Off-road races a success

BARK RIVER – Another year of the Bark River Off-Road races are in the books, and despite a little rainfall on Saturday, it turned out to be a very successful year.

The races were held June 14-16.

Race Marketing Chairman and Raffle Chairman Roger Charbonneau said that in a comparative year-to-year basis, the attendance was down 9.7 percent from 2013 compared to 2012. However, because they had racing for the pro divisions on Friday, the overall weekend results were up 23.6 percent.

“The numbers are skewed because we had three days of racing,” he said. “On Friday, we had a huge turnout for both the racing and the events on the hill afterwards.”

Charbonneau said year-to-year numbers were primarily the result of a few things; the move from August to June, the fact that it fell on Father’s Day weekend (as well as graduation parties), and the weather on Saturday.

“Anyone looking at the forecast Saturday morning probably hesitated because of the threat of rain,” he said. “Sunday was gorgeous though. Even though it was Father’s Day weekend, we had a very, very good turnout because we have lots of loyal fans.”

He added small racing events are more likely to suffer due to these factors than a place like Bark River because of its dedicated fan base. Certain figures, however, were just what they expected.

“Our bar sales were exactly even compared to last year,” Charbonneau said.

Camping sales were up 23.5 percent, and the pre-sales before the event went very well.

“It ended up being up substantially,” he said. “Reserve seating was also almost identical to last year. Overall, we had a very good weekend.”

As far as when the event will take place next year, there has not been a date set yet.

“Next year, will not only be our 39th year, but right on its heels is the 40th anniversary in 2015,” Charbonneau said. “We’ve already formed a subcommittee to go to work on the 40th. At this point, basically the date is up for discussion with the USAC and TORC.”

The reason for the move from August to June was because there was a conflict with another racing venue in lower Michigan, and then they ran into conflicts with the U.P. State Fair when trying to reschedule. However, it surely didn’t play too much of a factor in this year’s events, and next year they are expected to pick up even more steam.

“Some of the drivers said the track was in the best shape it’s ever been in,” Charbonneau added, “and one of the primary racers and owners of Traxxas TORC race team said out of all the tracks he’s been to, he felt Bark River was by far the best. We’ve been hearing that repeatedly for the last few years.”

He also said that the quality of the track is the direct result of their extremely dedicated track crew that basically puts their regular lives on hold the week before the races begin.

“We’re very fortunate,” Charbonneau said. “The track crew and the loyal fans kind of go hand in hand when it comes to our success.”

He stated a very big thank you to the major sponsors of the event, including Chip-In Island Casino, BOSS Snowplow, and Stewart Manufacturing.