MONTESANO — Grays Harbor County Commissioners met with two prospective Grays Harbor Raceway promoters on Tuesday morning, but a decision on which one will get the county’s three-year promoter’s contract won’t come until Thursday.
The 30-minute special meeting officially introduced the two auto racing promotion groups — Fun Time Promotions of Burlington and Circle Motion Promotions of Snohomish — that submitted bids for the contract and the commissioners conducted a seven-question-and-answer session with each group’s main representative.
Following the Q&A session, two members of the public came up to speak in support of Fun Time Promotions and the commissioners closed the meeting without making a decision. A commission special meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday will announce the winner of the contract bid.
“I’ve been involved in the auto racing industry since 1975,” Steve Beitler, owner of Fun Time Promotions, said. “With the many years of being involved in auto racing, I’ve been able to see a lot of race tracks across the country, Canada and Australia. I’ve seen what works and I’ve seen what doesn’t work. I will been able to take a lot of the good and apply that here in Grays Harbor.”
“What sets me apart (from the competition) is one, I’m not running another speedway,” Bert Johnson, owner of Circle Motion Promotions, said. “The (Northwest auto racing) community is small and I know and have worked with most everyone within it. I’m involved with the (Western Auto Racing Promoter Association) and there are quite a few associations who’d love to come to Grays Harbor and put on an event. I know we can bring in some quality shows here.”
On Oct. 15, the Grays Harbor commissioners terminated the contract of the raceway’s previous race promoters, Oregon-based Great Northwest Promotions LLC, for breach of contract and past-due money owed to the county. On Dec. 9, the commissioners asked for “requests for proposals” on a new raceway promoter’s contract with a Dec. 30 deadline to submit.
The commissioners received just two bids for the contract. Beitler, a former World of Outlaws driver and auto parts business owner who has run Skagit Speedway in Alger for the last 13 years, and Johnson, a former promoter at Port Angeles Speedway, an asphalt track that was closed and torn down in 2011, spoke to the commissioners on Tuesday.
“I was hoping (for a decision),” Beitler said. “With just two bids, I thought it would make the decision a little bit easier. Timing is really important right now. Every day that we don’t have a decision made, it is one less day the promoter and manager will have to organize things and get the season started on time.”
The commissioners, as well as Grays Harbor Fairgrounds manager Mike Bruner, asked seven questions to both promoters — with one of them excused from the meeting room to allow the other to speak freely. Most of the questions pertained to communication with the county and the public, including whether on-site staff will be present at the raceway.
Beitler said that he would hire a full-time raceway manager and a staff — including himself — would be on site for three-to-five days a weekat the track.
Johnson noted that he would have someone available at the track during the racing season and both men added that phone systems would forward any and all calls to them to answer.
Commissioner Herb Welch asked Beitler who was on his short list to becoming the raceway’s manager, if Fun Time Promotions was awarded the contract, Beitler said that no one was hired yet, but added that Johnson, who also bid on the contract and has worked at Skagit Speedway with Beitler for the last two years, was one of his three candidates for the job.
Welch also asked both men about the availability of a World of Outlaws show at GHR. Johnson said that he wasn’t in contact with the national tour, but knew that time was short to keeping a date on the WoO 2014 schedule. Beitler emphasized that he was in contact with WoO President Tom Deery and the tour had set a Monday, Jan. 6 deadline for a promoter named to GHR in order to keep the track on the 2014 schedule.
According to the World of Outlaws’ 2014 schedule, a Monday, Sept. 1 date between two shows at Skagit Speedway (on Aug. 29-30) and Southern Oregon Speedway in Medford, Ore. (on Sept. 3) was to be announced. Theoretically, Grays Harbor Raceway would be scheduled there as it has been over the past two years.
“(The World of Outlaws) have been waiting to see who they were going to be dealing with (at Grays Harbor),” Beitler added. “For an organization as big as the World of Outlaws, they are pretty selective as to who they want to work with. They need to have the right people in place to work with them. Also, they have deadlines they have to meet with their sponsors and their racing teams as far as getting the schedule out. They want it to be as complete as possible.
“They are really looking for a decision by the first weekend of January,” Beitler added. “They start racing one month later. This was something we thought we’d have a decision on one month ago, but it got delayed a bit.”
Beitler also added that he’s delayed the final schedule for Skagit Speedway in order to work in and with what a schedule will be at Grays Harbor in 2014.
The commissioners also asked the two men whether they could get a scoreboard, if legally they can’t use the one currently at the raceway. Beitler said that wasn’t a problem and Johnson noted he would work with the county on that.
Also, the commissioners asked if both promoters would offer season tickets to the raceway’s events in 2014. Both quickly answered, “yes.”
During open comments, just two members of the public stepped up to speak to the commissioners — both of them former members of the Evergreen Auto Racing Association, which ran the races at Grays Harbor Raceway historically until the early 2000s.
Robert Griswold, of Montesano, a former EARA president, and Stormy Glick, a former EARA member who promoted races at Grays Harbor Raceway and is the owner of Whitney’s Auto Group in Montesano, spoke to the commissioners.
Both speakers endorsed Beitler for the promoter’s contract and provided different perspectives for their endorsement.
Griswold noted that the difference between running a dirt track like Grays Harbor and Skagit is vastly different than running an asphalt track like Port Angeles. He noted Beitler’s experience in running the races at Skagit as a major advantage for getting the contract.
Glick added that he knew both men, but was endorsing Beitler because “he knows what he’s doing and is very knowledgeable to what Grays Harbor (Raceway) needs.”
“But I need you (commissioners) to know just how important this decision is today,” Glick added. “We need (a decision) now and (the raceway) is way past due on scheduling. I just pray that you get this done right now.”
Rob Burns: (360) 537-3926, email at firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter: @RobRVR.