COEBURN — A new management group headed by longtime driver, car owner and Abingdon businessman Jeff Roark will be operating Lonesome Pine Raceway in 2008, which is good news for drivers who were left with a lot of unanswered questions at the end of 2007.
Roark, along with longtime race promoter Harold Crook and three silent partners, have taken over the LPR lease from 2007 track manager Clinton Vance, whose questionable business practices left a lot of racers wondering if the track would recover.
The 2007 controversy centered around bad checks allegedly being issued to drivers and others doing business with the track for much of the season, and eventually resulted in Vance being charged with fraud by the Wise County Sheriff’s Department late in the season.
Roark was quick to point out Monday that Vance is completely out of the picture in 2008 and that he and the new management team are starting 2008 with a clean slate — as well as with enough financial backing to ensure that there won’t be a repeat of the 2007 debacle.
He said the silent partners are “former racers and experienced racing promoters, all of whom have roots with LPR and a genuine love of the facility” but prefer to stay in the background.
LPR has struggled financially since opening under owner Willard Kinzer in 2002 and was closed for all but one race in 2006. In 2006, Kinzer made a charitable contribution of the track to a church in Kentucky, which still owns it.
Roark said Monday he has some ideas that will hopefully make the track profitable. He admitted, however, that he and his partners are fully prepared to lose money in 2008 in hopes of rebuilding the track up as a profitable venture for the future.
There will be the regular schedule of weekly racing events beginning in April and concluding in November, but Roark plans to supplement the track’s income with several non-racing events.
“You’ll notice there’s a lot of open dates in our schedule, and right now we’re working on filling those dates with various events like Monster Truck shows, motorcycle rallies, demolition derbies and things like that,” Roark said. “We’re going to be operating the dirt drag strip again for four-wheelers, and try to have a lot of neat things for fans to come out and see besides racing. We’re going to run a family-oriented facility and try to provide folks with a variety of good, wholesome entertainment.”
But the bread and butter of LPR will remain its weekly racing series, which will include the feature Late Model division, along with the Street Stocks, Modified four-cylinder cars and the Pure Stock four-cylinder cars. There is also a new division planned for older, obsolete Stock Cars to race with identical crate motors.
Roark has competed as a driver and a car owner and was also the parts and tire vendor at LPR last season, but this will be his first stint as a track operator. He said he learned some good lessons last year on how not to run a racetrack from the previous promoter, and he’ll also have good help in 2008.
Former LPR manager Harold Crook has agreed to serve as management consultant in 2008. Crook was LPR track manager until 2001, and since then has been marketing director for the UARA-Stars Late Model touring series, as well as an independent promoter.
“We have assembled a really good management team, and I think people are going to be very pleased with the program we’re putting together for 2008,” Crook said. “We wanted to get this announcement out early about the track reopening because we want people to know we’re serious about racing, we’re serious about what’s going to happen at Lonesome Pine in 2008, and the drivers and the fans need to get ready because this is going to be good.”
Open practices have been set for April 5 and April 12, and the season opener is scheduled for April 19. There are currently 17 race dates on the schedule, with the regular season concluding Oct. 18. The season ends Nov. 1 with the second annual Virginia Mod-4 Championship.
All races are scheduled for Saturdays except for a special Friday night Fourth of July show.
“This is going to be an exciting year for LPR because we’re going to try to bring bigger and better things to the track,” Roark said. “We want to bring back the good old-fashioned racing that made the sport what it is today. You’ve heard the expression, ‘Racing like it ought to be.’ This is going to be, ‘Racing like it used to be’ when it was all about the drivers and the fans, and it was the place you wanted to be on Saturday night.”
The new LPR Web site — www.lpraceway.net — will be online this week and will be updated regularly.