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Scope Arena Report (From AARN Column)

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  • RTRYFBAR@AOL.COM
    Pam and I left Friday morning for a weekend at the beach and a new indoor track. Traffic was horrendous on Route 95, from Washington, DC all the way to
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 11, 2002
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      Pam and I left Friday morning for a weekend at the beach and a new indoor
      track. Traffic was horrendous on Route 95, from Washington, DC all the way
      to Richmond. What should have been a six hour trip took eight hours, and we
      arrived in Virginia Beach at 7:00 p.m. We had reservations for two nights at
      the Super 8 Hotel right on Atlantic Avenue, just across the street from the
      boardwalk, beach, and ocean. Off-season rates at the shore are an
      outstanding bargain, and the room, which included such extras as refrigerator
      and microwave, was only $35 per night plus tax. Can’t beat that. More than
      a few of the motels on Atlantic shut down completely in November, December,
      and January. We had a nice crab stuffed fillet at a restaurant half a block
      from out hotel, then walked down to check out the beach and grabbed an ice
      cream cone before turning in.

      Saturday was a gorgeous day. Far from the highs in the 40’s that we had been
      having in PA the previous week, a warm spell hit the northeast and raised the
      temperature at the shore to the mid 70’s. We went out for coffee, then went
      for a nice six mile jog on the boardwalk. Boardwalk is really a misnomer for
      VA Beach, as the boardwalk is made of concrete. They were setting up a
      Christmas light display on the boardwalk, but it was not opening for another
      six days. The light display is a good idea to bring people to VA beach
      during the off-season, but the $10 per car to see it seems excessive. I
      wouldn’t have paid it. After a walk on the beach we went out for seafood
      buffet late Saturday afternoon, then returned to the room to get ready for
      the races.

      SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2002. NORFOLK SCOPE ARENA, NORFOLK, VA. TRACK NUMBER
      819. Racing returned to the Scope Arena for the first time since a USAC
      Midget race held on 1977 and won by Rich Vogler. The previous year, Leigh
      Ernshaw, Jr. won an ARDC race there. This was the first race of a 15 race
      series promoted by Ricky Dennis of Arena Racing USA. Dennis has revived the
      concept of Mini Cup races on a portable indoor track, first tried at the
      Richmond Coliseum almost a decade ago. Those races were held on a high
      banked board track. At Richmond, the racing was very entertaining, the crowd
      good, but the plans to take the wood track to other venues imploded when the
      drivers revolted against the promoter being the sole supplier of cars and
      parts. The concept itself seemed so sound that RTR was surprised that no one
      else tried it again until this year.

      Arena Racing USA took the challenge and is promoting a 15 race series at the
      Norfolk Scope Arena this winter, with plans to take the show to other venues
      next year. The wood track is gone, replaced by an 18 degree high banked
      aluminum track that can be set up in any arena large enough to hold a hockey
      rink. Dates include races in November through April, and days of the week
      range from Wednesday-Sunday, depending on when the arena was available, as
      Scope is also the home of the AHL Norfolk Admirals and the Norfolk Nighthawks
      Arena Football team. The dates for this winter are Saturday, November 9,
      Saturday, November 23; Wednesday, November 27; Thursday, December 5;
      Saturday, December 14; Saturday, December 21; Thursday, December 26;
      Thursday, January 16; Sunday, January 19; Thursday, January 30; Friday,
      February 7; Thursday, February 13; Saturday, March 1; Saturday, March 15; and
      Friday, April 4.

      The concept for Arena Racing is so sound, and the racing so entertaining,
      that RTR can’t help but be excited about the possibility for expansion. I
      also realize that this was the first show and they were bound to have some
      opening night snafu’s. But if they don’t run a better show, they will
      snatch defeat from a sure winner of an idea. This show is so neat, I hope
      someone takes my suggestions to heart, or they will never make it to year two.

      General admission was $12, with reserved seats going for $15. Parking was an
      additional $4. Those prices are high for Mini Cup cars, but not too bad for
      an event at a first-rate indoor arena. I knew we were in trouble when no
      where on the arenaracingusa.com website did they bother to say what time the
      races were starting. This happens over and over and over, but I’ll never
      understand how someone can promote an event and not think that people need to
      know when’s show time. I e-mailed them to ask, and to “suggest” that they
      put the starting time on the website. Soon after the starting time appeared
      on the site. Your welcome.

      Scope Arena is a nice facility, with comfortable seating and good lighting.
      Of course no outside food may be brought in, so the prices are sky high.
      Luckily, we went to the seafood buffer beforehand and were not hungry. But
      Pam and I did share a popcorn and a lemonade that cost $7.50. My suggestion
      is to eat before arriving at Scope. Despite the fact that we read on the web
      that cameras and camcorders were permitted for personal use, Will White was
      denied the opportunity to bring in his camcorder, while RTR was searched and
      allowed to proceed with his. I hope not too many fans were disappointed by
      finding the rules changed upon arrival.

