Southampton calls it quits for now

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 27, 2004

Staff report

Unable to shake off the effects of a terrible ’03 season, Southampton Motor Speedway has suspended operations until further notice.

In a May 18 meeting with senior SMS employees, track owner Dave Atkinson indicated that the closing was imminent. It was decided to withhold an announcement, though, as a potential buyer for the property had stepped forward. Unfortunately, the prospective deal failed to bear fruit and Atkinson pulled the plug on Tuesday afternoon.

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&uot;My business sense told me not to open this season, as is,&uot; said Atkinson, &uot;but it had become something of an emotional issue for me. So many people were standing behind me and fighting so hard to make the thing work, I felt that I ought to honor their efforts and try to make a go of it.&uot;

Atkinson and his dedicated corps of supporters, however, faced an uphill battle. Within a 25-week span last year, the track suffered damage from two suspected tornadoes, a hailstorm and Hurricane Isabel. By season’s end, all or part of 12 racing events had been canceled or postponed due to inclement weather.

The lost revenue from the rainouts, coupled with heavy expenses to repair all the weather-related damage (including the collapse of a large chunk of the frontstretch wall), left the track in a tenuous financial state as preparations for the ’04 season began.

&uot;I believed that this track could be successful and I still do,&uot; declared Atkinson. &uot;I’ve stuck with it as long as I have because I could see indications that we were almost ready to ‘turn the corner.’ This year, though, I was just starting in too deep of a hole because of all the setbacks we suffered last season. I think our best course of action is to temporarily halt racing activities until I can evaluate and restructure our program here.

&uot;As deeply as it hurts me to have to close the doors, I really feel for the people who have given so much of themselves in support of the track. Our drivers, crew members and diehard fans who have stuck with us through the highs and lows. My officials and staff members who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to present quality events for the last seven-plus years. I want to thank them all.&uot;

Tying up a few loose ends from last Friday night, the results from the Budweiser Late Model Stock Car feature, as posted on the track’s Web site, – have been declared official.

An in-depth analysis of the scoring issues that arose from last Friday’s Late Model event will be posted on the Web site as soon as possible.