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Racing group cancels event at county-owned park

A race scheduled for July 18 at Spokane County Raceway was cancelled this week in what the sponsoring group called a “mutual agreement” with management of the county-owned track.

The announcement comes less than a day after the track operator said no races would be cancelled for the season.

Cancellation of the Northwest Pro4 Alliance race, which would have featured four-cylinder cars with as many as 30 drivers competing on the park’s oval track, was announced on that group’s Web site and in e-mails to its racing teams.

“I’m sorry to say that after several long discussions, and with the total cooperation of Spokane County Raceway, we have decided to cancel the July 18th Northwest Pro4 Alliance date at SCR,” Bob Coply of Boise, the association president wrote. “This decision was made in an effort to allow SCR the time they need to adjust the Oval Track schedule and to develop their business plan to help meet the potential of this excellent facility.”

The announcement came as a surprise to Bucky Austin of Austin Motorsports, who has an operating agreement with Spokane County to run the track.

“I don’t have a clue,” Austin said in a phone interview Tuesday evening. “I don’t know anything about that.”

The oval track’s manager has the authority to cancel the event, but had not informed him of any such decision, Austin added.

Brad Carpenter of Lewiston, Idaho, the alliance’s chief financial officer, said discussions over canceling the race took place over the holiday weekend, after hearing reports the oval track was “having a hard time.” The decision was “a mutual agreement.”

“I don’t know exactly how things are going (at the track),” Carpenter said. “We didn’t want to go race and have them say they didn’t have the money to pay us.”

Contractors have filed notices with the county of liens totaling more than $1 million for work done at the facility. On Monday, Austin met with county staff to discuss the liens, and the fact that a bond that would guarantee those payments – and was required in his operating agreement – was not obtained before work started. Austin said in an interview after the meeting that the oval track was not doing as well as the other two courses, but said no races would be cancelled this season.

He also insisted that work invoices were being reviewed and all contractors would be paid in installments, with payment complete by Nov. 1.

An attorney for two major contractors, John Black, said extending payments for five months was like turning the contractors into bankers.

Another racing association that features different types of cars, the American Speed Association/Northwest Sprintcar Racing Association, is still scheduled to bring its racers to the county raceway park on July 18.

Mike Sullivan, ASA/NSRA director, said his group will race as long as the track can prove it has insurance and prize money for the purses that winners receive. After the Pro4 group announced its race was cancelled, Sullivan said he started receiving calls with rumors that the oval track was closing.

Rumors move quickly around the racing community, and Sullivan said he isn’t sure yet what’s true.

“Obviously something’s up,” he added. But they have a contract with the park for the July 18 event and “I have high hopes” it will happen, he said.