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May 9, 2012

TRACKSIDE: Spiker has begun to revive racing in Putnamville

Since his recent arrival on the Wabash Valley motorsports scene, Lincoln Park Speedway promoter Joe Spiker has certainly made his presence felt in Indiana sprint car circles.

His attempts to revive the once promising fortunes of the 5⁄16-mile dirt track in Putnamville have generated their share of success, drawing the praise of fans and competitors alike.

Along the way, the successful Greencastle businessman has garnered the reputation of not always following the same regulated path of his fellow promoters. To say he has on occasion ruffled a few feathers of the establishment would be an understatement.

The former racer is not afraid to speak his mind or go head-to-head with a fellow promoter over a same race date, or venture into a new project. He seems to revel in his newfound maverick reputation.

Those around him have become accustomed to his surprising moves. But even his most recent ploy has caught insiders off guard.

Spiker announced last week that he will buck the weekly short-track trend and go with a Thursday night card of non-wing sprint car racing – this in addition to his regular Saturday night program of sprint, modified and stock car racing.

Since the word of the announcement leaked early last week it has been the talk on the Hoosier state sprint circuit. Pro or con, it’s generating its share of attention.

“I’ve been told there was nearly 7,000 hits on different web sites shortly after the word got out. The interest is certainly out there for Thursday night racing,” related the obviously elated third-year LPS promoter.

Spiker will be the first to concede that the proposed venture could be a risky one, but one he and his wife Jill are prepared to try.

“It’s going to take a lot of work. We’re taking a big chance but I really feel it will be a big hit,” Spiker voiced with a note of guarded optimism.

 “There’s alot of guys who want to run our track but can’t because of other commitments on Saturday night. They (USAC ) always give us Thursday night dates when we run with them and we draw well, so I said let’s go with Thursday. Besides, it never rains on Thursdays, only on Saturdays,” he jested.

If the move is going to be successful it will have to come on the strength of the back gate, especially in its formative stages. The worknight timing could prove to be a hard sale for the fans so the racers will have to carry the load in the early going.

To lure the racers to Putnamville, Spiker knows he will have to offer a reasonable purse, one that he hopes will attract a field of 25 to 30 cars each night.

“We’re going to structure the purse so it will be inviting to everyone,” he said. “So if you don’t make the race you still go home with a little money. It’s not going to be a huge purse but one worth coming for. It will probably be a little less than our Saturday night payout, something in the $1,400-to-win range.”

The initial response from the racers has been encouraging. Racers have always found a way to make it to the race track. Some worry, however, that the timing could put a strain on their equipment and finances but are still willing to give it a try.

“I think it’s a great idea. There’s a bunch of racers here in Indiana who want to race as much as they can. I don’t see why it won’t go,” offered frequent LPS feature winner Casey Shuman.

Young Dakota Jackson welcomes the opportunity to gain more track time even it adds to his already cramped schedule.

“The fans might not see the big names every night but they will see the guys who really want to go racing. It will be a great show. The fans will show,” predicted the talented newcomer.

Shawn Krockenberger shares the enthusiasm of his fellow racers for the proposed shows but has his reservations on whether the shows can survive the tight economy and awkward midweek timing.

“I wish the best for Joe (Spiker). He really wants to take his place to the next level, to make it grow. But I’m not sure if the fans will support two nights of racing,” cautions the veteran Terre Haute racer.

Brandon Mattox welcomes the opportunity to get more track time but says the purse will have to be realistic for small independently funded teams like his own.

“You can’t run for half the money. It costs as much to run these cars on a Thursday night as it does on Saturday. Joe (Spiker) has always been good at paying what he says he will. I see the shows as a great idea for the racers and fans,” offered Mattox.

The opening date for the Thursday nights cards has be set for May 31, a date Spiker is negotiating with USAC as a makeup for a show that was washed out at LPS earlier this spring.

“Right now we have a limited schedule,” he said. “We’re going to see how well it works out. We’re not going to have a support class so we should have the fans out of there at a reasonable hour.

“We might lose a little at first till we get things started. We’ll evaluate where we are at entering Indiana Sprint Weeks and take it from there. We don’t quit easy around here. I really feel the whole thing will take off.”

Joe Buckles can be reached at jbuckles4

@frontier.com.

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