About 10 years ago, professional racer Kenny Schrader told Al Hejna it was hard to consistently attract drivers to a 1/2-mile racetrack.
“I really didn’t believe him at the time,” said Hejna, a former promoter at Mason City Motor Speedway. “But having worked this track for three years, and listening to what drivers are saying and what they believe and what some of the fans say, it seems like a good move if we’re gonna continue with it.”
Mason City Motor Speedway is shortening its racetrack from about 1/2 miles to about 3/10 miles. The update was first announced on the speedway’s Facebook page Monday. According to the post, this season's first race at Mason City Motor Speedway will be Aug. 11, more than three months later than the usual season-opener.
Hejna and Todd Staley were co-promoters for the past few years, but Staley is assuming those duties this season. Hejna will still contribute on a volunteer basis.
Staley said he didn’t believe the speedway was getting an adequate amount of fans on Sundays.
“It’s just tough for people to race on 1/2-miles anymore,” Staley said. “The racing’s not as exciting. The cars get spread out.”
Cars reach higher speeds on the 1/2-mile track, which leads to more severe damage when cars wreck. The higher speeds also translate to higher repair costs, because the faster competition is more strenuous on a car’s engine.
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“The way the cars are built today, a half-mile racetrack is just tough; just everything about it,” Staley said. “It’s tough to prepare, it’s tough keeping the water in it. But if you go to a smaller racetrack, the races will be better, it’ll be easier to prepare, and you wanna give the fans excitement. Some people like going out there and going as fast as they can possibly go, but that’s not what racing is about.”
Hejna, who began his racing career at Mason City in 1984, will resume weekly racing, something he hasn’t done in more than a decade. Hejna raced in last season’s opener, but he was in someone else’s car. This year, he’ll have two cars of his own.
“It’s my favorite track,” Hejna said. “It’s my home track, and like I said, nobody loves that track more than I do. But to keep the facility going and the track going, we had to change something.”
Staley said he’s unsure of when the new track will be completed. He’s in the process of receiving bids and proposals for the new track. The 1/2-mile will still, essentially, be at the speedway, but the new corners would have to be knocked down to race on it.
Staley also acknowledged Mason City Motor Speedway will lose money in the short-term, simply because of a shortened season. Although fans won’t get to see as much racing as usual, Staley thinks the changes will produce more excitement, bettering the speedway’s competition for years to come.
“At the end of the day, it’s about being able to stay in business, and we feel if we stay at a half-mile, it just ain’t workin’,” Staley said. “Some changes needed to be made.”