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Smithton area speedway up for sale

| Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007

Motordrome and Jennerstown speedways are for sale, and Jennerstown has dropped its NASCAR affiliation in what has become a notable offseason for area racing tracks.

"I want to emphasize we're operating as normal in 2007, and the drivers, spectators and sponsors aren't going to be affected. It's not necessarily a negative thing," Motordrome owner Red Miley said Tuesday. "It's happening because of my health. I'm fighting melanoma, and I have to concentrate all my efforts on beating this thing."

As for whether or not the Motordrome half-mile asphalt oval near Smithton will continue to participate in the NASCAR weekly racing series for 2007, Miley said, "That's something that's still being weighed."

Miley also has an ownership interest in Pennsylvania Motor Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in Imperial. That track is not being sold.

"The reason is because that's really a partnership of the whole family and the track is in our backyard, which makes it easier to operate than Motordrome," Miley said.

Jennerstown previously had been announced as being on the block. There had been a chance the track would not operate this season. That has changed, but the track has pulled out of the NASCAR weekly racing series.

"Basically, they reformulated it from regions to state champions, with a reduction in the payback to the drivers," Jennerstown general manager Larry Mattingly said yesterday. "We weren't sure it was worthwhile for us or our competitors.

"Also, with the track being for sale, we're looking at trying to do more of a self-branding thing. We're trying to create our own brand with MAARA."

Mattingly referred to the Mid-Atlantic Asphalt Racing Alliance, a five-track effort that operated this past season to standardize late model rules and provide a circuit of special races. Motordrome also is associated with MAARA.

Mattingly said Jennerstown owner Dave Wheeler is looking to sell the track because of a time conflict between operating it and managing his business.

Jennerstown has tried a variety of promotions, including reduced prices, concerts, non-traditional racing and other special events in the pursuit of economic viability.

"We didn't make a profit last year," Mattingly said. "But we certainly didn't lose as much money as we had lost three years ago. We have the trend moving in the right direction. We went from about 500 in weekly attendance when I first got here to about 1,500 last year. You need 2,000 to 2,500 to make a serious profit.

"We're fighting a lot of demographic trends. Our attendance is graying. We're having difficulty attracting younger people. This isn't the '50s and '60s, where entertainment options were pretty much limited."

Plans for another area track, Latrobe Speedway, a half-mile dirt oval, are uncertain.

"We're not sure yet if we will lease it out again or not," said Caroline Gombach, who operated the track this past season along with her husband, Joe.

Sam Ross Jr. can be reached at sross@tribweb.com or (724) 838-5144.

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