July 11, 2013 in City

Spokane Raceway cancels oval-track events

Drag, road course doing better
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Poor attendance and poor turnout by oval-track drivers has forced Spokane County Raceway to cancel several remaining events this season on the oval portion of the county-owned facility.

Track Manager Craig Smith said he has canceled four oval-track events after losing between $40,000 and $50,000 on 10 oval events held so far this year on the county-owned facility.

“At some point you have to cry uncle,” Smith said Wednesday.

He said at least three more events will be held on the oval before the summer season ends.

In one of those events, Spokane-area oval racers, fans and crew members are sponsoring their own racing Friday in an effort to regain local support for the oval.

“We have to rebuild ourselves,” said Chris Noel, one of the organizers of the Friday races.

He said that rifts among various racing groups and competition from other tracks in the region are among the problems.

The goal is to return to a full slate of events at the Spokane oval track, located near Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights.

While the oval has been struggling this year, events at the adjacent drag strip and road course have been drawing crowds and are bringing in enough money to give Smith reason for optimism, he said.

Smith said the raceway, which is leased from Spokane County, may finish the season in the black for the first time since it reopened in 2009, despite the oval losses.

Spokane County commissioners voted to purchase the 315-acre facility at auction for $4.1 million in 2008 after the track fell into receivership over financial and legal problems encountered by longtime track operator Orville Moe.

The track has had trouble in the years since.

Its first operator, Bucky Austin, lost $1 million in 2009, Smith said.

Operations then passed to Ron Hodgson and Charles Allen, who lost $500,000 in 2010 and 2011.

They sold their Raceway Investments to Smith’s son, Shawn, in time for the 2012 season. The Smiths lost $120,000 last year, Craig Smith said.

“I can’t let the oval track sink the ship,” he said. “I told the racers the other day that I’ve done my part.”

He said in the most recent oval event he was promised a field of 12 to 24 racers. Only seven showed up.

The largest turnout so far was 250 fans, he said.

“It’s a black eye for us to put on a lousy show,” he said.

If oval racing cannot be revived, he said, the track could be used for monster trucks, motorcycle shows or concerts.

In other parts of the raceway, fans have responded to monster trucks on the drag strip and “drifter” cars on the road course, he said.

The oval is scheduled for demolition derby and Bump to Pass events Aug. 10 and a NASCAR event Aug. 23 and 24.

Noel said qualifiers on Friday begin at 6:30 p.m. The three classes running are Fever 4, Road Runners and Bump to Pass.


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