Once the Local Tracks Are Gone...
For the past few years a local race track has been through a roller coaster ride. Cleveland Speedway in Cleveland Tennessee, was once owned by the legendary Joe Lee Johnson, winner of the inaugural World 600 in 1960. Joe Lee put his heart and soul into Cleveland Speedway over the years until Cancer took him from us in 2005.
Many, many fans flowed through the stands at Cleveland Speedway over the years, as did drivers; legends of the sport raced here; drivers like the Fryar brothers, Ronnie Johnson, Scott Bloomquist, Skip Arp, Dale McDowell, the list goes on and on, of drivers who raced and won at the famed dirt track.
A couple years ago the track went into bankruptcy and was bought by two investors who poured lots of money into the track to bring it up to date, and make it raceable again. While the two owners didn’t actually understand racing, they knew what it meant to the people of the area and they went out on a limb to try and save it.
The new owners brought in a team to run the track and see if it could be a viable income for a return on their investment. At first it was… a HUGE grand reopening, lots of fans and cars turned out to a packed house. It was great that Cleveland was back open again!
Then the new seemed to wear off and the car count dropped; then the fan count dropped, and it still struggled to keep the gates open. Despite the heroic efforts of Mike and Theresa Simmons and the team they put together, again the track closed, and was put up for sale. It sat for 2 years with no racing, no activity, and recently it was announced that it had been bought by a local developer who did not reveal what his plans were for the property until people saw the dismantling begin, and it became clear, Cleveland Speedway was soon to be nothing but a memory.
Once the word got out about the sale, everyone on social media began to talk about what should have been, and how they hoped it would be saved… talking about the great memories made at the legendary track. But when the demolition began, hearts sank, as they were faced with the reality of what was happening… Cleveland Speedway was soon to be gone.
Here is where the opinions flowed, some felt it was poor management, others felt it was the fact no one would attend races there. Some felt it was because of rules; some felt it was lack of promotion. The list goes on and on because everyone has an opinion, when in fact, very few know what it takes to actually make a race track work, and to keep it open. But everyone has an opinion.
But the fact is this, it has been sold. Yeah lots of attempts were made to save it as a racing venue, but the final choice was made; it wouldn’t be a race track. Now no one knows what lies ahead for Cleveland Speedway. Some say it will be a soccer field, some say a car lot. Who knows? But the fact remains the same. Cleveland Speedway is being torn down.
Now who is to blame? It’s hard to say this but I can tell you, it’s everyone’s fault, racers who drove past it going to other tracks because they wanted more payout, or didn’t like the rules, fans who claimed they wanted to see races but when the gates opened had other things to do. It all boils down to this; race fans need to support race tracks in their area, or there will be more and more tracks closing.
With the slow downward spiral of attendance in NASCAR, dirt tracks have the prime time to attract new fans, to put on a show that will draw the fans looking for action in. But it really takes just one thing to make it all happen; people coming through the gates. Racers, fans, everyone has to join in to save race tracks. One or two can’t do it; it takes the crowds that say they want to see racing, coming out and filling the stands to make it happen, so next time you want to chime in on a topic you see on social media about what you think is wrong, ask yourself this… “Have I done all I can do to support local tracks in my area?” because if you haven’t… just keep scrolling… because you are part of the problem.
C-ya @ the track!