For now the engine sounds of the new headlining Fastrak Crate Late Model division at Freedom Raceway have been silenced, victims of the poor financial picture at the Delevan-based facility. Freedom may be on a Fastrak to nowhere.
According to Freedom promoter Dan Hoffmann, if the financial situation does not improve quickly, the track could be taking its final checkered flag in the weeks ahead.
Hoffmann decided July 5 to put the Fastrak cars on a three-week hiatus while he attempts to renegotiate a lower purse payout structure with the drivers. Hoffmann also said Wednesday that his track is now operating on a week-to-week basis and while his goal still remains to complete the full season, the facility could close anytime if the money well runs dry.
In a related move, for the third time in the last few years, Hoffmann has once again put the track on the selling block. He says he has reduced the selling price to $275,000.
The move comes just as the Fastrak class was gaining some momentum, growing from seven cars to 12 in recent weeks.
"I'm broke and I'm sick," said Hoffmann. "It's that simple. I also have my continuing health problems. If I can't get a lower purse agreement, then this class will not race at Freedom any longer. This class has been running for $750-to-win and I can't afford it anymore."
If Hoffmann gives the Fastrak cars the permanent heave-ho it will mark the third time in the last five years that he has dropped his headlining class.
Earlier this decade, Hoffmann ran Sprint Cars for three years but sent them packing in favor of the Super Stocks. Last winter when he felt he needed to go the Crate Late Model route, he showed the Super Stocks the exit door rather than run both classes. He identified cost and purse problems as major reasons each time.
"I still believe in the Fastrak Crate Late Models and believe this class is what is needed to save local racing because these cars are more affordable," stressed Hoffmann.
Some may argue that Hoffmann's purse is not that high because he is not paying a full 24-car field.
"This is not true because I'm paying the winner and the front finishing positions where most of the purse money goes because these are the highest paying spots in the field," Hoffmann retorted.
Hoffmann claims that the fan attendance has remained fairly steady but says his car counts overall in 2007 for his weekly five-division program is down by about 30.
There also are some hard feelings among some of the Super Stock drivers. They say they didn't deserve to get dumped from the Freedom program. They raced for less then the Fastrak cars, at $500-to-win last year. One driver says that as least 14 Super Stocks were at each Freedom race last season, challenging Hoffmann's assertion that less than 14 ran at many races.
In fairness, some of the Super Stock teams last year at Freedom decided to abandon their weekly programs to chase the BRP Can-Am 360 Late Model Series. Purse issues also contributed.
Earlier this season, Fastrak driver Greg Oakes suggested that more drivers would join the class if the car numbers grew during this first season. He said there would be growing pains.
How will the Fastrak class grow now that they are on a sudden vacation and their future at Freedom in doubt? Will Freedom management's credibility suffer as some say it already has?
"Honestly, I don't know what will happen but I do know what I must do if Freedom is to continue to stay open," said Hoffmann. "I wish there was another way but there isn't."
McKean County Raceway in East Smethport, Pa., continues to provide a weekly racing home for the Fastrak cars. Perhaps in the short term, Freedom's loss will be McKean's gain.