MASON CITY — As the checkered flag flies Sunday night on the racing season at Mason City Motor Speedway, promoter Al Hejna can reflect on a successful first campaign in an attempt to rejuvenate racing at the half-mile facility.
Here are some thoughts from Hejna, a former racer, on his first season wearing a promoter’s cap at his hometown track:
On what went right:
“I like the way the track started out and the drivers’ response. There was so much support from the drivers, and that made it all worthwhile how they rallied around the track and supported it. And Dale Kjelssen is the one who helped build it and got it into shape. That guy has had his equipment over there since April 1.
“Our car counts were always better than average. We thought we had a couple slump weeks but they weren’t nearly as bad as other tracks around the state. That’s just part of it.”
On what he wishes he would have done differently in year 1:
“I needed more time to get out there and get ahead of our big shows and promote them better. Sometimes it felt like I was a little late getting after things. I’ve got to get after that. That will change. Next year on opening night we will have flyers all over about our shows for the year underneath our grandstand. And we’ll work on the groundskeeping. It just felt like this year we concentrated so much of our time on the track.”
On what will change for 2017:
“We’ve got to rethink some of the events we went up against. We were either unaware of them or didn’t think it would affect us as much as it did. Sunday night racing is what I think we have to keep, and even our specials. There’s so much less competition in terms of recreation. We are still going to have those specials and concentrate on the fair.
“We are going to have Modifieds racing weekly. We say we are the best paying track in Iowa, and we are going to try to go out and find ways to pay even more, which will hopefully bring in more cars and more fans. The ultimate goal is to always have more cars and more fans.”
On how the season compared with his expectations:
“Yeah, I think it was a success. Everywhere I go, fans or even people who hadn’t been to the races say they’ve heard great things. We have to get all those people in the habit of getting back out there. I think we are doing that. Next year, I think we will have more sponsors, more partners.”
On Sunday’s season championship night (hot laps at 5:30 p.m.), which will recognize track champions:
“This is replacing banquets. For so many years we’d have a banquet in October, and you’d have to pay $25 of $30 for some buffet. There will be a $1 admission (for fans) and hopefully a full house to see these guys get their trophy, point money and do the driver intros in front of the crowd. A lot of drivers have never had that intro — it’s kind of a lost promotion.”
On who will race Sunday:
“The top 12 in points (for each class) who show up are locked into the championship race. For all the other cars, there will be a $10 pit pass and they will race a qualifier and we will take anywhere between 8 and 12 and they make the ‘A’ main. When we are done with that, we will have the vintage club guys race, have them introduced, and the features will line up and we’ll introduce them all.”