The new Checkered Flag Promotions partnership of John Baumann and Lee Meyer is already preparing for the dirt to fly when the first green flag appears at the Buena Vista Raceway in Alta this May.
While it's their first venture into race track promoting, both are well acquainted with the track at Alta and with the entertainment business.
Meyer, a former member of the county fair board, estimated he'd missed only 10 nights of racing in the 30-plus seasons the track has been open.
Baumann and his wife Phyllis ran the concession stand when the former Alta Speedbowl opened in 1961, then went into the carnival business full-time. Baumann returned to the sport as an owner, seeing drivers in his cars win several track titles at Alta.
"We've both seen a lot of racing at Buena Vista Raceway," said Meyer, warehouse manager for a Storm Lake oil distributor. "When we found out the track would be available, John and I put our heads together, put in a bid and here we are."
"I'd thought about doing this a couple times before," Baumann said. "I've been in racing and have worked with fair boards for a long time. We've worked on this almost every day since we became involved last November."
Meyer completed a four-year stint heading the track security crew at Alta. He cited conflicts of interest in resigning from the fair board, which oversees operation of the facility, before he and Baumann got together last fall.
I.M.C.A.-sanctioned Modifieds, Stock Cars and Hobby Stocks will be on the Wednesday evening programs at Buena Vista Raceway, along with a bomber class for the first time in several years, which replaces cruiser racing.
"The bombers are an entry-level class, and it gives the young people in our area an opportunity to get started in racing. There already seems to be a lot of interest in it," Meyer said.
It appears that numbers will be up in the stock cars ranks for 2002, and some past racers will be moving up to join the modified class as well, he said. "We do hope to see more cars out there, and continue to build on that for future years."
In a major change, the promoters have obtained clearance from the IMCA sanctioning body to hold an automatic rain night make-up race when needed or possible, rather than canceling events. If a scheduled event is rained out on the normal Wednesday night, it will automatically be rescheduled for Thursday of the same week, according to Meyer.
The track itself is in decent shape going into the season, with some dirt work, signs and fence projects to be done prior to racing if weather permits.
Fan support remains strong for the local track, the men find.
"Different kinds of people seem to be drawn to different forms of racing, but the people who go to dirt tracks realize that the dirt is always changing, and that setting up a car to perform on dirt is a real art," Meyer said. "We also thing that since people will be staying closer to home after the tragedies of September 11, it should give the raceway and all the other forms of local entertainment a good chance to perform for the people."
The duo plan to remain with IMCA rules and programming.
Tentative opening night for the upcoming season at Alta is May 1. A Show and Shine event will probably be announced for the Sunday before the opening race if conditions permit. Regular race nights will run through Aug. 28, with several specials including the Kyle Sutter Memorial in memory of a local young racing enthusiast to be held around the 4th of July holiday, and the Dick Simpson Memorial will move with the fair time to June, honoring a past promoter at the track. While exact times and schedules remain to be finalized, the promoters are investigating a change in start time to 7:30 p.m.
The new promoters also said that nearly all of the track employees from 2001 will return.