Nov 15, 2023

Standing room only crowd for racetrack meeting Tuesday

Posted Nov 15, 2023 11:52 AM
Racetrack Meeting Nov. 14, 2023-Photo by Nick Gosnell
Racetrack Meeting Nov. 14, 2023-Photo by Nick Gosnell

Hutch Post

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — A standing room only crowd showed up to Dillon Hall in the Encampment Building on the Kansas State Fairgrounds Tuesday night and with a loud unified voice spoke of family, fun and fairness between competing interests at the Kansas State Fair, but most of all, the message was clear, save the track.

"Please, really consider, why do we have to bring the axe down right now?" said William Nusser, mayor of Larned, winner of the 2023 Hutch Nationals and leader of the Save the Track group. "If there's things you want to address, let's see if we can get those accomplished first. It's been a facility that's been there since 1910. It doesn't deserve the axe."

Two proposals were brought forth to preserve racing on the Fairgrounds. Hutchinson Nationals promoter C. Ray Hall really could only promise to run the nationals just as he has for decades and a $1000 increase in the rental he pays to the facility.

Phil Nightingale with Mel Hambleton Ford had a more extensive idea, starting with fixing the walls at the track. He said to board member Herman Bliss in the public meeting that it could be done for $10,000.

"Me, Nic Ballman, my racing fund guy and Bill Johnson from Evans Construction and a gentleman from Andale Concrete came out here and we walked the track, inside and out and we counted the panels that we need to have to fix," Nightingale said. "It's not the whole walls that need to be fixed. Right now, to be safe and to be ready to go race, I need five panels. That's all I need. Now, throughout the year, it might be another ten, maybe 15, it depends how many cars hit the wall when it happens, or how much more of the wall cracks, but it's only five panels right now to make it safe for a racer to go out there and race."

The proposal with MHF is for a three-year contract, but right now, Nightingale's focus is to race one year and then come back to the Fair Board with real numbers.

"After one year, I want to come back to the Fair Board, I want to show them my financials," Nightingale said. "I've got a whole financial sheet set up, financial statement and everything I'm going to run with all the expenses, everything that goes into play and I want to come back after the first year and say, all right, board, here's my numbers, here's what I generated. Here's what we did. This second year, let's get everybody involved and let's make this even bigger and better. I love racing. I've been to so many racetracks. It's huge racing out there. I just want to build Hutch back in to where it used to be."

The intent from MHF's proposal is to run one race a month from April to October at the Kansas State Fairgrounds.

"There's not many half mile tracks," Nightingale said. "There's not many with big stands and the noise that comes along with this racetrack and everything else like that. It's an honor to race out here. It's fun to race out here and it's a great family experience from that part. Me and Jake, my son, have raced out here for several years. We've had some good success, we've had some bad success. It's just a fun environment this racetrack brings into play. Whether we keep it the half mile or have to move it to three eighths, I don't want to switch it to three eighths, but if it makes it we have to go to three eighths to attract more racers and sanctioned events, then we do it, but if not, let's keep the half mile and let's keep going."

The Fair Board's next meeting where they will have discussions about the track will be next Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the Administration Building on the Fairgrounds, where their board meetings are normally held.

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