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Chippewa Valley race tracks feeling the pinch as beginning of seasons are impacted

Chippewa Valley
Troy Fransway (9er), Russ Chester (99%) and Kevin Hager (94) battle for position during a heat race at Eagle Valley Speedway in Aug. 2018.

BRANDON BERG, Chippewa Herald

The start of May generally means the beginning of the local auto racing scene.

But that’s on hold right now along with everything else amid COVID-19 concerns.

Red Cedar Speedway in Menomonie was scheduled to start the season on Friday, May 1 with Eagle Valley Speedway in Jim Falls to follow two days later, but the extension of Gov. Tony Evers’ safer-at-home order through Memorial Day weekend continues a period of uncertainty.

“I got things ready to go for the most part and (now) just wait and see,” Eagle Valley Speedway owner Jerry Weigel said.

Any further change to the schedule would have an even more significant impact on the bottom line for both tracks.

“That’s the uncertainty and that’s a big question mark. Obviously running a race track is a business and it’s something that has to make some profit along the way and be able to pay the bills that have to be paid,” Red Cedar Speedway president Mark Thomas said. “That comes from sponsorships and participation, and participation is the racers and the fans.”

If and when a season can be started, how quickly those drivers and fans would be able to return to the tracks is another concern.

“We’re just going to weather the storm and see what happens at the end of the day, I guess,” Weigel said.
This year’s initial Eagle Valley schedule called for 15 events, culminating with the season championships on Aug. 30. A 19-event schedule for Red Cedar runs into September with the three-day 41st Annual Punky Manor Challenge of Champions closing the year on Sept. 24-26.

But with so much up in the air, it’s hard to estimate when the season may start and what the schedule might look like.

“We’re going to struggle. There’s no doubt,” Weigel said.

As a track owner, Weigel said any alternating to the schedule will have an impact especially earlier in the season when crowds are larger before many people are traveling away from home during the summer months. Also, given the financial hardships the pandemic has caused, many drivers and fans may not have the means to return right away.

“You wonder how many racers are put in a tough bind right now, if some of them will even be able to race this year financially,” Thomas said. “It’s a tough deal all the way around. but I guess we’re not going to know until the time comes and we actually start experiencing it.”

BRANDON BERG, Chippewa Herald Posted Apr 17, 2020