To Race “Weather or Not”

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Article Exclusively Written by RacersGuide.com’s Jim Murdoch.

POINT PLEASANT BEACH, NJ-“Ladies and gentleman, all is right in the world again,” the phrase coined by popular Lincoln Speedway announcer Wayne Harper usually signals the beginning to the outdoor racing season in the Northeast just as sprint cars line up behind a dozen or so push trucks, still usually covered in the winter salt and reminders.

Those words, typically spoken on the third Saturday in February, waited until March 15th this year, due to the record setting Winter of 2015.  Lincoln’s notoriously early starting date usually runs off without a hitch, but last year and this year opening days saw delays spanning several weeks.

 

Blame Mother Nature.

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Lincoln’s conditions found the cars taking to a sticky fast surface, nothing like a daytime show where the bottom groove usually rubbers down.   What Lincoln does injects a spring fever drug into every race fan, every car owner, driver, official, and vendor.  It signals a goodbye to winter’s beat-down.

Other tracks in the Northeast also feel the wrath of endless snow storms, biting wind chills, and below freezing temperatures.  As the recent winters seem to have shifted from Mid-January through March, tracks now struggle to make sure everything is ready for the coveted opening date.

Crews at New Egypt dug down to find the ground frozen, on top of that a muddy mess spanning at least a foot deep. Snow cover blanketed New Jersey for an unprecedented stretch between Mid January and Early March, as temperatures fell to double digits below zero in parts of the mountains and central Pine Barrens on a few occasions.

Memories of a mine field a few years ago, plus more snow in the forecast and freezing temperatures left New Egypt with no choice but to pull the plug on the March 21st opener. Similar conditions and fears found Bridgeport Speedway pushing their practice back an extra week.

New Jersey’s only asphalt oval, Wall Stadium Speedway, typically opens in April.  According to track manager Diane Krause, the reason is simple.

“We’re only allowed to run racing events starting in April, according to the contract set in 1950,” said Krause.  “Then we have Easter, a few practices so drivers can shake their cars down, and that leads us to our late April opening night.”

But even asphalt tracks feel the bitter sting of brutal winters. Wall must now concentrate on testing the asphalt.  Remember the infamous Daytona 500 pothole? Crews using specialized sonar equipment will test the 1/3 mile high banks in the upcoming days to make sure no extra repairs are needed, according to Krause.

The smaller tracks really take it on the chin after a winter like 2015.

The Lebanon County ¼ mile known as Linda’s Speedway in East-Central Pennsylvania is slated to open March 27th.  But the family run bullring must now focus on the little things often overlooked by both spectators and drivers.  Winters harm much more than just the racing surface.

“Bleachers, PA systems, buildings all take hits with a hard winter so they all have to be inspected pretty closely,” said Michael Batz owner of Linda’s Speedway. “Our biggest issue is the power lines. We don’t have any cable to help hold our lines up so the wire itself holds a majority of the ice weight and sometimes they start to sag or even tear.”

Tracks want to race, fans want to see racing, drivers want to get back out onto the surfaces.  Having the season delayed a week, or two, or three after the worst winter in years is a small sacrifice for the fans to make as long as everything is in the proper working conditions. Don’t blame the owners, managers, track crews, secretaries, vendors, drivers for a delayed start to the 2015 outdoor season.  Blame Mother Nature. All will be right in the world again, in just a few weeks.

 

Photos Courtesy of French Fry Nation. https://www.facebook.com/FrenchFryNation

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