Port Royal opener nears

New grandstand in place or not, Port Royal Speedway officials hope to drop the green flag on this Saturday's 52nd Annual season opener for sprint cars and late models, if the weather and elements cooperate. However, already saturated and ...

New grandstand in place or not, Port Royal Speedway officials hope to drop the green flag on this Saturday's 52nd Annual season opener for sprint cars and late models, if the weather and elements cooperate. However, already saturated and extremely muddy speedway grounds are hampering efforts to pull off the lidlifter as scheduled. "We are taking a wait and see attitude toward Saturdays opener," says speedway president Buzz Hower. Recent snow melt has worsened conditions surrounding the speedway and coupled with the movement of heavy equipment around the track in an effort to ready for the installation of new seating, getting started on time may not be in the cards. "If the grounds are dry enough and the weather cooperates, we will try to open whether we have the new stands set or not but things just have to dry up in order for us to go racing," say officials. "If we are forced to cancel this week because of the mud, then we'll open next weekend. The fans may just need to bring their lawn chairs to watch the races," Hower says. Installation of the speedways new 3,100 -- plus, seat grandstand facility is running behind schedule. The track expected the new structure to be intact for the opener but while the groundwork is in place to support the stands, a delay in transit from All Star Bleacher in Texas has occurred. The new seats, which will come complete with backrests, are now expected to be in place by the end of March but their absence will not stop racing at the Port. Season reserve seats on the new structure are expected to go on sale within two weeks of installation. Aside from the new seating project, the speedway has announced numerous facility upgrades that will take place as the season progresses. In an effort to brighten the historic oval, several new Metal Halide lights have been acquired for installation. Several miles of guardrail have also been obtained and the new steel will be used to replace existing sections as well as to add a third tier of rail to the existing wall. Plans also include relocating the tracks public address system from the inside of the speedway to the grandstand side of the track. The track has also purchased a computerized seating/ticket sales system to be utilized for the ovals high profile events. The system will generate tickets instantly and will also automatically render seats unavailable after purchase. This will eliminate problems experienced in the past involving duplicate ticket sales. Australian driver Skip Jackson is the defending opening day sprint car winner at Port Royal while Scotty Haus defends in the late model division. Previous opening day sprint car winners expected to be on hand for the event include Keith Kauffman (1981, 85', 93), Lance Dewease (94') and Todd Shaffer (95', 96', 97'). Saturdays season opener is set to take the green flag at 1 P.M. General admission for the show is $12.00 with students age 12 -- 17 being admitted for just $7.00. Port Royal returns with another afternoon program on March 24 before switching to a 6 P.M. starting time on March 31. Tickets for the opener will be on sale at speedway gates. Fans are urged to call the track office at 717-527-2303 or visit the speedways website at www.portroyalspeedway.com for the status of the opener before heading to the track.

-Shawn Brouse, PRS

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Series Sprint , Stock car