Shawano Speedway waiting for the green light

Drivers running into problems ordering parts, securing sponsorships
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

SHAWANO — Like so many other places across the state and country, the Shawano Speedway is waiting for the green light to start its season because of the coronavirus.

The speedway was set to open its 2020 season this Saturday, but with the Safer at Home order in place, the first night of racing is up in the air.

“It’s one day, one week, one hour at a time because it seems to constantly be changing,” said Brad Luepke, the speedway’s marketing and promotions manager on how the season was being approached.

“My theory is, it’s not like we’re looking at three feet of snow on the ground and we know it’s going to melt in two weeks. It’s uncertainty and we don’t know when it’s going to end either. We’re hearing the news like everybody else is, so it’s just a day at a time and when it happens, it happens.”

One thing that makes the situation a little more frustrating is that for the most part, the weather has cooperated in favor of the speedway and there was a chance the season could have started this month instead of waiting until May like the last couple of seasons.

The guidelines in place have also postponed some of the track work that needs to be done by opening week.

Luepke said that usually there’s a grater that goes around the track and then between 10-20 fans that help pick up rocks. He believes the track could still be ready for racing at the start of May should the guidelines be lifted or eased back.

While racing fans are hungry for a racing season, Luepke said that he thinks most fans understand the situation and are still optimistic about the season.

“Every plan is not to cancel the season. We’re going to go on as soon as they let us,” said Luepke. “We have a responsibility to keep everybody safe and healthy so we definitely take that very seriously.”

Drivers also understand the situation at hand and are trying to adjust accordingly. While a lot of the driver’s preparation has not changed, there are a few aspects of the preseason that have been altered.

Kyle Raddant, a Late Model racer, spends time with his dad (Brad) and uncle (Bruce) getting prepared for the season and it’s been the same order of business this year. Kyle also said he doesn’t practice a whole lot before the season, so that also hasn’t changed. He admitted the postponed season is allowing the trio some much-needed time to get all things in order.

Where Kyle Raddant is most impacted by COVID-19 is what goes on the race car.

“It’s made getting some parts a little difficult because there are places that are not really open to get things from as they normally would be,” said Raddant.

“It’s kind of an uncertainty with sponsors too with all that’s going on. There’s certain sponsors that if they’re having business trouble — being shut down or the business has fallen way off, like maybe a restaurant or a bar that has only takeout now — it can affect how much of a sponsorship we can get or if they can even sponsor at all this year.”

Dan Michonski, an IMCA Stock Car driver, expressed similar thoughts, saying the extra time before the season is allowing his team to get a pair of cars ready to roll, while securing sponsorships has been a bit trickier to navigate. Michonski is approaching the delay to the start of the season like he would if snow was still on the ground and keeping drivers off the racetrack.

In terms of being prepared to take the track and having the right mindset, Michonski said it wouldn’t take him long to get ready, even with an uncertain start date.

“For me, I love racing a lot, so to get into that mood and into that zone, it might just be sitting down and watching a few old videos from last year,” he said. “Then just putting together my safety gear and getting the trailer all ready and then loading up and going to the racetrack.”