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Wake County Speedway

Wake County Speedway News
Wake Speedway Is Struggling
Aug 11, 2006 - updated Aug 11th, 2006 1:18pm
Web posted by Jason Beck

Garner, NC --

Glen Simpkins leaned back against the fender of a shiny blue Ford racecar, staring into the distance across the racetrack his family has owned for more than 40 years. As the sun set behind him in the west and the din of loud V-8 engines roared around him, there was no way of telling what was on Mr. Simpkins' mind.

He could have been thinking about the night at hand, about the cars speeding around the track in front of him during a practice session. Or maybe he was reminiscing one of the many races he himself had at the old quarter mile track, the night he crashed so hard in turn four that he literally lost both of his shoes.

Unfortunately, he also may have been wondering how he was going to keep the palace of speed open, a thought that has been on the minds of many officials, drivers and fans over the last few months.

Wake County Speedway, located in Garner only about 30 minutes from Dunn, has been open for years, and the Friday night racing is a throwback to another era where cars banged fenders and doors and fights broke out on pit road more often than trophies were handed out. The track combines the atmosphere of a county fair and a motor head's paradise, but for some reason the past few seasons have not been successful.

In the past full fields of cars and giant high-rise steel grandstands were filled to the brim. This year, the crowds have been sparse and only nine or 10 cars have comprised the field in the track's feature Dunn Benson Ford Super Late Model class.

The racing, however, has been just as exciting as ever. There is still as much beating and banging as always, still plenty of fists being thrown - just no crowd.

The track's problems became clear a few weeks ago when drivers in the Super Late Model class were told they would only be racing every other week, clearly a bad sign. It was hard for the track to pay the large purse it requires to reward the drivers at the end of each race.
Running a racetrack is difficult business. On top of paying drivers, officials, concession workers and deputies to assure safety, the track must also pay insurance every time cars enter the paved racing surface. The track's bad year became impossible to ignore when this Friday's racing action was canceled and a special meeting was held on Monday to tell drivers, fans and whoever else wanted to listen that something major needed to be done to keep the track open. Manager Deborah McDonald, of Lillington, desperately told everyone to bring their race cars and their fans to the track next Friday the 18th to pack the stands. Ms McDonald, who is Mr. Simpkins' daughter and has grown up at the track, knows if the stands and the track is full next weekend her beloved raceway may stay open for a while longer.

If no one shows up, who knows what might happen.
Now I must confess that I've spent my Friday night's this summer writing press releases and taking pictures at the track as the speedway's pit reporter and I have a special love for the place, but I hate to see any racetrack have problems.

Local racing, the kind that Wake serves up every weekend, is exactly what the sport is all about. If you have never been to a local race, where drivers actually have to work hard to win and the action on the track never puts you to sleep, I encourage you to go to Wake County next Friday while you still have a chance. It seems no one ever knows what they have got until it is gone.


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