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Summer weather makes it tough to stay on track

Rain can cost speedway money and force the schedule to get backed up.

Published June 17, 2005

It's that time of year again, when sunny mornings turn into stormy afternoons and officials at Citrus County Speedway dread looking at the weekly weather forecast.

With all of the track's races in the late afternoon and evenings of every Saturday, the wet summer months often scare away fans or cause the speedway to lose money on cancellations, spokesperson Larry MacMillan said.

"Unfortunately, I have to (look at the forecasts)," MacMillan said. "And this is one of the gambles you take, but we just take it one day at a time."

When a week's events are postponed or canceled, the track loses all of its advertising funds. If patrons pass through the front gates but the races are canceled before intermission, admissions are lost and spectators are issued rain checks that they have two weeks to redeem.

The speedway had its first rainout of the year June 4 but probably would have run its races as scheduled if not for the TBARA Sprints, MacMillan said.

The TBARA drivers come from all over the state, and he said officials didn't want them to drive all the way to Citrus County to compete when storms were threatening the area early in the day.

Last week, tropical storm Arlene threatened the competition, but the schedule went on as planned.

The TBARA Sprints have been rescheduled for July 30, but the other events that were supposed to take place June 4 were canceled. Usually when features are postponed, the track will schedule double features and have an all-feature night the following week without heat races.

MacMillan said the speedway has been fairly lucky in the past with rainouts, since showers usually let up before the 6 p.m. start. But last year, the track had six rainouts.

Even if the weather isn't hard enough to warrant a cancellation, fans often are weary of showing up during the rainy season, MacMillan said.

"A lot of times, the races are looking pretty dim going into the afternoon and people make other arrangements," he said.

Fortunately for Citrus County Speedway, when the number of fans dwindles, the number of cars still is high. Spectators might be scared of the weather, but it doesn't seem to affect any of the drivers. "The car count has been really good," MacMillan said. "That's one thing - if the fans don't come out, the drivers are still there."

Cristina Ledra can be reached at 352 564-3623 or cledra@sptimes


[Last modified June 17, 2005, 00:34:18]

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