Race fans come together to pay tribute to Russ Scheffler
When the Russ Scheffler Tribute Night is held Friday, June 28 at Plymouth Dirt Track it will mark the second straight year for the event that was created by two fans wanting to honor their fallen friend. Those two fans are Chad Marquardt and Greg Wester.
“Both me and Greg considered Russ a good friend,” Marquardt said. “We bounced a lot of ideas off of Russ in regards to Late Models and trying to get more Late Models out there overall to grow the Late Model division. Russ was always our ear to talk to in regards to how to get Late Models to survive because it was his goal in the end too. He just wanted Late Model racing to continue into the future.” With an eye on honoing Scheffler, who passed away in September 2017, Marquardt and Wester approached Plymouth Dirt Track with the idea of a special Late Model race to be held on a Friday night instead of Plymouth’s normal Saturday night. Marquardt said Plymouth had initially shown interest in doing something to honor Scheffler, who had supported the track in Plymouth since 2006.
Once Marquardt and Wester received approval from Plymouth Dirt Track to seeks sponsors for such a special event, they embarked on securing sponsors for the inaugural Russ Scheffler Tribute Night to be held in June 2018. The search for sponsors began in February 2018. This included using connections they had previously accumulated.
“We took those connections that we had built and expanded them and pursued more sponsors that we hadn’t talked to before,” Marquardt said. “And, basically built connections with a lot of local businesses and people that were friends with Russ or knew Russ or were just Late Model fans in general.”
Marquardt said most businesses they met with were receptive to sponsoring the event in some fashion.
The inaugural event in 2018 drew 28 Late Models vying for an increased purse. It wasn’t just the top of the purse that was increased, rather the purse was increased throughout the field. In addition to increasing the payout for finishing positions throughout the field, Marquardt said Plymouth Dirt Track also bumped up the pay for drivers in non-transfer positions to the feature.
By increasing the payout throughout the field, as well as for non-transfer drivers, it encouraged local drivers to participate in the event.
“The track loved it. There was a pretty decent crowd. The drivers all loved the event,” Marquardt said about the 2018 Russ Scheffler Tribute Night.
Justin Schmidt won the feature that night, receiving a check for $2,274.
Marquardt said he and Wester were satisfied with the event in 2018.
“It’s an event that I feel we can definitely grow going into this year’s event,” Marquardt said. “I think we’ll definitely be over the 30 Late Model count (this year).”
Prior to planning this year’s event, though, Marquardt said he and Wester reached out to the Scheffler family for approval to continue the event.
“Initially it was we’ll do it once, and if it’s successful on the first one, we were going to talk to the (Scheffler) family and see if we would be allowed to do it again,” Marquardt said. “Having talked to Russ’s wife, she gave us the blessing to more or less continue the event.”
Once they received approval, Marquardt and Wester embarked on once again soliciting sponsors for the event. This started in October 2018, giving them more time. Nicole Rehberg-Carlson also joined them in securing sponsors for the 2019 event.
“We had some sponsors who decided not to sponsor us this year, but we’ve had plenty of new sponsors who have stepped up, and some with even bigger amounts, which is great,” Marquardt said. “It shows that they were very happy with what we were able to do and want to see this event grow as much as we want to see it grow.”
This year’s event is scheduled for Friday, June 28 at Plymouth Dirt Track.
As of May 28, this is the payout for the positions in the Late Model feature: 1. $2,574; 2. $1,900; 3. $1,600; 4. $1,300; 5. $1,175; 6. $1,075+$74 cash; 7. $1,000; 8. $875; 9. $800; 10. $725; 11. $700; 12. $650; 13. $600; 14. $575; 15. $525+$89 cash; 16. $500; 17. $450; 18. $400; 19. $375; 20. $325.
Marquardt added that more activities are being planned for fans in attendance, including a Late Model Simulator onsite. Drivers will also be asked to have their race cars on display prior to the races, and take part in an autograph session. Some sponsors will also give away t-shirts and other items.
The goal is to bring more fans to the event.
“That way we can keep on having this event in the future,” Marquardt said.