      A good crowd, reported as 3,700 fans, was on hand for the opener. This was a
      great start and they needed an entertaining show to bring the people back
      for the next event with friends. The racers did their part. The promoters
      did not. The show started slightly over an hour late, which meant it ran un
      til almost 11:30. This was a poor first impression, at something that is
      supposed to be family entertainment. The reason Ricky Dennis gave for the
      late start was so that late arriving fans had time to enter the arena and so
      that driver’s could complete adjustments to their cars. They claim that this
      is all for the fans. If they keep their current real attitude the series
      will be dead in a year. first of all, they push buying tickets in advance,
      but then they make the people that purchased the advance tickets sit an extra
      hour to cater to the people who showed up and found lines at the ticket
      windows. Does it make any sense to you to make the people that showed up on
      time wait while worrying about those that came late? It sure doesn’t to me.
      And making the fans sit for over an hour so drivers could complete
      adjustments to their cars sure doesn’t sound like the fans are much of a
      priority to Arena Racing USA to me. They mentioned several times that they
      wanted families to visit the pits after the races to look at the cars and
      meet the drivers. How many families with children will choose to enter the
      pits when the show isn’t over until 11:30? Take away that hour late start,
      tighten up the show another half hour, and get the people out at 10:00 and
      then you will see a lot more people taking advantage of the opportunity to
      see the cars and drivers up close. They are even doing a great injustice to
      their sponsors by running the show in this manner. The announcer mentioned
      several times that everyone should stop by Hooters Restaurant after the show.
      Now let’s see. The races end at 11:30. Then they want you to visit the
      pits to see the cars and drivers. And then they expect you to visit Hooters
      after that? For What? Breakfast? They had a nice article on the races on
      the front page of the sports section of the daily paper the next morning, but
      the show ended too late to mention anything except the heat winners. Never
      will starting on time and ending the show by 10:00 p.m. be more important
      than in a series like this, with a 15 race schedule and almost half of them
      on week nights, when people have to get up for work the next day. They need
      to turn this around the very next race, before the midweek races begin. If
      they don’t, and just keep making excuses, I predict the great opening night
      crowd of 3700 will shrink and not grow, and the series will die before they
      ever get to take the show to other venues.

      The good news is, it’s a really entertaining show. At a lot of indoor shows
      you have one or two good classes, and a plethora of karts, quarter midgets,
      cycles, quads, etc. dragging out the show and sucking the entertainment value
      out of it for the fans. Not here. The Mini Cup cars are the one and only
      division. They are the stars. A nice turnout of 32 cars were on hand for
      the opening night of racing. They claim to be expecting up to 75 cars by
      series end. RTR says there is no way that will happen. But they don’t need
      75 cars, when 10-12 is the most that can be raced at one time anyway. Can
      you imagine what time the races would end if they had 75? Cars can be
      purchased from Ricky Dennis for $7,995, with posted prize money for the
      series over $50,000.

      In a nice move, they handed out free programs with the night’s schedule,
      roster, and series race dates included. They also handed out free ear plugs
      for anyone that wanted a pair. The schedule listed three heats of 25 laps
      each, but they decided to go with four heats. Driver’s only got one chance
      to qualify, as the top heat finishers went to the A-Feature, the next group
      to the B-Feature, and the last group to the C-Feature. No drivers advanced
      from the C-Feature or B-Feature. The really absurd thing was that the number
      of cars that advanced changed depending on which heat you were in. For
      example, the A-Feature had ten cars, so in two of the heats the top three
      finishers made the A-Feature while in the other two heats only the top two
      finishers made the A-Feature. Strange, and certainly not fair. They did not
      use the scoreboard so the fans had no idea how many laps were completed.
      They apologized for this and said that starting with the next race the
      scoreboard would be used. What I don’t understand is why couldn’t the
      announcer, who never seemed to shut up and drove everyone crazy, just tell us
      how many laps were completed during the cautions?

      One thing that held up the show was the fact that a section of track had to
      be removed to allow the cars to get into the infield, then replaced and
      screwed down. This happened between every race or every two races, as
      sometimes they brought out two races and lined up the second race in the
      infield. We don’t remember them having to do that at Richmond. I think they
      had a ramp for the cars to get in the track. The four heats ran from around
      8:00 to 9:00, then they took about a 40 minute intermission. The three
      features were all 50 laps, and were run B, C, and A. The actual racing was
      very good, and entertaining. The 18 degree banking makes this like a mini
      Bristol. For as narrow as the track is, there was quite a lot of passing and
      not too many yellows. It really doesn’t take too long to clean up the
      accidents, as the cars are easily picked up and removed to the infield. The
      races may be a little too long, and I feel the A-Feature should be the
      longest race, longer than the B or C. The A-feature ended a little before
      11:00. The 8th and final race of the night was a 25 lap “Top Dog” race for
      the top finishers in each of the three features. The four listed
      TrackChasers we saw on hand all left before that final event. Arena Racing
      is really fun. You should check it out. Hopefully they will be able to get
      it a bit more professionally organized so they don’t kill it before it takes
      off.

      Sunday morning Pam and I awoke to another beautiful Fall day at the beach.
      With the temperature soaring into the mid 70’s again, we took advantage of
      the wonderful day to jog another six miles on the boardwalk before heading
      for home. I wish we could have stayed another day.
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