Local news

Spokane County Raceway operator finished with oval

Spokane County Raceway operator Craig Smith says he’s had it with trying to operate the facility’s oval track.

The track is a money pit: Previous owners have bled hundreds of thousands of dollars and Smith said last year he was able to pare his raceway losses to $40,000 by cutting short the oval track season.

“I just have to call uncle on the oval track,” he said Tuesday.

So he has stopped putting on oval track events for the 2014 season. Instead he is bringing in several new attractions to spice up the raceway’s offerings – drifters, mud boggers and off-road trucks.

By cutting costs and losses Smith said he hopes to make the raceway profitable for the first time since Spokane County commissioners made the controversial purchase in 2008.

Racing fees and fan attendance are too low and the payouts to winners are too high, he said.

The operator leases the track from the county for $65,000 a year and absorbs the losses. This is Smith’s third year operating the county raceway facility, which also includes a drag strip and road course.

“I know I can break even,” he said. “I can’t go through another season with a $50,000 loss.”

Smith’s operating contract runs for eight more years with an option to continue beyond that.

The oval track will remain open on a rental basis for groups who want to sponsor their own events. The Rusty Wallace School of Racing events remain on the schedule.

Oval racers can still compete at Stateline Speedway, Smith said.

This year Smith is offering mud bog truck events in the center of the oval track. In addition, a group of off-road truckers is working to establish an obstacle course for events next to the mud bog.

“These mud bogger guys are great to work with,” Smith said.

Another new attraction is drifter cars, which use the road course to slide through the curves.

Smith said he plans to offer the additional events in conjunction with the drag strip schedule, allowing spectators to check out both parts of the venue.

County commissioners purchased the 315-acre facility in 2008 for $4.1 million after the track fell into receivership over financial and legal problems of former operator Orville Moe.

The first operator under county contract lost $1 million in 2009.

The contract then went to a pair of experienced race track operators who lost $500,000 combined in 2010 and 2011, Smith said.

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

At mid-summer last year, Smith, manager of the raceway, canceled several remaining oval events but was willing to try offering oval events again this year.

Last weekend, he put on two oval races and lost $2,500. Only a dozen racers and a handful of spectators showed up. The concession stand sold two hamburgers, he said.

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