Not coming to a town near you


September 05, 2004|by MARK KELLER

This is NASCAR country? I don't think so.

Yes, there are many, many NASCAR fans in this area. Take a quick look at the stickers on the rear windows of vehicles as you drive through town and you cannot possibly deny that fact.

But the idea that a NASCAR track would work, let alone even happen, in Washington County - as John Munson of the County Commissioners has suggested - is ridiculous.

The thought that the venture could work in Allegany County, even with the financial backing of the owner of Pocono Raceway, is a longshot at best.


My reasoning can be found on page D9 of this section in a story about Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

Darlington used to host one of the premier NASCAR races - the Southern 500 - every Labor Day weekend.

Now, it's the Pop Secret 500, held in California.

As NASCAR has exploded in popularity over the last 10 years, the stock car series has begun to outgrow some of its oldest tracks, moving races from tracks like Darlington and North Wilkesboro (N.C.) - right in the heart of what was once truly NASCAR country - to places like Texas, Florida, California and Chicago, which all have sparkling new facilities with much larger seating capacities.

If you're running NASCAR, are you coming to Hagerstown, or are you going to Chicago? The answer to that one is easy.

This isn't the first time somebody has had visions of stock cars rolling through the area. Two years ago, a West Virginia senator floated the idea to build a track in the Eastern Panhandle. Official odds from NASCAR that a West Virginia track would land a NASCAR race: "Slim to none."

NASCAR already has full schedules for all of its major racing series, with new tracks fighting for a spot (or a second spot) on the bill as the old tracks scramble to hold on to their events.

There simply isn't room on the Nextel Cup, Busch or Craftsman Truck series for schedule expansion. That means if a track were built here, the best fans could hope to see is a NASCAR Featherlite race.

The novelty of the track would bring some local fans out to races for a few years, but that would eventually wear off. And there would be very few people traveling any real distance to watch those races, as opposed to the 100,000-plus fans that flock to every Nextel Cup race.

Besides, the county could fix a whole lot of roads for much less than the price of a racetrack.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at

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