Saturday night fever: Red River Valley Speedway switches nightsAuto racing at the Red River Valley Speedway is returning to Saturday nights. In an effort to boost attendance, speedway officials have opted to switch this year’s weekly races from Wednesday to Saturday, beginning with a May 5 season opener.
By: By Ryan S. Clark, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
WEST FARGO — Auto racing at the Red River Valley Speedway is returning to Saturday nights.
In an effort to boost attendance, speedway officials have opted to switch this year’s weekly races from Wednesday to Saturday, beginning with a May 5 season opener.
“Our fan base wasn’t strong enough to carry us, judging by the 800 to 1,000 people in the stands,” track operations manager Cory Back said, referring to last summer’s Wednesday night racing. “We’d like to see 2,000 to 3,000 in the stands.”
Back said the change is aimed at attracting those fans who were unwilling to sacrifice a weeknight to watch racing. But he knows the track faces challenges by racing on Saturdays.
Viking Speedway in Alexandria, Minn., and the Jamestown (N.D.) Speedway also race on Saturdays – pulling drivers in different directions.
“We’ve got a lot of excitement and a little bit of fear,” Back said. “We don’t know which drivers will support us. There were no other tracks that raced on Wednesdays last year.”
Back said all of this is to build off of what the track accomplished last season.
The track was on the brink of closure when Danny Schatz and his family took over and began managing the facility.
Schatz and his family brought NASCAR champion Tony Stewart to the track three times while keeping a consistent schedule from May to August.
“This year we are making it a premier race program,” Back said. “It is mostly for the fans, but we are making strides for the drivers.”
The speedway will also add sprint cars and pure stock cars to this year’s lineup with the hopes of adding more fans.
“Every week we will have sprint cars or late models,” he said. “Last year we were running four classes and this year we are running five.”
Stewart, who won last year’s NASCAR championship, will return to the track for the third consecutive year. Stewart is scheduled to race at the track on Wednesday, June 20.
The World of Outlaws sprint car circuit will also return to the track. Featuring Fargo’s Donny Schatz, one of the sport’s premier racers, the Outlaws are scheduled to race at the track on June 16.
“We didn’t take anything away from last year. We are just adding to it,” Back said. “We are going all-in, and if we cannot excite people on racing maybe there are not racing fans here … but we know there are.”
Clark is a sports writer at the Fargo Forum