News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 11, 2009

Trackside: Rain wreaks havoc on best laid racing plans

By Joe Buckles

TERRE HAUTE — Back-to-back postponements on the NASCAR Nextel Cup circuit over the past couple weekends reveals how vulnerable the sport is to the elements.

Unfortunately, the havoc of a rainout is not limited to the higher profile race series. Short tracks across the country face a constant battle with mother nature.

Just ask Terre Haute Action Track officials. The Action Track has already had to deal with four postponements and threat of rain at two other shows.

One of the most difficult decisions a race track promoter or sanctioning body can be forced to make on any given weekend is whether to postpone or cancel an event due to weather related problems.

Losing a race date to the elements can be a financial and logistical nightmare for everybody involved … the tracks, race teams and the fans.

To race or postpone is sure to put the race promoter on the hot seat. Second-guessing among disappointed or disgruntled race fans is nothing new.

It’s an unfortunate scenario that has been played out one more than one occasion locally this summer

The latest Action Track postponement — the July 25 Circuit of Champions winged sprints show, which had been postponed to that date from its original July 4 spot — has drawn the particular ire of several fans that contacted me.

It has since been announced that the race will take place Sept. 26.

Nothing will set off a fan quicker than to arrive at the race track under bright and sunny skies only to find the track shuttered. When there is no telephone or officials to be found to offer a reasonable explanation for the postponement, it only heightens the frustration.

The man in charge of prepping the Action Track, Chris Novotney, says the decision to postpone events at the track is joint decision made among Action Promotions and LLC officials, but the final call on the All Star Sprints was his.

“Its a joint decision among the group, but I made the final call. Looking back on it now I’d probably would have made the same call,” Novotney said. “I did what I thought was the right thing to do when we made the call about 10 in the morning.

“What most fans don’t take time to consider there are consequences when your dealing with a dirt track the size of a half-mile. When I’m preparing for a race, you’re talking about 5.8 acres to care for.

“You want to give the teams a good racing surface and the fans a good show. I’m not sure we could have done that with what we had to work with. I won’t race if I can’t give them a good track.”

Action Promotions and LLC officials’ failure to make a track phone available to the fans, while also relying too heavily on advanced weather forecasts in making race postponements, should not tarnish the positive efforts they’ve made to keep racing alive at the Fairgrounds.

But it’s a pair of factors that should be addressed. They owe their fans that much.

• Newsmakers — I wonder how many local fans recognized the crew chief for NASCAR competitor Marcos Ambrose, who enjoyed a big weekend at Watkins Glen over the weekend?

Interviewed on several occasions was former sprint car driver Frankie Kerr. The same Frankie Kerr that is a three-time feature winner at the Action Track.

It was nice to see Blake Fitzpatrick back in the winners circle following his nasty Action Track spill during Indiana Sprint Weeks. His win came in front of a big crowd at Lincoln Park Speedway Saturday night.

Belated condolences to Kenny Carmichael and his family following the his recent passing of his mother. On a brighter note congratulations to Dusty Wright and his wife Ashley on the recent birth of their son Dawson. All are doing fine.

Its nice to report that Rosie Stockon, Laura Stockon, Dr. Daniel Bedecki and Roger Hughes are now all at home after hospital stays. All have faced some difficult times in recent weeks.

Joe Buckles can be reached at jbuckles4@verizon.net