Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jennerstown closes for 2009

The national economic downturn may have claimed a local victim this week. The owner of Jennerstown Speedway announced he will not open the Somerset County race track this seaso nbecause he doesn’t have the time to run the operation. Dave Wheeler told The Associated Press he no longer has enough time to serve as president and CEO of Wheeler Bros. in Somerset. He’s unsure if he will reopen the track near year, although he might sell it. He told the AP that interest in local racing seems to be dwindling.

That sounds to me like a man who doesn’t have the time to lose any more money. I doubt many local drivers or teams can afford to travel to the track and race each weekend this summer. Racing is such an expensive hobby that it's probably the first thing to go when times are tough.

The announcement is somewhat sad for me after having been to Jennerstown for a Hooters Cup race in 2005. That was the race where Joey Logano made his debut in the series and promptly crashed Jimmy Spencer Jr. It’s a great facility located near the quaint borough of 714 residents and just a few miles from the Flight 93 Memorial and Quecreek Mine rescue site. The track debuted in the late 1920s, the AP reported, and Wheeler bought it about six years ago.

This seems like a tangible example of what we’re all feeling from this economy. But it’s unfortunate that one of the bigger tracks in Western Pennsylvania is closing. In times like these, it’s nice to escape reality and go to the local track for an evening of fun. Here's hoping other local tracks don't face a similar dilemma.

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