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Operator stops alcohol sales at county’s oval race course

The oval track at Spokane County Raceway had something of a drinking problem last season, so the operator has stopped serving.

Beer will continue to be poured in a roped-off area at the adjacent drag strip, track officials said.

Brycen Tarr, director of marketing and operations for the oval course, said there were too many cuss words and complaints and a fair number of fights during last year’s racing season.

“Some of the events got out of hand,” he said on Tuesday. “Quite a few people got thrown out.”

While beer and wine sales generated profit, they were offset by the cost of hiring at least 15 security guards and an off-duty sheriff’s deputy to keep alcohol-fueled race fans from losing control, he said.

“We decided it wasn’t worth it,” Tarr said.

Last year, he got complaints from grandparents who said they wanted to take their grandchildren, but wouldn’t because of the behavior.

Tarr said there is something of a culture of drinking at road race events, but he believes that a family-oriented venue can be successful, too.

Last year, the oval averaged about 4,000 fans at each event. This year Tarr hopes for larger crowds.

He is upgrading and adding concessions so that fans can enjoy soft drinks and food.

The backs of tickets announce the change in alcohol policy. Tarr said that has generated calls from beer fans who said it will hurt business.

He said he thinks hard-core fans will attend even with the venue on the wagon.

The oval season kicks off May 4 with Friday Night Fury featuring pony stock cars, road runners and the Bump 2 Pass race, a fan favorite.

The bump event involves small, older vehicles in which drivers are required to bump the car in front of them before passing.

The schedule runs through the third week of September with 39 events.

At the drag strip, operator Craig Smith said 91 drag cars showed up for a tuneup event last weekend, exceeding his expectations and offering hope of a good season ahead.

He spent $100,000 on a specialty tractor to prepare the track for better traction. Drivers were pleased with the results, he said.

The half-mile oval is operated by the Tarr family under a rental arrangement with Raceway Investments, which operates the track under contract with Spokane County, the owner.

The county spent $4.5 million in 2008 in a controversial purchase of the 315-acre park, which includes a road course.