Greg Cybulski, Winnipeg, Manitoba (September 21) The Northern Lightning Sprint Association was celebrating it’s 5th season of racing in 2013. Instead of fanfare and excitement for this milestone, the season resembled a death watch for a car class that held much promise.
The culprit for a 50% decline in this year’s Lightning Sprint numbers may have been a gamble by Red River Co-op Speedway management to move the fastest car class at the 4/10 mile oval track from it’s Thursday spot to presumably speed up Thursday nights, plus bolstering the Monday night program.
The membership of the Northern Lightning Sprint Association was not happy about the move and voiced their concerns to Red River Co-op Speedway.
What’s wrong with Monday night racing? Absolutely nothing from a racing perspective.
There are always explanations for minor fluctuations in car counts such as rising costs of racing and personal reasons, including family and work schedules.
Many of the drivers and their teams are Monday to Friday workers with families. RACING IS A HOBBY. Paying bills is not.
Balancing work schedules and family time can be enough of a challenge during the week without adding racing into the mix.
According to one speedway source, there appears to be systemic issues which could reveal a greater problem.
Prior to the start of the 2013 season, NLSA founder and past president Darren Pallen was upset about the Monday night move, but not necessarily for the reasons you might expect. “Contrary to what some people may believe, the Thursday night issue is not a too-many-classes problem at Red River Co-op Speedway”, commented Pallen. “What they have is a very serious production problem, and it has continued unaddressed for many, many years. You can’t run a live-event without a format and a plan. Fix the production problems first, then you will find out how much time you really have to run a show. Moving a class is not the answer, you need structure before all else.”
Despite it’s claims of speeding up Thursday racing, the speedway’s program is still running beyond 10:30 PM many nights.
Since it’s inception a few years ago, Red River Co-op Speedway’s Monday night racing program has been looked upon as ‘Racing Purgatory’ by many. Until this season, the only mention of Monday night racing was if you were in attendance at the Thursday program. To the best of my knowledge, Monday nights were never publicly advertised until 2013.
This would be the equivalent of a business being open 7 days a week and publicly advertising that they are open weekdays from 9-5.
No advertising means no crowds which limits team sponsorship from companies who want their products and services shown to race fans. You can already see where this is going.
The result is an organization that once prided itself on averaging 12-14 cars on Thursday nights to being reduced to a very lean 6-7 cars on race night.
Although this happened to the NLSA, any car class that would have been moved to the Monday night slot may have experienced the same fate.
The way I see it, the management of Red River Co-op Speedway is largely responsible for the current dilemma of the Northern Lightning Sprint Association. The experiment was a bust. Not only have they almost killed a car class, but they are still running late doing it.
Is Red River Co-op Speedway the only reason for the NLSA’s decline? No.
The speedway’s Monday night move appears to have been the catalyst that changed a once tight racing group into a fragmented one.
Now it’s time to do the right thing and help the NLSA return to where they were before the speedway decided to mess with a good thing.
The NLSA as an organization must regroup and remember why it was started in the first place, before it’s too late.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Northern Lightning Sprint Association.