Officials not worriedEven when it appears they may be at odds with one another, the respect those within the local dirt-track racing community have for their peers is admirable.
By: Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun
Even when it appears they may be at odds with one another, the respect those within the local dirt-track racing community have for their peers is admirable.
“I’ve already bought tickets for three of their specials,” Jamestown Speedway general manager Joanne Dieterle said, in regards to West Fargo’s Red River Valley Speedway moving to Saturday nights this summer, the same night Jamestown Speedway has operated on for decades. “We’re not mad at them or anything. We’re in touch with each other, either by texting or facebooking just about every other day.
“We’ve definitely been working with them.”
Reports by The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Associated Press late last month and earlier in the week indicated the decision to switch from Wednesday nights to Saturdays was a business decision by Red River Valley Speedway (RRVS) officials to boost attendance.
RRVS operations manager Cory Black told The Forum that races last year drew between 800 and 1,000 fans, and officials would like to see double or triple that number. Danny Schatz, the father of Minot native Donny Schatz of World of Outlaws Sprint car fame, has owned the West Fargo track since 2010.
That business decision, however, came with a price of its own. Dieterle confirmed that WISSOTA, the sanctioning body for six divisions of race cars in the upper-Midwest and Canada, would not sanction RRVS for the upcoming racing season because of the switch.
RRVS had previously been operating as a WISSOTA track, but with Jamestown Speedway and Viking Speedway in Alexandria, Minn. — both located approximately 100 miles from West Fargo — already operating on Saturdays as WISSOTA-sanctioned tracks, RRVS was one too many roosters in the hen house.
“WISSOTA wouldn’t allow it,” Dieterle said. “They would’ve on Wednesdays, but they wouldn’t sanction them on Saturdays because of Viking (Speedway) and Jamestown being so close.”
That doesn’t mean a whole lot to the causal racing fan, but most drivers and those close to the sport will certainly take notice. Any Modified, B-Modified or Super Stock driver wishing to compete at RRVS this summer will not be racing for national WISSOTA points.
RRVS is also planning on hosting the Northern Outlaw Sprint Association (NOSA Sprints) and the Northern Late Model Racing Association (NLRA Late Models) semi-regularly over the course the season.
Both the NOSA Sprints and the NLRA Late Models are scheduled to appear at the track’s opener on May 5, which is also opening night for Jamestown Speedway.
But the NLRA Late Models also run for national WISSOTA points, and so far the association has only been able to sanction Aug. 25 with WISSOTA at RRVS because Viking Speedway isn’t planning on running Late Models that evening, according to Dieterle.
The NLRA Late Models are scheduled to appear five nights at RRVS this season, which means on four of those nights — to this point in time — those drivers will not accumulate national WISSOTA points. The NLRA’s Ricky Weiss, of Headingley, Manitoba, won the WISSOTA Late Model national championship last year, while the NLRA’s Mike Balcaen, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, took third.
“The NLRA as a club sanctions their show, and if Alexandria doesn’t have Late Models or if they are given permission (by WISSOTA) they can run for points,” Dieterle said. “They can on Aug. 25, and they are working on another night (at RRVS).”
What does this all mean for Jamestown Speedway, the 2011 Jamestown Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year and two-time WISSOTA Track of The Year?
Jamestown Speedway will be running its regular classes of WISSOTA Modifieds, B-Mods and Street Stocks this summer, along with Central Dakota Pure Stocks and Hornets.
“The biggest problem is that (Fargo) drivers won’t come over here, with gas prices being what they are and being the same night,” Dieterle said. “They also are paying more money over there to win. No WISSOTA points, but more money.”
For example, RRVS is planning on paying $800 for a Modified feature win, while Jamestown Speedway pays $500.
“But normally our payoff is really good back,” Dieterle said. “We pay $120 to start the feature, and most tracks don’t pay that much to start.”
But Dieterle is also taking a glass half-full approach.
“I think we’ll be all right. We had an increase in car count last year and I think we’ll still have plenty of cars to put on a good show, especially with guys running double-duty and the new Mods we are getting,” Dieterle said. “It will be a challenge running the same night, but it’s just something else we have to work around. We have a good reputation for track surface and that will help us keep drivers and get drivers.”
The NOSA Sprints and the NLRA Late Models are also pricey shows to host. Jamestown Speedway pays on average $1,100 to winners of those events when they are in town, and Dieterle believes — as RRVS officials have stated — that better attendance is really what RRVS is after.
“It all depends on the crowd, and I think they’re counting on the NLRA and NOSA to bring the people in,” Dieterle said. “I can’t speak for them, but I’ve heard the whole rationale why they are doing it. So we’re trying to work around each other’s schedules and work together.
“The World of Outlaws are coming to Fargo in June and they haven’t been there in a long time, so we are taking that night off because we feel people will want to go over to Fargo to see that.”
Other tickets Dieterle has purchased at RRVS for this summer? The speedway’s Tony Stewart night on June 20 and the USMTS Modified special scheduled for Aug. 25.
Tony Stewart night is on a Wednesday, while Jamestown Speedway is off on Aug. 25.
“We’re not having the USMTS this year, so we took that night off to go watch them over there,” Dieterle said.
Dieterle is hoping Jamestown Speedway and RRVS can continue to work together in the coming years. Jamestown Speedway’s Car Show is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on April 21 in the Buffalo Mall parking lot, and the track’s test-n-tune is slated for April 28 with the pits opening at 2 p.m.
“They’ve tried to accommodate us as best they can by not trying to book any big shows against us,” Dieterle said of RRVS. “We’ve helped them out the last couple of years and we consider each other friendly.”
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at email@example.com