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Low turnouts vex South Arcade owner

Even as season champions are crowned Saturday night at South Arcade Speedway, the track's owner and promoter Mike Lauterborn will be accessing what lies ahead for the dirt track.

Lauterborn, who is about to end his second season at SAS, has struggled to lure sufficient crowds, which has been taxing to him.

Yet, he plans to open in 2012 and is assessing what his next moves will be.

For years, South Arcade was known as Freedom Raceway. Prior to his arrival at the track, Lauterborn promoted Genesee Speedway (now Raceway 5) in Batavia for three seasons through a lease agreement with the Genesee Fair Board.

"It's been a struggle to get fans here" said Lauterborn, who hails from Rochester. "I changed my race night after last season from a weekly Friday night show to a limited six-race Saturday night deal this season and attendance hasn't been much better. But in fairness, so many other race tracks are struggling these days.

"I'm still losing but just not as much. Our fan count is still about the same as last year, about 200 to 250 per race and that's not enough people to pay the bills. The car counts here of about 55 cars per race has been good.

"We're a smaller one-third mile track so we don't need the 24-car fields in each division that bigger tracks need. We can do fine with 15-car feature race fields.

"I think that moving from Friday night to Saturday was a mistake. An even bigger problem is the economy, which is not the best south of Buffalo. The tough economy is a huge factor we all face.

"Also, people don't want to see great stock car racing anymore but rather crash-a-ramas, demo derbies and shows of destruction and people fighting on the track and in the pits. We don't do those things at South Arcade."

That's not to say that Lauterborn has given up. He points to several positives the track has enjoyed this season.

"We've had a great track surface here this year and have gotten a lot of compliments on it," said Lauterborn. "Our racing has also been very good and competitive. Also, I brought in some different officials for this season and they all have done a great job for me."

Lauterborn has ideas for changes he may implement for 2012.

"It's no secret that I have the track for sale," said Lauterborn. "It's listed. If I sell then that's it. Someone else would have to determine the track's future."

What if Lauterborn does not sell? He may use a different promoter.

"I will probably go with a limited schedule next season and switch back to Friday nights," said Lauterborn. "I would also continue to own the track but rather than me promoting the track as I've been doing, I'm looking for someone else who is more local to the South Arcade Speedway area to promote the track for me.

"I'm from Rochester and I don't think I understand what people down there around that South Arcade track area want. I know many business people, the business atmosphere and sponsors up in Rochester but not down in the area where South Arcade is located.

"We did a demographic study not too long ago and if we were to pick up the track and plop it down in the center of the area from where most of our drivers and fans seem to come from, I would move this track and plop it right down in the center of Cuba (N.Y.).

"The problem is I can't move the track. Perhaps a promoter who has roots within this area can get more fans and drivers to South Arcade.

"Of course we are not the only local speedway that is struggling these days. But I have to be concerned about my money and my investment."

> Pit stops

* Dunn Tire Raceway Park will hold its annual drag racing Race of Champions tonight at 7. The race is open to all drivers who have won an event at the strip in 2009-11, past drag racing champions and co-champions and all past Race of Champions victors.

* Following the NASCAR Pro Modified feature race last Saturday at Holland NASCAR Motorsports Complex, winner Amy Catalano, runner-up Andy Jankowiak and third place Kirk Totten, drew the attention of Holland's tech officials. All three cars were determined to have body geometry not in compliance with the Holland rule book.

Rather then disqualify the drivers, Holland posted the results as unofficial pending consultation with technical experts. On Tuesday, Holland management declared all three cars to be legal and the results will stand.

email: lawrence_o_14075@yahoo.com