By Jeff Pederson
of The Beacon staff
The impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) public health emergency has impacted all sectors of society, including sporting events of all shapes and sizes.
During a typical season, Plymouth Dirt Track Racing would have launched its 16th season of competition at the Sheboygan County Fairgrounds this past Saturday.
However, if anything is known about the 2020 season, it is the stark fact that it will most certainly be atypical.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ “safer at home” order is presently set to run until May 26.
This means PDTR will have no opportunity to get on track for the 60th overall season at the fairgrounds until May 30 at the earliest.
Undaunted, PDTR is still preparing to stage races this year.
“Due to the extension of the governor’s ‘safer at home’ order to May 26th, our first five races of the season are officially cancelled at this point,” Marketing and Promotions Director Bill Weinaug said. “Racing is what we do, so we are remaining confident that we will have racing at Plymouth at some point during the 2020 season.
“Our hope is that as soon we meet the established codes and get the proper clearances and direction from our government leaders, we can get going with our season,” he said. “We don’t know what shape that might take at this point. The potential that restrictions might be in place, at least for a period of time, is certainly a possibility, but we will just have a to deal with that if or when that happens.”
Although the actual start of the season is in limbo, Weinaug said when racing does resume fans will be treated to several improvements.
“Last year people may remember that we started remodeling our main concession stand behind the grandstand,” Weinaug said. “The fully remodeled concession stand opened late in the 2019 season and in the offseason, we did a few more refinements to make it even better for workers and fans when racing starts up again. We’ve also updated the bathrooms on the north end of the facility by the pit gate and redid all of the track lighting for the 2020 season.
“As far as the track itself goes, we put some smaller tires down into the track surface in both corners, which will force drivers to race a bit higher on the track and hopefully create multiple grooves for them to race on. This will also stop tires from bouncing onto the track and causing caution flags like has been an issue in the past.”
The tentative schedule is to run through Sept. 26, highlighted by a return appearance by the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 410 Sprint Series for the $26,000 to win Rayce Rudeen Foundation event on May 30 and a third consecutive appearance by the Morton Buildings World of Outlaws Late Model Series on July 11.
Showcasing the star power of former NASCAR Cup Series champion and All-Star Series owner Tony Stewart, the All-Stars will join the regional Interstate Racing Association 410 Sprint Car Series for the highest-paying 410 Sprint Car race in the history of the state of Wisconsin.
The PDTR 360 Sprint Cars will also be on the card.
Last year was the first time the All-Star Series had competed at Plymouth since 1995 with Australia’s James McFadden taking the victory in former NASCAR star’s Kasey Kahne No. 9 machine.
“It is a really big deal for us to get the Rayce Rudeeen event at Plymouth this year,” Weinaug said. “I have a feeling Tony Stewart had a hand in moving the race to Plymouth this year as it was held in Iowa last year.
“Tony really likes Plymouth and he has raced with us multiple times over the past several years,” he said. “A $26,000-to-win race is huge for any track and it is one we are really hoping to get in this year as it will be very special.”
Brandon Sheppard, the 2017 and 2019 World of Outlaws Series champion, has captured the last two World of Outlaws Late Model Series races at Plymouth.
The World of Outlaws Late Models event will also feature the PDTR Grand Nationals and B Mods.
“We’ve had the World of Outlaws Late Models on Monday nights the last two years and those races have done really well on a weeknight, but Saturday nights are always preferred for us,” Weinaug said. “We are very happy to have them come on a Saturday and it worked with their schedule, so that is another one we are really looking for to and hope we are able to get it in this year.”
PDTR will also host three additional appearances by the regional touring IRA 410 Sprint Car Series: Aug. 1, Sept. 5 (during the Sheboygan County Fair) and the IRA season finale on Sept. 26.
The Aug. 1 IRA event will also feature the PDTR 360 Sprint Cars, as well as a appearance by the Badger Midget Series, which will return to Plymouth after a 12-year absence.
The Badger Midget Series will also return to Plymouth for a second time in place of the Late Model division Sept. 12.
The Sept. 26 IRA season-finale event will also be the capstone of the 2020 campaign for the PDTR 360 Sprint Cars, Wisconsin Wingless Sprint Car Series and Wisconsin-Illinois Mini Sprint Series.
“We are pleased to be hosting the final IRA race of the season again this year with another all-open wheel show to close out the year,” Weinaug said. “It is just a great way to end the racing season for our area open wheel racers and fans.”
Three other special Late Model events are on the 2020 schedule on Friday nights, including the third annual Russ Scheffler Tribute Race on June 26, which will include all four regular PDTR divisions highlighted by an increased purse for the Late Model A-main event honoring Scheffler, who passed away in September 2017.
“Russ was a special racer and his tribute race was one of our biggest events last year with a great crowd and field of cars on hand,” Weinaug said. “It is on Friday night to allow the Shawano Late Model regulars and other Late Model drivers from the region to join us on that night.”
In addition, PDTR will host two additional Dirt Kings Late Model Series, including the $4,200-to-win Diamond 42, along with the PDTR B Mods and Grand Nationals, on Aug. 14, with another Dirt Kings event planned on Aug. 28 with all regular PDTR divisions joining in on that night.
“It is great that all of these major series want to race at our track,” Weinaug said. “It is really a big deal for us to have the All-Star Sprint Cars, World of Outlaws Late Models, IRA Sprint Cars, Dirt Kings Late Models and Badger Midgets.
“For the second year in a row, we will be hosting all five of those series, and we are very thankful and thrilled for that opportunity.”
This year’s weekly line-up of divisions includes 360 Sprint Cars, Late Models, Grand Nationals and B Mods with solid car counts expected in each.
“At this point, it appears that all four of our regular divisions will see growth this year,” Weinaug said. “Last year we had 12 new drivers compete in the 360 Sprint Car division, which was outstanding and more new drivers are expected this year in each of our weekly divisions.”