By T.J. Buffenbarger
Thursday’s announcement that Mansfield Motorsports Speedway under the guidance of Gateway Dirt Nationals director and entrepreneur Cody Sommer was one of the biggest announcements of the off season. One of the most eye opening parts of the Mansfield news besides covering its blacktop surface with dirt for the summer was the inaugural Great Lakes Dirt Nationals August 11th and 12th featuring the Fremont Attica Sprint Title and Ohio Sprint Car Series 410 sprint cars competing for $15,000 to win, the FAST 305 sprint cars vying for a $3,000 to win prize, and the Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series non-wing sprint cars contesting a $5,000 to win event.
If that date looks familiar that is the Friday and Saturday night of the Knoxville Nationals, the biggest sprint car race on the planet. Being someone that would enjoy covering both events my first reaction was disappointment, but from a business perspective might make sense. Here is why.
• Not that many of the local Ohio teams make the trip out to the Knoxville Nationals. Attica Raceway Park is off for the fair and Fremont Speedway and Atomic Speedways will be dark that weekend as well. That is a very large pool of cars to draw from. The same goes with area race fans, not all of them go to Knoxville and this gives them a major event to attend that week while several facilities are closed.
• The 305 and BOSS team largely won’t have an interest in the Nationals. This adds spotlight events for both of those divisions at a facility that one of my sources called the nicest facility they had attended. While BOSS has several spotlight events, the Mansfield race becomes one of the biggest, if not the biggest race for the 305’s in the Ohio.
• For the first time that I can recall Williams Grove Speedway is scheduled to be closed that Friday. While some Central PA teams might make the trip to Knoxville I’m sure some will eye that $15,000 at Mansfield.
• Being a FAST and OSCS sanctioned event having it during Nationals insures certain sanctioning bodies will not book against it. Mansfield officials are taking advantage of built in off time for various series in hopes of establishing their own event.
Ideally, I would like seeing this race a different weekend. I have tentative plans on attending one of the spring events at Mansfield and can’t wait to return there for the first time since 1988. Business wise I can see doing this, but selfishly I wish the Great Lakes Dirt Nationals was a different weekend so I could witness both events in their entirety.
Putting the Great Lakes Nationals date aside having Mansfield back in the fold for special dirt events is great for the sport. If done well Mansfield could become one of the premier dirt tracks in the country.
• As mentioned earlier in the column the Williams Grove Speedway schedule is posted on their website. The biggest surprise on that schedule is the absence of a race on Friday August 11th . In the past Central Pennsylvania drivers and teams have taken flights back to Grove among other extreme measures to remain in the points race at the Grove. This year teams will be open to go to Knoxville (or Mansfield).
• The dirt track at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas is no longer. Images were posted on the facility’s Facebook page on Thursday showing the demolition of the race track, leaving only the grandstands for a new multi-purpose facility.