City ready for racers to arrive
By NICK SCHWIEN
It's one of the nation's top payouts in IMCA racing.
And once again, it's time for that event -- Fall Nationals -- to return to Hays.
The annual event featuring modifieds, stocks, hobby stocks, Northern sport mods and sport compacts begins today at 7 p.m. at RPM Speedway in Hays.
Nearly 200 drivers from different counties, states and perhaps Canada are expected to compete during the three-day show.
That means drivers and fans are happy to witness such a spectacle, and area leaders and business owners are just as pleased because of the economic impact it will have on the community.
"Yes we are," Scott Rice, general manager of Montana Mike's, said about being excited for Fall Nationals VII. "We work on getting the racers in here, do as much as we can to help get them here."
Rice said numbers at his restaurant have been good the previous years during Fall Nationals. He expects nothing different this time.
"It's good for the community and good for us," said Rice, whose business is open until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Jana Jordan, executive director of the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau, has seen the effect the three-day event has had on the city.
She knows drivers and fans are spending time at hotels, spending money in businesses and taking in sites in Hays.
"It does make an impact for us," Jordan said. "We love having the races here, especially the Fall Nationals. We know people are spending a few nights and spending money in town. We're more than happy to have the races here this weekend and all throughout the summer. It brings several people to the community."
Many businesses in town see an increase in traffic during Fall Nationals. Along with putting on a good show for everyone involved, RPM officials are happy they are able to contribute to the community as well.
Fall Nationals has seen a steady incline in competitors since it began in 2007. Then, the majority of drivers were mostly from the area and state.
Now, the races have grown into one of IMCA's largest paying events, and competitors hail from states such as Arkansas, Minnesota, Colorado and Iowa.
"That it does," Rod Bencken, RPM Speedway promoter, said about drawing in the best-of-the-best drivers. "There's a lot of travelers coming from states all around Kansas, even maybe Canada again."
Events begin at 7 p.m. tonight with sport compact heats and their feature.
On Friday, modifieds, stocks, hobby stocks and sport mods take center stage with heats and qualifying features. Hot laps begin at 5 p.m. Friday, with races following at 7 p.m. Races begin at 6 p.m. Saturday with last-chance qualifiers and is capped off with the features at the end of the night. The modified winner takes home $5,000, while the stock car winner pockets $3,000. Sport mods ($2,000) and hobby stocks ($1,000) also will be racing for elevated payouts.
"There's going to be lots of racing," Bencken said. "It's going to be jam-packed. Friday and Saturday will both be full nights of racing. ... Saturday night is going to be the best of the best."
A full line of concession stand items will be available each night, and merchandise will be available as well.
Fans also are invited to got into the pits following each night's races to meet their favorite driver and get an autograph.