The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 21, 2011

Beckley dirt track to reopen

Beckley Motorsports Park will reopen Aug. 5 under new management.

Joe Jackson, a West Virginia state trooper and owner of Daddy Rabbit Graphics in Beckley, has leased the facility for the remainder of the season from owner Jack Whittaker.

“I’m a little excited and a little worried both,” Jackson said. “We’ve got three weeks to work and make the track as fan-friendly as we can.”

The 3/8-mile oval, dirt track in Prosperity, now in its 51st year, halted operations June 22. Former promoter Jim Williams cited low fan and driver turnout as primary reasons for closing the track.

Jackson will act as both promoter and track manager, while his wife, Billie, will handle financial arrangements.

The Jacksons are very familiar with BMP. Their son, Michael Moore, races a kids’ Hornet-class car while Billie’s brother, Mike Duncan, has raced there for over 10 years.

“We went to the races every Friday night,” Joe Jackson said. “We love racing.”

He plans several changes he hopes will make the track successful, starting with slightly lower ticket prices.

Admission will be $10 for adults, and $25 for pit access. They were previously $12 and $30, respectively.

“I think people will come,” Jackson said. “I’m not planning to make a million dollars. We just want to keep the track open.”

He knows fans have often complained about the late finishes at the track. Races sometimes didn’t conclude until 1 a.m. or later.

“At Princeton (Speedway), they’re out at midnight,” Jackson said. “Our plans are to get out at midnight, or 12:30 a.m. at latest.

“We’ll have the drivers’ meeting on time, and we will get started on time. There are some minor rule changes that will help speed this up.”

Another fan complaint has been dust. Jackson wants to hold it down as much as possible.

“The gentleman who will work the track had done so several years in the past,” he said. “I remember dust never being an issue. We’ll keep it as dust-free as we can. The thought is to haul in some clay for next year.”

There will be some big changes in concessions. Jackson not only wants to speed them up but will sell beer as well.

“We’d like to streamline our concession stand, make it a little more fan-friendly,” he said. “We’re also going to sell beer on the backside of the track.”

He points out that he’s heard many times if you go to a NASCAR race, they’re selling beer.

“I’m not indulging in it, and I’m not making (anyone) indulge in it,” Jackson said. “I’m simply doing a business transaction with Jack Whittaker. The beer license will be my wife’s.”

Some drivers have complained on Internet message boards that the track payouts have been too low at BMP. Jackson said he wants winnings to be comparable to other area tracks, such as Princeton or Thunder Mountain (in Justice).

“We’ve talked to a few drivers and expressed our plans with them,” he said. “They’re very happy and very willing to help us. They’re bending over backwards to help us get the track going again.”

Racing classes will remain the same as under the former operators: AMRA Late Models, AMRA Modifieds, Fastrak Crates, Pure Stocks, U-Cars and kids’ Hornets and Mini-Wedges.

Jackson will hold races each Friday in August. The lease has an option for next year.

“We’ve pretty much signed on for this year and next year,” he said.

He said he knows fans must feel they’re getting their money’s worth.

“We would like it to be like the days of old, when a family of four can come out and watch a race, get out at a reasonable hour and see a good show,” Jackson said.

— E-mail: dstillwell@register-herald.com.

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