The season is in full swing at Franklin County Speedway after a double-header on the high banked track over July 4th weekend but this Saturday, July 18th kicks off weekly racing’s first return to the facility in many years.
Weekly racing was once a staple of nearly every short track in the country but a sluggish economy and the rising cost of racing diminished most tracks schedules to just every other week or even worse just monthly. However, track promoter Langley Austin thinks that the pandemic and the shutdown situations around the country have changed the landscape dramatically.
“To say that things are different in this country today than they were when this year began would be a dramatic understatement,” Austin remarked. “It’s a whole new world and with that comes a different approach to things. We started 2020 thinking we would run a few events and maybe run once a month but with the coronavirus and the way we’ve gone through shutdowns with the pandemic, it’s opened a different set of doors right now and we have to capitalize where we can.”
Austin’s plans of going weekly racing don’t come without some challenges as other race tracks try to race amid the pandemic as well. However, most are either shuttered for now or operating without fans, which isn’t good for the racers, the track, or their sponsors.
“It’s going to be a challenge to make weekly racing work,” Austin continued. “Teams can’t afford to race every week without the track doing their work to make the racing more affordable. That’s why we’ve lowered the Late Models tire cost by nearly $200 and put them on a tire that lasts multiple races. We’ve cut the cost of tires to the Chargers to where they can get free or really cheap tires from other teams. Plus we have an open tire rule in Mini Stocks that allows them to bring what they have rather than buy from us. That takes money from our program but if we don’t do that the racers can’t survive.
We’re also going to shake the divisions up some as we go along. Give some divisions some nights off here or there and work them as needed. The hardcore racer will find a way there every week if he wants to race but we’ve got to find ways to draw new and different racers in from time to time to get the car counts built up. It’s all a work in progress and as we go we’ll get stronger and stronger. Racers are seeing the hard work we’re putting in to get them to the track and to save them money and slowly they’ll come. It’s not an overnight success and everything isn’t perfect but we’re going to get it to where it’s as close as we can.”
The lineup for the first race this weekend is a bit different than the weekly show as cars from nearby Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC will be making the trip up while their track is shuttered. Three divisions from the stadium will headline racing action on Saturday evening including the always popular open wheel Modifieds. Drivers such as Tim Brown, Burt and Jason Myers, Brandon Ward, Danny Bohn, Dennis Holdren and many more are expected to compete in twin 50-lap races.
The Stadium Sportsman and Stadium Street Stocks are also on the card and the Stadium Stocks will compete with the tracks Mini Stock division with many of the Stadium favorites expected to compete. Along with the Stadium divisions and the Mini Stocks, a nine race lineup is on the schedule with the Chargers, Stock4, Compacts and Any Cars also competing. The Any Cars boasted the season’s largest car count on July 3rd with 37 cars and a strong field is expected for Saturday night.
“You never know for sure what will show up until you see them go through the gate in short track racing but the car counts for this weekend should easily be some of the strongest of the season,” Austin commented. “Talking to the Modified guys it’s looking like a 12-16 car field which on this fast track will be plenty. Plus we should have a good turnout of Sportsman, Street Stocks and the Mini Stocks may well have their largest car count of the year this Saturday. Plus, the Chargers are looking strong and the Stock4 continues to grow. The Compacts had two new cars testing this past weekend and the Any Cars just keep coming out of the woodworks. I’m excited for what we might see this weekend.”
After this weekend’s race the core divisions of the track will hit the asphalt on Saturday, July 25th for another night of exciting racing action. The Late Models return with some new top shelf drivers expected to take on the three previous winners Kyle Dudley, Dennis Holdren and Mike Looney. Austin says he’s hoping this new rules package this season and the tire deal starts to bring guys out.
“We have a great rules package that keeps all the cars even no matter if they have big Late Model Stock Car engine or a Limited Late Model engine,” Austin explained. “We have a tire deal that’s better than any race track in this region by a mile. The rules and tire have everyone on equal footing no matter the engine or the budget they have. Plus our purse given the expenses for the racer is better than any track in the four-state Late Model Stock Car region. Slowly, the racers are starting to see that and they’re calling and trying to get down to race with us. Slowly we will build this up and make it the place to come to race.”
Tickets for each race are $15 for Adults, $5 for kids 5-10 and under 5 gets in free. For more information visit www.FCSpeedway.com or text/call 276.613.4208