When Bobby Davidson became the general manager of the New Humberstone Speedway back in 2005, he had the usual challenges that face someone in that position.
He also faced additional problems because the track then known has Gasport Speedway had been closed for the entire 2004 campaign. Financial woes forced the previous promoters to close the Port Colborne, Ont., facility.
The dirt-surfaced track was previously owned by the husband-wife promoting duo of Al and Edith Wagner.
Gasport was purchased by racer and businessman Pete Cosco and his wife, Linda, in late 2004 and they hired Davidson. Although Davidson grew up around racing and was a driver, his assignment as general manager was his first journey into the world of being a track official.
The track was renamed New Humberstone Speedway, a name it carried years earlier.
Davidson is the grandson of retired driver Bob Davidson and the son of longtime race starter Barry Davidson.
"I honestly really didn't think about the fact that the track was closed the year before," said Davidson, 35, of St. Catharines, Ont. "I knew that I had a job in front of me to do. Whatever happened in the past was over and it was the future we had to take care of."
The progress at New Humberstone has been tremendous. The car counts have been built up to the point that each week the track's main class, the DIRT.car Sportsman, average 25 to 26 cars, while their DIRT.car 358 Modified special events average is 23-24 per show.
All other classes have full fields of around 20. Even the Pro Truck class, which drew only two or three entrants when added a few seasons back and was an endangered species, now draws nearly 20 trucks per week.
"I think the best thing that the race teams like about coming to our facility is the fact that we have worked hard to get our race track surface very smooth and racy and all the corners are the same," replied Davidson. "In fact I had a 358 driver call me just this morning and thank me for the really good track surface we had this past Sunday night.
"Also we have very good purses and all of our class purses are not only in line with what other tracks are paying but in a couple of our classes we pay a bit more."
Despite the fact that New Humberstone runs on Sunday nights after many fans have spent their racing dollars elsewhere, the grandstand crowds at New Humberstone have also been on the rise. Several nights the grandstand were nearly full.
"I think the key to our attendance rise is the fact that even though we have to run on that dreaded Sunday night, we push our races along and have people heading home between 9 to 9:15 p.m. each week," said Davidson. "We start at 6:30 and they get home early enough to not have to worry about getting home very late and trying to get up for work and school Monday morning.
"Also, while a racing purist may not want to hear it, we are now in the entertainment business and not just the racing business. People in general want to be entertained. That's why we move our shows along and hope for exciting racing. We have our NASCAR night coming up in just days and that's why we bring in some of these NASCAR stars: If you give people something they want to see they will come."
New Humberstone will host its second NASCAR Night of Stars on July 11 with Bobby Labonte and Dave Blaney racing while two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip does the guest announcing. The drivers are booked for the event through a company called The Race of Champions.
"I was working on trying to get something like this NASCAR night going a few years ago but it wasn't feasible and the timing was not right for it then," Davidson explained.
"Last season NASCAR drivers were booked to come to the Cayuga Speedway (Nelles Corners, Ont.) but that fell through so one day the people from the Race of Champions called me and offered to host the event at New Humberstone for a special rate and we were able to work out the details with just three weeks time before the event."
That first event last August was postponed by rain until September but it was a near sell-out and brought the desired publicity to New Humberstone. It proved that New Humberstone's philosophy of aggressively marketing itself rather than just hoping fans and drivers will show up is the correct mind-set.
This year's NASCAR Night event will run under a similar format with driver autographs available at 3 p.m. followed by racing at 6:30 p.m. Discount tickets can be purchased prior to July 1 by calling (905) 834-4002. The track is located on Highway 3, 17 miles west of the Peach Bridge in Port Colborne, Ont.