May showers usually mean it's time for the Black Hills Speedway to begin.
That again is the case, but this is no normal time because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Speedway will kick things off a couple weeks later than last year and two days later than originally scheduled with the Blake's Trailer Sales Opening Night set for Sunday.
Opening night was originally scheduled for Friday, but a couple of days of rain this week pushed it back, along with multiple high school virtual graduations.
Top gates and pit gates open at 4 p.m., with racing beginning at 6 p.m.
Black Hills Speedway track manager Eddie Kirchoff said they are anxious to get going, just like everybody who has been sitting at home since the virus put many things on hiatus.
"It's good to see that we can start practicing social distancing, making some more outdoor venues where people can go outside and enjoy the weather," he said.
As would be expected, the virus changes things for the local drivers, as most of these bigger corporations and even smaller businesses around town or around the country have had to bunker down and try to make it through these times.
That affects the sponsor dollars, Kirchoff said, because of the advertising budget takes a hit.
"I know that most of them are still optimistic, they all want to race," he said. "We're with them and we're with all of our sponsors, and we understand. We're just trying to make a family-friendly environment where the drivers can bring their families and come watch. This will be good for people to get out of the house and experience something other than a TV set.
"Dirt track drivers have always been able to stretch a dollar. That's what the sport has been all about — make more out of little, make your car work with, not maybe the best parts, but you always seem to find a way to make your cars get together. If you race dirt tracks you are pretty resourceful as it is, you have to learn on the fly to fix problems and whatnot with your car every week."
Sunday's night's racing will include all six events — Sprints, IMCA Hobby Stock, IMCA Modified, WISSOTA Late Model, WISSOTA Midwest Mods and WISSOTA Street Stock.
Kirchoff said he expects to see a good turnout as they have already been reached by drivers from different areas other than the Rapid City and immediate area. Many are interested in racing here because they are having a hard time to find a place to race at.
"Obviously the circumstances aren't the best, but if we can get some good, high-talented drivers to come that don't usually come to your track, the fans that don't normally show up will get to see them, so it ends up working out for the better of the sport," he said. "That's what we're in it for because we love the sport, and the racers love the sport. We'd like to see it continue to grow and people to enjoy themselves."
Kirchoff said Friday afternoon that the track, because of the recent rains, looks "very soupy," with a lot of saturation,
"We don't need to worry about watering this week, and I think we'll be good there," he said. "The hope is by the time Sunday rolls around, we have enough sunshine and wind to help dry it out. That's what we need to make this work. You can't play in a mud hole."
The opening night was also pushed to Sunday because of the various virtual graduations that are going on this weekend.
"We're as anxious as everyone else to get out there and get the race cars going, but obviously you have to take care of your family obligations, and this graduation is much more special than others just because of what everybody has gone through," he said. "We wanted to push it back to accommodate that, plus the traveling driver gets a little more of a break to get here."
While socially distancing is nationally known, Kirchoff said they are making sure that when people come in, if they are in a group of two for instance, they can sit where ever they want. He suggests fans show up earlier than later, especially if they have to spread people out.
"It all depends how many come in with the group," he said. "We do have six-foot spacing planned out, so we're going to have to base it out where people sit with how many are in the group. We'll take that where it comes, and all food lines will have X's on the ground to keep everybody back from each other."
The bigger shows are in the latter part of the season, Kirchoff said, with the National Flat Track Aug. 11, which will be televised again on NBCSports.
"We usually get a good draw for that and hopefully the Sturgis Rally is in full swing," he said.
The World of Outlaws will be back Aug. 28, and the South Dakota Lottery Half-Mile Nationals will be Sept. 11-12.
They'll also also have weekly specials, including fireworks on July 3.
"My gut feeling is that we are going to see more cars than we normally do and more fans that we usually do, and obviously we want to put on a good show for everybody," Kirchoff said of opening night. "We need to make sure that we have all of our t's crossed and our i's dotted and have the track ready to provide a safe environment for everybody."
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