, Ovens was formerly the announcer and media director for Outlaw Speedway (formerly Black Rock Speedway) in Dundee, N.Y., serving in that capacity in both 2014 and 2015.
Email Steve at: [email protected]
Follow on Twitter: @StevenOvens
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