Saturday, April 2, 2016

Give 'er the gas (an auto racing feature from 2008)

(NOTE: I wrote this for The Racing Journal in 2008. TRJ, which covered short-track racing in north -central North Carolina and south-central Virginia, ended after four months because of the economy.)

By Tom Gillispie
Are racetrack promoters sweating out soaring gasoline prices? Some are; some aren't, and all are hoping for the best.

Steve Earwood, the promoter at Rockingham Dragway, says he doesn't worry.

"No, I really don't, Tom," he said. "There's sticker shock when you fill up the family car. But if you look at how much it is, it's not that much over what it was last year."

Gas prices are tough, Earwood said, but he added, "We've had two successful weekends in a row."

For competitors, prices are always high for racing fuel, and the prices vary according to the many types of cars that race at Rockingham Dragway. Earwood says that unleaded 104 octane is $6.59 a gallon; 110 leaded is $6.49; 112 octane is $6.79, and 116 octane is $9.79.

"Methanol is $5.75, but it's gone up more than gasoline," Earwood said. "In 2006, it was $2.28."

But he isn't worried.

"Goodness, no," Earwood said. "There are too many things to worry about here other than the price of gasoline. My biggest worry is the weather."

So far, gas prices, and the weather, haven't hurt him. He said that he had 320 race cars for an event last year, and 317 showed up for that race this year. And the crowds were holding well, he said.

Sherry Clifton of Hickory Motor Speedway, and Larry Thomas of Concord Motorsport Park say they are worried about the effects of gas prices, but they're hoping for the best.

"Yes, we are concerned about the price of fuel having an effect on competitors and fans," said Thomas.

Thomas says that CMP vends Sunoco Purple 110 octane racing fuel at $7 a gallon, and he expects prices to rise in a few days. It'll be the same everywhere.

"People will have to choose where they're going and where they spend their money," Clifton added. "People are not going to go to the beach or the mountains like they used to, so they can get entertainment in their own backyard. At least that's what we're hoping.

"If they're spending twice what they did last year, then they have half money at the end of the week to go and have fun on."

Fred Brown, the promoter of Wythe Raceway near Wytheville, Va., is like Earwood. He isn't worrying about gas prices; he's going to war.

Brown says that the dirt track is combating price programs by changing compression ratios from 12.5 to 1 to 9.5 or 10 to 1. The lower compression ratio will allow drivers to run lower-octane fuel and, thus, save some money.

"I'm anticipating that it's going to have an effect," Brown said. "We have a whole lot of classes, though, so it'll take a while to implement.

"It cost $6.75 last year for a gallon, and I guess it may be $7 or $8 this year."

Brown says he also will push the fact that folks can pass up traveling a distance and have a good time at the local racetrack.

"We'll do it in a positive manner," he said. "We'll really work on the fact that we have local classes, the local racetrack, and push the entertainment value. We're close to their homes, and they can get here and get home on a gallon of gas, rather than traveling a long way.

"People still love racing. If we do a good job and entertain them, they'll come."

So relax. And hope for the best.

This and that

Clifton was proud that the Hickory track won the Event Facility of the Year award given by the North Carolina Motorsports Association. "It's especially rewarding since Bowman Gray Stadium and Southern National were the other tracks nominated," she said. "Bowman Gray is a class operation, and Southern National is such a powerhouse for little old Hickory to do well against them." ...

Apparently Redwood Palms Pictures plans to do a movie on the life story of North Carolinian Junior Johnson, a racing pioneer, the 1963 Daytona 500 winner, an all-time great team owner and one of the great moonshine-haulers of all time. ...

This is interesting: Ryan Newman, the winner of the Daytona 500, has 42 Cup poles and ranks 11th on the NASCAR Cup Series career rankings. His 13 career victories put him last in victories among the top 25 pole winners in Cup history. He needs five victories to catch Geoff Bodine, who has 37 poles (16th all time) and 18 victories (24th all time). ...

I hated it when the World 600 at Charlotte became the Coca-Cola 600, and I wasn't thrilled when the superbly named Firecracker 400 at Daytona became the Pepsi 400. Now, it's gotten worse. The Pepsi 400 is becoming the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

TRJ Editor Tom Gillispie is the author of three books, including Angel in Black: Remembering Dale Earnhardt Sr. Tom's NASCAR books are available for sale online at
CONTACT: I can be reached at or Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.

More entries from TARJ
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

EDITOR@WORK blog entries 

Entries from The Dog Blog

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

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