How much is too much?
(Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the June 2015 issue of Full Throttle Magazine.)
By Bert Lehman
Editor, Full Throttle Magazine
With the recent appearance of the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series at Oshkosh Speedzone, dirt racing fans had the opportunity to witness some of the best Dirt Late Model drivers in the country. A huge crowd of spectators attended the event, which was great to see.
Leading up to the event, though, I noticed a “discussion” on Facebook concerning the ticket prices for the show. Grandstand admission prices were $30 for adults.
Some of the people posting in the thread on Facebook stated how they were not going to go to the event because tickets prices were too high. They stated when the cost of gasoline to get to the event, and the cost of concessions at the event, combined with the cost of the admission price, it was too costly to take a family to the event.
Others who posted on the thread defended the $30 admission, as the show would bring some of the best Dirt Late Model drivers to the area. And whether you like it or not, that’s the cost to bring this type of a show to northeast Wisconsin.
Here’s my take on the deal.
Despite what the national media says, the economy is still struggling. With a struggling economy people have less discretionary income to spend. That means for some, a $30 admission price does sound steep when adding in the other costs associated with attending the show. I can see where the people complaining about the price are coming from.
But the reality is dirt tracks in Wisconsin are not going to get a show the caliber of the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series or the World of Outlaws Dirt Late Model and Sprint Car Series without charging $25-$30 for spectators to attend.
Tracks take a huge risk when agreeing to host one of these races. I’m not going to pretend I know all the specific financials involved, but I do know that if the promoter doesn’t get enough fans in the stands, they will lose money on the deal.
Dirt racing fans in Wisconsin can consider themselves lucky. The World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series has been an annual fixture at Beaver Dam Raceway each July. Fans come out in droves to support that event.
Shawano Speedway will be hosting a World of Outlaws Dirt Late Model Series event for the sixth straight year in August. I remember the first year the series came to Shawano Speedway, Dale Hodkiewicz, promoter at Shawano Speedway, told me he had a difficult time sleeping the nights prior to the show, and he watched the weather every day.
The show went off without a hitch that year and a huge crowd ventured to the speedway to watch the Outlaws. The Outlaws have come back every year since.
With the Lucas Oil Series coming to Oshkosh, hopefully it is the start of a longstanding tradition.
Let’s pause and think about that for a moment. That’s three national touring series that venture north to Wisconsin to race. That doesn’t include the World of Outlaws Dirt Late Model Series appearance at Cedar Lake Speedway in western Wisconsin each August. That’s impressive for a state that isn’t located in the hotbed of national racing.
The common denominator for all these events, though, is if you want to see the show you have to pay the going rate.
And let’s not forget there are local support classes also racing at these shows to provide more bang for the buck for spectators. There were more than 50 IMCA Modifieds on hand at Oshkosh Speedzone for the Lucas Oil show.
As stated, track promoters are taking a risk when scheduling one of these events. Weather is unpredictable and it can make or break a show.
Jeff Lemiesz and Larry Stratton, co-promoter of Oshkosh Speedzone, have tried for several years to get the Lucas Oil Series to come up to Oshkosh for a race.
I recently spoke with Lemiensz and he said that it was well worth the time and effort to get the series to Oshkosh. He also said Lucas Oil Series officials were pleased with the show and said the series would be back in 2016.
That is great to hear.
(Since this article was written in June, the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series has announced its 2016 schedule and Oshkosh Speedzone is on the schedule. The series will trek north to Oshkosh for a show on Friday, May 20.)