(EDITOR’S NOTE: Brandon Paul is the Northeast Editor of Speed51.com. The views which are expressed in the following column are his own and not necessarily the views of Speed51.com and/or its partners)
Jim Schaefer, better known in the short track racing community as “The Long Island Mod Maniac," is a race fan. He is a race fan that whole-heartedly supports the ground-pounding Modifieds of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Valenti Modified Racing Series and beyond.
Since becoming a fan of the Modifieds, Schaefer has become very involved with teams and events at his home track of Riverhead Raceway in New York. Since the 2009 racing season Schaefer has spent countless amounts of time and money to help the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events held at Riverhead. He has sponsored teams, put his own money into the events and worked hard to obtain lap sponsors.
Schaefer did all of this not as a race promoter, but simply a fan. He never profited, nor had the goal in mind to profit a penny. This New York race fan did all of this because he was a “Mod Maniac.”
Over the course of the past few months, for the first time in his life, Schaefer took a break from being a fan in order to co-promote the inaugural Bullring Bash at New Hampshire's Lee USA Speedway with his friend Dick Williams. Schaefer spent countless hours online promoting the event, talking to race teams, talking to lap sponsors and working hard to make the Bullring Bash one of the biggest open Modified events in recent history as the first-ever race of the Tri-Track Modified Series.
During this process of promoting and planning the event, the Long Island Mod Maniac did all the right things. His partner in the venture Dick Williams and “The Racing Guys” did all the right things. The track that opened its doors for the inaugural Bullring Bash, Lee USA Speedway, did all the right things.
Now the question is this - if everyone involved did all the right things than why, in Schaefer’s words, is the likelihood of a second Bullring Bash slim?
The answer is simple - those that continuously make the claim that Modified racing doesn’t receive enough support didn’t take their own advice and support an event that had the opportunity to be something special.
Where else would race teams be able to find the type of money that was on the line at Lee USA Speedway on Sunday afternoon?
Where else would the die-hard fans of Modified racing be able to see champions and winners from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Valenti Modified Racing Series, Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour and SK Modifieds all on one stage?
The answer to both of those questions is nowhere.
Walking through the pit area you often hear of Modified teams complaining about the lack of big money races for their type of cars. Well folks, you had a big money race right here in the Northeast and failed to support it.
After seeing the support on Sunday, what would make any promoter want to work hard and put up a large amount of money for one of these races?
Over $60,000 in purse money was made available for race teams attending Sunday’s event. Nobody leaving the track left with less than $600.
Matt Hirschman, the winner of Sunday’s race brought home a paycheck of $5,800. Sunday’s 15th place finisher, Jeff Rocco, took home $3,700 thanks to the hard work Schaefer and “The Racing Guys” put in to attract lap sponsors.
Karl Fredrickson of Speedway Illustrated magazine, who finished second in the B-Main feature, took home a check for $900 and claimed in victory lane that it was the largest payday he’s ever had in racing.
The race that took place at Lee USA Speedway on Sunday afternoon was an opportunity for Modified racing teams to support an event and a group of people that work hard for this specific brand of short track racing. Not only that, it was an opportunity to battle the best of the best in Modified racing while having the chance to bring home some very good money doing so.
Don’t get me wrong, 34 race teams at an event is nothing to laugh at. The show that those 34 teams put on out on the race track was spectacular, but this was an event that people knew needed a lot of support from fans and race teams. Unfortunately, the event received support but not a lot of support like it needed.
On Tuesday afternoon, Schaefer told Speed51.com that he was very disappointed in the lack of support displayed by race teams and Modified fans, but repeatedly thanked those who did support the event on Sunday, both race teams and fans.
The Long Island Mod Maniac specifically thanked the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour team Boehler Racing Enterprises (the only NWMT supporting the event), as well as the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Hillbilly Racing Team for traveling from North Carolina to support the event.
Speaking of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour teams, besides “Ole Blue," where were all the teams that Schaefer has supported for years now at Riverhead and beyond?
Don’t tell me it was the costs associated with travel, as many of the teams are located within a few hours' drive of the southeastern New Hampshire track. Don’t tell me it was the cost of tires (it was a five-tire race). Don’t tell me it was Mother’s Day. For whatever reason they can come up with, these teams failed to support someone that supports them.
The famous saying, “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” didn’t apply on Sunday.
Although the numbers are still just preliminary, Schaefer estimated that 1300 tickets were sold on Sunday. That number is a combination of tickets sold at the pit gate, as well as in the grandstands. In order to come close to breaking even on the event after paying the purse money and the money to rent the facility, Schaefer estimated that 1700-2000 people would have had to come through the gate.
41,407 fans attended Sunday’s Boston Red Sox vs. Texas Rangers baseball game in Arlington, Texas, but you’re telling me 2,000 fans couldn’t support a group of guys trying to do something good in Lee, New Hampshire? Are you telling me that moms like baseball, but don’t like racing?
We all love our mothers, but the whole Mother’s Day thing is not an excuse.
It's an understanding among race promoters that any time the pit gates swing open, there is a possibility of not breaking even on the financial investment to put on the race. But, this event was for the fan base and race teams that most vocally denounce NASCAR and others for lack of support of Modified racing. Social media and Modified-related web and print outlets often fill up with fans and racers complaining of a lack of support. They had nothing to complain about with this race and still didn't support it.
Now, due to the lack of support, a fan-turned-race promoter that would do anything to support Modified racing is now questioning his future involvement supporting these types of races financially.
Schaefer still has plans to add $6,400 to the purse at Star Speedway’s (NH) SBM 125 event, $7,030 into the Open Wheel Wednesday purse at Seekonk Speedway (MA) and continue his support of the June NWMT event at Riverhead by adding $300 to the payout for each position.
After the completion of those three races, Schaefer isn’t sure about whether or not his finances, and now his desires, will allow him to continue supporting events in the same capacity that he has in the past.
Due to the number of additional sponsorships required (20-25) at $300 each, as well as his disappointment with the lack of NWMT teams at Sunday’s Bullring Bash, Schaefer told Speed51.com on Tuesday that he will not be working to put together sponsors for the September NWMT event at Riverhead Raceway.
Although Schaefer was clearly hurt and frustrated by Sunday’s results, he didn’t completely rule out the chances of a Second Annual Bullring Bash. When asked what it would take for the event to happen again next year, Schaefer responded with one word, “Money." It would take a sponsor that could cover most, if not all, of the purse and the only way to attract a sponsor like that is to show that there’s a large amount of support for the event.
The on-track product displayed during Sunday’s event at Lee USA Speedway was too good to be a one-time thing. People that were at the track on Sunday left happy, while those that didn’t go were left wishing they were there.
What’s done is done. It’s now time for Modified fans and race teams to step up and support those who support their type of racing.
If you’re a race team, show your support of these types of open modified events by filing an entry for the two remaining Tri-Track Open Modified Series events at Star and Seekonk. If you’re a race fan, pack the grandstands at the two remaining events and show your support of big money Modified races.
Supporting these events is the only thing that will keep them around. Without more support these big money events filled with talented drivers could be non-existent very soon.