The Grays Harbor County Commissioners chose Funtime Promotions Inc. of Burlington, owned by a former driver, as the new promoter for Grays Harbor Raceway during a special meeting held Thursday, Jan. 2.
Commission chairman Frank Gordon, commissioner Wes Cormier and commissioner Herb Welch, who were all three in attendance at the meeting, voted unanimously to select Funtime Promotions, owned by Steve Beitler, who also operates the speedway in Skagit County.
“I think Mr. Beitler has shown he has the financial backing, the local support and he is the guy who can bring the World of Outlaws back to Grays Harbor County,” Cormier said.
The county commissioners canceled the leasing contract with Great Northwest Promotions LLC in October, citing numerous unpaid bills owed the county.
A solicitation to those interested in leasing the facility was approved by the commissioners on Dec. 9 with a deadline to submit a bid of Dec. 30, when the bids were unsealed. The county commissioners held a special meeting on Dec. 31 to review the requests for proposals from Funtime Promotions and Circle Motion Promotions, LLC.
Both proposals were associated with Skagit Speedway.
While Funtime Promotions is owned by Beitler, Circle Motions Promotions is owned by Bert Johnson, a former general manager of the old Port Angeles Speedway. That speedway closed down in 2010. Soon after, Johnson took a job working as a promoter for Beitler’s company.
“We as a combined effort need to work in symphony to re-establish the facilities at Grays Harbor Fairgrounds to be the hub of our state when it comes to motorsports and to grow the opportunities and take advantage of the multi-event possibilities there by bringing them to life,” Johnson wrote to the county commissioners.
A third promoting company with the South Sound Speedway near Rochester also toured the raceway in December, but opted not to apply for the job.
“I’m going to vote with some severe reservations,” Welch said. “It is just that we’ve made some errors in the past and we’ve had to rush this one through in my mind, but it is what it is.”
Welch had some reservations in the speed with which the decision was made. Between accepting the requests for proposals and making the decision, there was just three working days, exlcuding the New Year’s holiday.
Cormier said in an interview after that the amount of local support for Beitler helped ease his mind about the decision. Cormier said his office received calls from community members and race car drivers as well as emails from several individuals that showed support for Beitler, who has owned and promoted Skagit Speedway in Skagit County for almost 13 years.
“For me there were three major points,” Cormier said. “It was the community support. He had a lot of community support. The second was the financial and then the third was the World of Outlaws. It was those three things together that really sold it for me.”
Part of the financial backing that Cormier mentioned as one of the parts of the decision included an excess of $2 million in personal assets and a $140,000 line of credit Beitler included in the proposal Funtime Promotions prepared for the commissioners.
That compares to Johnson, who supplied a letter from Bank of America guaranteeing a credit limit of $100,000.
Cormier said he personally called several of Beitler’s references and was impressed with the endorsement Funtime Promotions recieved from almost everyone the commissioner spoke with during the process.
Beitler expressed gratitude to the commissioners and said he was ready to get to work as soon as he left the room.
“I’m really excited,” Beitler said. “This is a huge day for motor sports in the Pacific Northwest to have two of the elite race tracks operated under the same management team is just going to be a win-win for everybody from the racers to the fans and community.”
Beitler said that his experience in racing was what separated him as a candidate for the position of promoter during the interview with the commissioners on Dec. 31.
“My experience ranges clear back to when I was 8 years old. I went to work at Skagit Speedway, selling programs and doing cleanup,” Beitler said. “I built my first race car as a class project in high school. I’ve been involved in the motor sports industry since 1975, and I’ve raced with the national series and World of Outlaws for seven years. I spent three years in the Midwest racing those tracks. I was on the USA team that raced in Australia for two years and I’ve owned my own business since 1986.”
During a time for public comment as part of the meeting on Dec. 31, Whitney’s owner Stormy Glick, an avid Raceway supporter, said he had concerns regarding the schedule the raceway would be able to have this season because the commissioners had not yet made a decision with only three months before the proposed racing season. On Thursday, Beitler said his first act as promoter for the raceway would be to address the schedule and said he has already begun to formulate a tentative schedule, including a World of Outlaws event. Funtime Promotions proposal to the commissioners included a letter of recommendation from World Racing Group President Tom Deery.
“I’m confident we are going to have the World of Outlaws back,” Beitler said. “I’ve had constant meetings and phone calls and we have met all the criteria that they are looking for, and they were waiting to see when the contract got awarded and who got it. I will have a tentative schedule done if not by the end of the day, by the end of the weekend. Building the schedule is the first step; the second step is building the team. There are some really good workers still involved with Grays Harbor Raceway that have a lot of passion for the racetrack.”
In Funtime promotion’s proposal, the company states it will give priority consideration for hiring to locals who are qualified for a particular position when there is more than one qualified candidate. Also included in the proposal was an outline of staffing in which the company proposed to have four to six individuals on staff during racing season and either three or four staff members working in the offseason with 40-60 individuals on the day of an event.
Along with including local individuals in the operation of the facility, Beitler said he hopes to encourage more drivers from the Grays Harbor area to be a part of the events at the raceway. The proposal from Funtime promotions to the commisisoners stated that entrants fees would remain at $30 and between $35 and $40 for special events, but the proposal does say the company plans to lower the entrant fee for the World of Outlaws event from $50. Beitler said he hopes the plans to introduce cost-saving measures for racers will increase the number of race teams at future events.
Spectators fees will be lowered in some cases, according to the proposal, with the age of free admission being raised to 6 years old.
“It is a rebuilding process for everybody,” Beitler said. “There are a lot of people who want to see this track succeed. The county and the Brownfields did a really nice job remodeling a few years ago, and I feel our team that we are putting together right now is really going to excel the racetrack.”
There are nine improvements that Funtime promotions included as part of the proposal including changes for spectators such as more ticket booths and a larger pathway to the ticket booths and some changes for the racers such as improved pit area lighting, a top coat of gravel to allow pit access after heavy rains, a sound deflection wall down the backstretch to deflect sound up and away from neighboring houses and the construction of a small track off the front stretch to develop a mini sprint class to allow children to outgrow the quarter midget track.
Funtime Promotions also included nine events it would like to include in the schedule for Grays Harbor Raceway in the future as part of the proposal packet. The first event mentioned was the rebuilding and re-branding of “The Big E Weekend,” featuring the World of Outlaws and the ninth event was the development of a mini-sprint class that would allow racers from ages 6 to 11 an opportunity, where as of now few racing options are available for younger racers. Other events proposed included Rolling Thunder Big Rigs, the American Motorcycle Association National Flat Track Series, the Monster Energy Free Style Motorcycle Stunt Show, Mr. Dizzy and The Crusher auto stunt team, The Summer Thunder Sprint Series, a demolition derby and dwarf cars.
“Most racers race for two reasons — one is to make money and the other is to have fun,” Beitler said. “At this level of racing, anywhere in the country you aren’t going to make money doing it, so you better be having some fun, so really the first thing we want to do is to put the fun back into racing.”