Focus is on the future at Mason City Motor Speedway

Print this page
May 16, 2016  |  by Jared Patterson, The Globe Gazette

If the racing surface is well maintained, the cars and race fans will follow.

That’s the premise Mason City Motor Speedway promoter Al Hejna is working under as the green flag drops next Sunday night. The races scheduled for Sunday, May 15 were canceled due to track conditions. Many drivers share that same sentiment.

“First of all, I think it definitely needed to be done,” three-time Modified track champion Levi Nielsen said of the sweeping changes. “It was going downhill pretty quick. To me, if you have multiple lanes to race on you are going to get a lot better racing, and it’s a lot more fun. That’s what it comes down to – having good track prep and not follow the leaders.”

Added Hejna, “The track is everything. The track is the No. 1 thing.”

The task to reinvigorate a race track that closed prematurely in 2015 is officially underway.

The average car count at Mason City dipped below 60 last season. The average car count of 56.92 was the lowest since the Globe Gazette began tracking the number. On two occasions, the number of racers checking in pit side was in the 40s.

In 2011, the average car count was 82.5, and then the number hovered around 73 in 2012 and 2013 before dropping to 69.92 in 2014.

The sharp decline forced then I-35 Speedway to shut down a month early. But in the time since the track closed and a new promotional team took over, the onus has been on breathing life and cars into the half-mile track.

“If we have the race track smooth, racy and fun to run on, I think we are going to have a lot of cars,” Hejna said. “With the licenses, the registrations and the word-of-mouth commitments, yeah, I’d like to see 100 cars a night out here.”

That number will likely only be reached on nights the Modifieds race. Those drivers will race an abbreviated season – competing every other Sunday – with the thought that it is easier to pull driver commitments for eight nights instead of 16.

“I think we can get better car counts running them half the season,” Hejna said.

What number is reasonable to expect?

“I think we are going to have more than 24 Modifieds the first night,” he said.

And why the optimism?

“I think we will have a lot of cars because we will work hard. Racers want a good track, and I’m trying to do as a promoter what I wanted promoters to do as a driver,” Hejna said. “If we show the drivers we will work hard on the track day after day, hopefully they will support us. We want to give them a good racing experience, a good chance to race.”

Still, there are many questions as to how this first season under the USRA umbrella will unfold.

There are those who have no problem with switching over from IMCA, and there are those taking a wait-and-see approach, still coming to grips with how it will impact them in the pocket book.

“Most of the people planning on running there that I have talked to are pretty excited about it,” Nielsen said. “They’ve always had the facility. It was just the track itself wouldn’t allow for good racing.”