Rainouts cost local dirt tracks thousands

News-DemocratMay 10, 2013 

It didn't rain Friday night, but it was another rainout at Belle-Clair Speedway in Belleville.

There have been more rain outs than races so far this season at the Belleville track.

The dirt surface was actually cleared for competition Friday, however the pit areas were still under water, forcing race promoter Don Hoener to cancel the track's sixth race, eight races into the current schedule. Hoener is also the director or competition at the I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo., where he has seen the rain wash out all but two races from this year's schedule at the Missouri track.

"It's been a battle with cold and rain," Hoener said about the current racing season.

Hoener estimates the Belle-Clair Speedway has lost out on as much as $25,000 from rain outs. He also said the cool weather this spring has also affected crowds on race nights.

"We definitely lost revenue without those races," he said. "We have been battling the cold. It's been a tough situation this spring."

Twenty-two miles north, the races resumed Friday night at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach. Co-owner Tammy Gundaker estimates that the Pontoon Beach track has also lost out on as much potential revenue from canceled races. She said that outside of a few major events, canceled races usually are not rescheduled.

"There is no more room on the schedule to add any additional events," she said. "You want to race on your regular night. If you cancel a race on Friday night, you don't want to reschedule it for Saturday when they are used to racing on Friday. You also don't want to go against another track. It's just a courtesy. Once your schedule is made, there is not really any other opportunity to make up any canceled races. And you don't want to go too late in the year because of the weather."

At the Highland Speedway, they're hoping the rain will stay away so scheduled races can go on Saturday night. Four of the first six races have been washed out so far this season. Gary Bargetzi, who works in concessions at the Highland track for a nonprofit group Helveticia Sharp Shooters Society, estimates that these lost races have cost the track about $30,000.

"We have not been able to take in as much as far as gross receipts," Bargetzi said. "Obviously, the problem is you can't make them up. Once you miss the race, you miss the race."

Many race fans said Friday night they were glad to be back at Tri-City Speedway after four of the last seven races were canceled because recent spring storms soaked and muddied the track.

"This is my first time here this year," said Dave Hall, 56, of Alton. "If it hadn't been raining I would have been here more than once by now. I wanted to be here last week."

"I missed everything, just coming out and seeing your buddies," said 23-year-old Granite City resident Chris Harper.

Kim Richardson, of South Roxana, was watching her stepson race for only the second time this season at the Pontoon Beach track Friday night. She and her daughter Kelly Richardson live in South Roxana, where they live by many or racing fans and those who compete.

"It's kind of like family that you see for six or seven months," Kim Richardson said.

Wendy Jackson, also of South Roxana, was watching her 28-year-old son Josh compete. She said her son has spent rained out race days working on his car and that finally being back at the track was "nerve-racking and exciting at the same time."

"That's all we do is race," Jackson said. "We watch racing on TV, but that's basically what we do."

Livingston resident Bobby Martintoni races at Tri-City Speedway and Highland Speedway. The 59-year-old said he has raced since 1978. He said some races were canceled last summer because of the intense heat. He said he has recently had to find other things to do on Friday night.

"I want to race when I can, but we just go about our business, go to the movies or do something because come summertime, it's going to start picking up," Martintoni said.

Gundaker said she has watched more weather forecasts than races this season.

"We all became promoters and now we have become weathermen at the same time," she said. "We are all in the same situation."

Bargetzi has also been following forecasts closely this year. He's optimistic the races will go on in Highland Saturday night.

"It's looking pretty decent," he said. "Saturday is going to be clear."

"But you don't know until Saturday morning. Right now, the forecast is in our favor. Hopefully the rain holds off."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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