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FARLEY — When the Farley Speedway Modified Super Weekend announcement made the rounds over the winter, eyebrows across Eastern Iowa weren’t the only ones to go up.
Modifieds paying $50,000 to win is no joke. Sport Mods paying $20,000 is unprecedented. Neither number has ever been matched in the state of Iowa for an IMCA-rules show, according to track officials. It’s one of the highest-paying Modified races ever, topped only by the Alltel 100, a $100,000-to-win event with IMCA rules (but non-sanctioned) run in Batesville, Ark., in 2004.
A $225,000 purse kicks off new ownership of Farley Speedway (and Farley Speedway Promotions, Inc., formerly Simmons Promotions, Inc.) in about as big a way as anyone could imagine.
That was the point, to make a splash. With cars from 19 states — including Alaska — and two countries, mission accomplished — at least so far.
“It’ll put us on the map,” FSP promoter Ed White said. “By holding these kinds of events, we can be one of those premier tracks.
“This is a lot more money than anyone around here has run for. I’d rather get paid more than less. You can’t find a higher-paying event in the Midwest.”
The idea for the Super Weekend was one of the first the new ownership group came up with after taking over. The three-man group of Jason Rauen, Joel Callahan and Roger Simon wanted to make Farley Speedway one of the top facilities — not just racetracks — in the state.
They reconfigured Turns 3 and 4, with more banking and a retaining wall. There’s a new pit area along the back stretch, Turn 2 and Turns 3 and 4. They put in a jumbotron off Turn 3. All those changes are just for starters. Callahan said FSP envisions the facility as a motorsports park of sorts, with tractor pulls, a go-kart track in the infield and potentially other forms of motorsports in the future.
The Modified Super Weekend is the meal ticket of sorts to make all the changes worthwhile, Callahan said. Raising the profile of the track and thereby funneling cash into the enterprise will make it easier for all their plans to come to fruition.
Running this race on this weekend — after weekly racing has commenced — and putting it on a Saturday got some pushback from weekly racers, Callahan said, which was surprising for the group. While he understands the perspective, Callahan said the combination of racers making themselves better plus the chance to contribute to growing a potentially premier facility should be a bigger pull.
“It does surprise me, the pushback from local racers who don’t want to do this, because if they want to be better, you need to go to these big events,” Callahan said. “Doing this big event hopefully allows us owners to walk away with some money because we’re putting money in to try to improve the sport. If we can do well, it means the weekly guy is going to show up at a much better or the best racing conditions in their backyard. The better this race does, the better we will return it back to the racetrack.”
As with anything, the first few months of the new venture — the FSP group have never been track owners, and this is White’s first turn as a promoter — have seen some snags.
The first event scheduled was rained out. The reschedule of that IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series race saw a racing surface that was rough, and reworking the track took the event late into the evening. Even into last weekend’s season opener, the surface still isn’t where they want it to be.
Truckload upon truckload of new dirt was brought in to redo the entire track surface, and Callahan and White both fully acknowledged it wasn’t settled yet. Combined with spring weather, they both described it as a never-ending task to try to make the Super Weekend surface the best one possible. White described the process this week as blading, watering, discing and packing on repeat.
IMCA Modified racer Troy Cordes pointed out the obvious that however it turns out, every racer who pulls onto Farley Speedway for practice night Thursday, qualifying Friday or the main events Saturday will be on the same playing field.
With two qualifying heats (drivers draw for initial position in the first heat, with positions inverted for the second) raced for passing points, the top 12 will be locked in on Friday and six last chance races fill out the remaining 30 qualifiers for the main events on Saturday. All that combined with the surface makes for multiple factors to deal with for the drivers.
“So much new dirt has been placed on it the last couple months,” IMCA Sport Mod racer Tim Plummer said. “Any track gets better as the year goes on. They haven’t had a ton of time to mess with it. … For me, I think it’s awesome there’s an opportunity to go run for money like that, and I think every competitor going into it knows track conditions will be a factor.”
This is more money than most anyone entered in this race could ever have hoped to race for. That’s certainly the case for the Sport Mod entries.
With that, then, will most certainly come some of the most ferocious and intense racing Eastern Iowa has ever seen. There’s always the adage that racers would wreck each other for nothing, or just for a trophy. If that’s the case, what should everyone in attendance this weekend expect when $50,000 or $20,000 on the line? Plummer joked the favorite to win is, “whoever’s running second on the last lap.”
Jokes aside, Cordes and Plummer both said they hoped the racing was respectful. Both flatly denied they’d wreck someone to win it all because both pointed out $20,000 for second in Modified and $8,000 for second in Sport Mod still is a lot.
Regardless, they both know not everyone thinks that way. A history-making race can make racers do funny things.
“This is a totally different animal; I get goose bumps just thinking about it,” Cordes said. “I think the quality of drivers that are going to be there, I think we won’t be driving over the top and taking each other out. You’re going to weed some of them out that won’t race up there.
“Now, come down to the last lap, running three or four wide, anything might go then.”
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