PADUCAH – For six of the first eight weeks of the schedule, Paducah International Raceway was closed because of rain.
Starting with the past Friday night, the track will be closed for three more scheduled race dates because of complications related to the rainouts and other issues.
A re-opening is scheduled for June 21, but there is no clear word whether the track will resume regular weekly racing or run a limited schedule of special events.
An announcement released Wednesday stated that the track would take three weekends off “to improve on the track surface and to re-evaluate the 2013 season.”
It went on to state, “We truly hope that this break and re-organiztion will allow PIR to come back stronger than ever and continue with great family entertainment for years to come.”
It listed special events including the Chris Smith Memorial/UMP Summer National race on June 28, Tony Stewart NASCAR Night of Stars on Aug. 1 and USA World 50 on Aug. 23, but never stated a plan to resume any kind of regular weekly schedule.
Phone messages left with track officials by the Tribune-Couier were not returned.
Track owner Bob Sargent told The Paducah Sun, “Our hopes are to continue weekly racing. We have six weeks to make the decision.”
There has been no update of the schedule posted on the raceway’s website (www.paducahracing.net), which still shows races slated for June 7 and 14 prior to the fan appreciation race on July 21 and the Smith Memorial the following Friday night.
The statement also alluded to problems with the track’s diesel generator which provides power for the track lighting. The generator has broken down, causing temporary outages, during two of the four racing programs that have been held this year.
The event that was scheduled for Friday, part of the Tri-State Challenge, was devalued when another track taking part in the three-race event, I-55 Raceways in Pevely, Mo., canceled its Saturday night program because of flood waters near the St. Louis-area track.
With that race off the schedule, many drivers from the upper Midwest did not want to make the trip south to Paducah just for the one race at PIR.
Problems getting a rebuilt dirt surface worked in were cited in the PIR statement. In the off-season, the turns in the high-banked oval were filled in with dirt graded from the infield, to rebiuld the racing surface.
Plans are for the track to hold a fan and competitor appreciation night special to resume the season on June 21. Grandstand admission will be half the regular price at $6 and drivers, who usually are charged a pit pass fee of at least $25, will be admitted free.
PIR was built in the early 1970s and held its first events in 1972. The track has operated under different ownership for most of the time since then, with the exception of a few idle seasons between some of the ownership changes.
Sargent, who promotes races at various Midwest tracks including Macon (Ill.) Speedway, the DuQuoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds mile oval and other tracks, acquired PIR in 2005.
Sargent has a promotional relationship with NASCAR drivers Stewart and Ken Schrader, both of whom compete frequently at the local track, and with Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has made appearances but has never raced on the dirt oval.
The track has been hard hit by bizarre weather and has not been able to run a complete season since 2010.
After races were run on April 1 and April 8 of 2011, flooding shut down the raceway for seven weeks before racing could resume on June 3.
Last year, the opposite problem – drought – resulted in the loss of eight programs in August, September and October.
Races slated for Aug. 31 and Sept. 7, 14 and 21 were called off because of extreme heat and dry conditions.
Ironically, one race that was attempted on Sept. 28 was called off because of rain.
The track canceled the rest of the season except for a finale on Oct. 27 because the pond from which water is drawn to soak the track before races had gone dry.