Race Weekend Central

Keepin’ it Short: Baer Field Speedway Reminder You Can Only Give So Much

Jon Raney loves racing at the local short-track level. He is so passionate about it that, when the opportunity came up for him to take over Baer Field Speedway from Tom Isch in 2013, he decided to take the leap and become the promoter. Raney had raced at the track during his racing career and had come back to the track when his son started racing go-karts. While he was at the track working with his son he spoke to Isch and discovered that the promoter was planning to retire.

In a short period of time Raney took over the reins and set his three-year plan in motion to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the track in 2013 and ultimately make the track more fan friendly.

Raney sunk his heart and soul into the track. He upgraded the facility, cleaning up the track and modernizing the restrooms. He eliminated requiring tickets for children under 13 years of age. He also increased the prize money to entice more drivers to come out and race. The three-year plan also had plans for upgrades to the grandstands, a new lighting system and a modern scoreboard. Unfortunately for Raney, it seemed as though he was banging his head against a wall and eventually the headache became too much. As a result, he has canceled the remainder of the 2014 season.

In a quote in the News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Ind., Raney said, “I don’t want to go through this any more. The main problem is the decline of attendance for the grandstands and a lot of that is due to the racers tearing down the place on social media. I build up the facilities and the racers don’t reciprocate it to me. It’s just a negative weight for me.”

The track had several events canceled due to weather this season and actually canceled a race in 2013 due to excessive heat. Raney stopped holding open practice on Wednesdays due to the lack of participation from the racers. The racers also undermined Raney due to their displeasure with some new rules that he implemented. The rules were in response to requirements from the insurance provider for the race track. After a racer was injured in 2013 the insurance company required collapsible steering wheels. The racers fought Raney tooth and nail over the safety requirement, even though it only cost $120.

The bellyaching over the rules didn’t stop with the steering wheels. The insurance carrier also required shirts and closed-toed shoes in the pits. Raney was told by a competitor that he would kill the promoter before they’d make him put on a shirt in the pits. When asking a woman to put on closed toed shoes or leave the pits she told Raney to “F*(& off.”

Raney not only had the battles at the track, he received threatening phone calls at this primary business, a trucking company in the area. Raney said he will not put his livelihood at risk to run a racetrack. For anyone interested in running a local racetrack, Raney is willing to listen to offers because he still has three years left on the contract.

After a successful 50th anniversary season, Raney was feeling very positive about starting the next half century of racing excitement at Baer Field. Unfortunately, while he was trying to do the best for the racers and the fans, the people who would benefit most refused to help him move the facility forward. Track promoters have a very difficult job facing them to try and make money at the local level.

The number of race tracks closing continues to be greater than the number of tracks opening. When a promoter comes in who wants to try and make things better, the competitors need to get on board to make it a success for everyone involved. If they don’t, just like Baer Field, the tracks will close and the drivers won’t have anywhere to go.

Whelen All-American National Championship

Anthony Anders tried hard to add to his points total last week, running three different races. Unfortunately for Anders, his two top-five finishes did not better any of his previous runs, so he is still sitting at 684 points. Lee Pulliam on the other hand ran four races. While he didn’t score any additional wins, he did notch three more top fives that increased his points total by 92 and moved him back into the second spot in the standings, 27 behind Anders.

Keith Rocco ran two races last week and added a win that increased his total to 633 points. It wasn’t enough for him to hang on to the second spot but it did keep him ahead of Peyton Sellers, whose four-race run last week earned him three top fives and four top 10s. His points total increased by 76, but that wasn’t enough to increase his standings position. Rounding out the top five in the standings this week is Dillon Bassett. The youngster who has run races at more tracks than anyone else in the top 10 logged three more races, with two of them resulting in victories.

His points total is up to 579 and is good enough for fifth place, two higher than where he was last week.

The second half of the top 10 starts with Matt Bowling. The Short Track Showdown winner ran four races and added two top fives to his total for the year. He held on to the sixth spot in the points standings, leaping over Ryan Preece who only ran one race, notching a top five. Tommy Lemons Jr. notched a win in one of this two races last week, increasing his points total by 23 points and keeping him in eighth place.

Randy Porter raced twice last week but only managed one top five. It increased his points total by 50 since he had not reached the maximum number of races until last week. Rounding out the top 10 is Kres Vandyke, who is the only driver in the top 10 who has not reached the maximum 18 races. He has 506 points after his 17 races.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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