by Jeff Pederson
for The Beacon
Although the first event was rained out this past weekend, Plymouth Dirt Track Racing drivers, fans, workers and supporters remain ready to go full throttle into the new season.
The 18th year of PDTR competition and 62nd overall of regular weekly racing competition is set to begin Saturday at the Sheboygan County Fairgrounds.
“During COVID, we worked out a plan with local officials that allowed us to race within certain guidelines,” PDTR Marketing and Promotions Director Bill Weinaug said.
“With very few activities going on, we became a place to go for something to do which brought new fans and families to the track. Last year a lot of those fans came back along with new ones.”
In addition to the regular weekly program, which features 360 Sprint Cars, Late Models, Grand Nationals and B Mods, the season is currently scheduled to feature a return appearance by the national touring Tezos All-Star Circuit of Champions 410 Sprint Car Series in conjunction with the Bumper to Bumper Interstate Racing Association (IRA) Series on May 21.
Another major highlight is a special weeknight IRA 410 Sprint Car Series event held in conjunction with the NASCAR Cup Series weekend at nearby Road America on June 30.
Both all-Sprint Car special events will also feature the PDTR 360 Sprint Cars.
Among the drivers tentatively expected to compete in the All Star-IRA event on May 21 include defending All-Star Series champion Tyler Courtney of Indianapolis and four-time champion Tim Shaffer of Aliquippa, Penn.
Leading the local contingent of drivers are second-year All-Star Series regular and 10-time IRA Series champion Bill Balog of Hartland, who earned his first career All-Star Series victory at The Plymouth Dirt Track last June, and Scotty Thiel of Sheboygan, as well as former IRA Series champions Scotty Neitzel of Beaver Dam, Jeremy Schultz of Beaver Dam, and Jake Blackhurst of Hanna City, Ill.
“We have a nice variety with our regular divisions and the different touring series coming in during the course of the season,” Weinaug said. “The All-Star Sprint Car Series is coming back on May 21st, which is at the top of the list of special events for us.
“We also have the Dirt Kings Late Models, IRA 410 Sprint Cars, INEX Legends and Badger Midgets, as well the Vintage Modifieds joining us in 2022.”
The INEX Legends cars will make a very rare appearance, along with the regular four PDTR divisions on June 4.
Vintage Modifieds are set to join the regular PDTR divisions on July 9.
“If the Legends cars have ever been at Plymouth before, I don’t recall it,” Weinaug said. “Beaver Dam Raceway will not have the Legends racing there every week this year, so they were looking for other tracks to race at.”
Weinaug expects the competition to be typically fierce in the PDTR 360 Sprint Car, Late Model, Grand National and B Mod ranks during the season.
“The rumor mill is wide open right now of who’s coming and going and I really think some drivers haven’t fully made up their minds yet of what they’ll be doing as far and when, where and how often they will race in 2022,” Weinaug said. “Like everything else, pricing and shortages are affecting the racing community as well.”
Weinaug admits that the nationwide labor and supply chain shortages, as well as rising prices have provided additional challenges for PDTR.
“Unfortunately, there’s not a lot we can do about it, as we’re affected by the same things everyone else is,” Weinaug said. “Fuel prices are a real killer. We rely on diesel fuel for most of our equipment and that price is way up. Food prices have gone up too, which has an impact on us.”
The sponsors are …
Next Step Insurance will be the new sponsor for the PDTR B Mod Division. Kristine Hartmann Pleasantview Realty (360 Sprint Cars), B-93 FM Radio (Late Models) and Oostburg Automotive (Grand Nationals) each return as division sponsors.
Hard Charger Award sponsors for the season include Kristine Hartmann Pleasantview Realty (360 Sprint Cars), Racer’s Hall (Late Models), Laura Corrao of North Shore Homes (Grand Nationals) and Schwaller Painting and Staining (B Mods).
The winner’s circle sponsor is Kunes Country RV.
This is for the fans
Several fan engagement activities and giveaways are planned during the season.
“We will hand out American flags for Military Night on May 28th and Kids Backpack Night will be on Aug. 6th,” Weinaug said.
“We’ll have a glow stick night too, as well as other special giveaways and events for fans throughout the season. The details for those are still in the works.”
Weinaug believes PDTR’s unique blend of weekly racing divisions and wide variety of touring series appearances help it to stand apart from other dirt track racing venues in the region.
“I think we have a great mix of classes for our weekly shows and then add in the outside touring groups that come in, it gives a good variety of shows for race fans throughout the season,” Weinaug said. “Having the two premier classes with the 360 Sprint Cars and Late Models is something no other track in the region offers.
“When you add that together with our great track food, you’re set for a night of fun.”
Timing is everything
Start times for the first three racing programs nights of the season will move up one hour with pit gates opening at 2 p.m., grandstand gates opening at 3:30 p.m. with hot laps at 4:30 p.m. and racing to begin at 5 p.m.
On normal race nights beginning on May 28, pit gates will open at 3 p.m., grandstand gates will open at 4:30 p.m. with hot laps at 5:30 p.m. and racing to follow at 6 p.m.