The pit area has been a little less crowded this season at Farmer City Raceway, and track promoter Don Hammer said there is a simple reason for the lower car counts.
"I think it's economics," Hammer said. "Once people get used to paying $3.50 a gallon for gas, I think the guys will get back out there and spend more time playing."
Farmer City has been averaging 22 late models per night after hovering near the 30-car mark last season. Car counts also are down in the modified, sportsman and street stock classes.
"I think a lot of guys are sticking to one night of racing a week instead of two," Hammer said. "It's everywhere. It's not just Farmer City. Every track around has got lower car counts.
"We had 114 (cars overall) last week, and that's just about right. You get the show in and you're not killing yourself to get the show in. And the crowd can get out of there at a reasonable time. It's nice to have 140 cars in the pits, but it's not going to be that way all the time."
It's a similar situation at Fairbury American Legion Speedway, where the track is averaging 24 late models after a season-low 20 entrants last week.
"Up to last week our car count has been fine," said Fairbury promoter Rusty Allen. "Last week it was down a little bit and I don't know if that was due to graduations or other races going on. It was a busy weekend."
Veteran Gibson City late model driver Kevin Weaver said escalating gas prices are "scaring a lot of people."
"That hits right in your pocketbook, and you've got to have (gas)," Weaver said. "A lot of people that have just been doing it for fun have been cutting back and designating just one night to go racing."
Hammer and Allen said attendance has remained strong at both tracks.
"We're still doing good and we're still giving the fans good races," Hammer said. "I think racing can get through this type of economy with power bills going through the roof and gas prices going through the roof."
Weaver goes modified
After crashing his late model last Friday in Paducah, Ky., Weaver went to Plan B and drove his lightly raced modified to a feature victory the following night at Fairbury.
"We got tore up at Paducah and by the time we got home we didn't have time to fix the late model," said Weaver, who also won his modified heat race while posting the fast qualifying time.
Weaver said he runs his modified "about 10 times a year."
"It's just kind of a sideline thing, and we hit the bigger races," Weaver said. "I have just as much fun running them as I do the late models."
Weaver, whose has only one late model feature win this season, will battle the nation's top dirt track stars in this weekend's Dream 100 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
Other drivers with area connections among the early entries for the $100,000-to-win Dream 100 were Billy Drake of Bloomington, Rodney Hamblin of Downs, Shannon Babb of Moweaqua and Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville.
Qualifying for the Dream 100 will be on Friday with heat races and the main feature on Saturday.
Closer to home
Area stock car fans who don't flock to Rossburg this weekend will have plenty of dirt track action close to home. Farmer City and Fairbury will host regular programs on Friday and Saturday, respectively, while Lincoln Speedway will feature a $1,500-to-win late model special on Sunday.
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