BRASELTON - Standing before a crowd of nearly 100 drivers and race fans Tuesday evening, Lanier National Speedway owner Donnie Clack made an attempt at levity before laying out the track's bleak financial realities.
"If we could get this many people out here on Saturday nights, we wouldn't be having the problems we're having," Clack said, echoing a stab at humor many in attendance had made prior to the meeting.
Clack made clear that contrary to rumors, the track will remain open and will remain under current ownership, but in order to do so, changes will be made.
Effective immediately, racing will now go on as scheduled, rain or shine, but on race days when inclement weather is possible, driver payouts may be significantly reduced or canceled completely.
"I can't afford to lose anymore. Period," Clack said.
"The money ain't flowing. The well is empty."
At one time, the 3/8-mile race track in Braselton was a hot ticket on Saturday nights.
It opened as a dirt course in 1982, was paved five years later, and hosted Nationwide Series races (then known as the Busch Grand National Series) from 1988-92.
But times have changed. Attendance and driver participation have dipped, operating costs have climbed, and the track is in peril.
"It's been an emotional roller coaster," Clack said, voice cracking. "When you've exhausted everything you've got, it's tough.
"Racers want to race and I want to see a race, but I've got signs up for businesses that ain't open anymore," Clack added, gesturing to fading signage around the track. "I've got advertisements up for sponsors who haven't brought one dime to the table because it at least makes it look like we're doing something."
In a statement circulated at the meeting, Clack said the changes were prompted by the negative reaction the track received after canceling the May 14 races. Forecasts that day called for rain that never materialized, frustrating many fans and drivers.
While racing will be held regardless of the weather from this point forward, the purse for each event will be reduced by 20 percent when forecasts call for a 20 percent chance of rain.
When the forecasts predict a 30 percent chance of rain or higher, there will be no purse for the night's events.
"Either we make these changes," Clack said, "or we close up right now and go home."
The next schedule event at Lanier National Speedway is June 4.