HERMON – Nine-year-old Destiny Overlock’s father races routinely at Speedway 95, but he recently delivered some tough news to her.
“My dad just told me that his class is not gonna go anymore, and I think there needs to be more people coming to the race track,” she said Wednesday.
Support is the key, as Speedway 95 and other local racetracks around the country find themselves struggling to draw crowds. The Hermon-based raceway estimated it should be drawing between 1,000 and 1,200 fans per event this season, but track owner Del Merritt says it is only pulling in between 400 and 500 instead. He attributes that to several factors, including the plethora of entertainment options in the area.
“We’ve got the waterfront concerts going all the time,” he said. “We’ve got the new civic center. We’re competing for the dollar, there’s no doubt about it”
Speedway 95 operates twice a week, and has been struggling to give strong payouts due to the lack of attendance. That in turn has resulted in drivers opting not to participate as much as well.
“When we unlock these gates, we’re looking at right around $10,000 [operating cost]. By the time you pay the purse, pay your employees, pay the insurance, pay your taxes, it’s not cheap,” Merritt said.
Becky Burns has been racing since 2007, and she has seen participation drop from both fans and racers. She says there is a simple solution that could help tracks like this stay open for years to come.
“Even if you’re not racing, just come support us and help us,” she said. “Because otherwise pretty soon, who knows, five, ten years down the line, we might not be here.”