Craig Murto: Rain, racing are bad combo


Rain and racing rarely mix.

I’ve been through racing seasons where I didn’t see a drop of rain all year. Then there are seasons such as 2015.

Local tracks around the country already are juggling schedules affected by rain. And NASCAR seems to be affected every other week.

On the local level, rain is a destructive force. Unlike NASCAR, the local tracks don’t always have sponsors supporting the event, or TV money flowing to help make up for those who didn’t attend and buy concessions. And tickets for NASCAR events generally are all sold in advance anyway.

But fans who buy a ticket to a local race and end up going home with the ticket stub to use as a rain check may stay away the next time there’s a chance of rain. After all, it’s a real pain to head on out to the local track instead of doing something else, only to have the racing cancelled for the night.

Just think about how damaging that is for local promoters. First of all, they have to pay staff in order to open the track. Whether it’s the person who takes your ticket money, the person who sells you a hot dog, or the person who cleaned the restroom before fans entered the speedway, there are people to pay every time a track opens its gates. Then there are expenses such as electricity, and any pre-race promotion or advertising; it’s costly just to try to put on a racing event.

The same thing goes for the competitors themselves. Race cars take a lot of fuel just to tow to the track. Then there’s the expense of the crew; most don’t get paid, but a racer has got to feed them. After endless hours of preparing a car for local competition, it really deflates racers and their volunteer crew when they get to the track and encounter rain.

You’ve really got to feel for dirt track promoters when they cancel due to rain. The racing surface at a dirt track is itself the reason for countless hours of labor as the track gets worked on during the week so that it maintains consistency on race day. The track will be watered, the water worked in, and the process repeated throughout the week, including race day. It’s a lot of work just to be thrown away due to rainstorm.

Be sure to save your rain checks when you go to the local track, especially during a racing season such as 2015, in which Mother Nature appears determined to express her authority. But don’t let a chance of rain keep you from going to the races; show some support for the local tracks and competitors. You can always make use of the rain check if the skies do open up.

Rain cancelled a lot of racing in the Carolinas last weekend as they prepared for a tropical storm, but the CARS Tour successfully ran its event at Hickory (North Carolina) Motor Speedway.

Since the CARS sanction finally allowed the old Pro Cup Series to die — it was hard to interest tracks or spectators averaging 10 cars each race — the CARS Super Late Model Tour was created for 2015. A 10-race schedule including well-paying races at each event for both Late Model Stock Cars and Super Late Models so far has proven to be a success. Car counts in each division has been in the 30s, and each has attracted some of the big names in their class.

Defending NASCAR Xfinity champion Chase Elliott, Kyle Grissom and Steven Wallace were among the notable racers in the Super Late Model race, won by William Byron driving for JR Motorsports. The Late Model Stock event featured an incredible side-be-side battle in the closing laps between eventual winner Brayton Haws and local favorite Austin McDaniels.

The CARS Tour is a traveling show worth seeing — two 125-lap features, each with solid competitors and full car counts. They sent a couple cars home from Hickory, something almost unheard of these days. The series will host an event just a few hours south in Radford at Motor Mile Speedway later in the year, as well as races at Myrtle Beach and Concord, North Carolina, among other places.

Be sure to do an Internet search on “CARS Tour” and check the schedule for yourself. It has the potential to be the best traveling show in pavement short track racing in Virginia and the Carolinas, if it doesn’t already foot the bill. Be sure to attend one of their races, and hope it doesn’t rain.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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