David Craft has been around cars for most of his life — either with jobs that required him to work on them or his racing career on dirt tracks across the Southwest and East Coast.
That love has him taking on a new challenge.
He will take over promotion of the Lincoln County Raceway this summer — a å-mile oval dirt track at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds.
Craft, who is a project manager for an automation logistics company in Phoenix, Arizona, plans to move to North Platte within the next 10 days with his wife, Penny, and sons, David Jr. and Joey, to begin his summer in charge of the track.
“(The family) was in the area last summer visiting some friends, and that was around the time the announcement was made the track was going to close,” Craft said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon. “I just didn’t want to see another track shut down, so I decided to throw my hat in the ring.”
Craft is the third promoter at the race track since 2014. Terry Fletcher and his wife, Bobbi, ran the track for three years before stepping down last August. Wade and Renee Hill ran the track the three years before that.
The speedway ended its scheduled race season two weeks early last summer. Low attendance was a key reason behind the decision.
“Without butts in the seats, it’s hard to pay the bills,” Fletcher said at the time.
Craft knows it is a challenge going forward.
“I am the permanent optimist,” said Craft, 51, who officially took over the raceway earlier this month. “I think the glass is half full. I guess I didn’t see a dying race track. I saw a race track that was really supported by the community that didn’t want it to go away.
“The two events I attended last summer (at the raceway) both had strong attendance figures,” Craft said. “You have to look at those events and find out why they were successful and why others (were not).”
Craft has plans to increase the speedway’s visibility, be it through an increased usage of social media or through partnerships with local businesses. He also said the track plans to increase its support and involvement in community fundraisers and projects.
When the actual season begins is also a question. The 14-weekend event schedule was set to start April 25, but the coronavirus outbreak has affected that.
Still, Craft remains optimistic that there will be an abbreviated racing season at least — whenever that might begin.
“To be honest, I haven’t really focused on (a start date) because the (health) problem is bigger than that,” said Craft, who competed in the modified division at dirt tracks from the early 1990s until recently. “It is obviously a national emergency and the last thing we would want to do is put anybody in danger. So if the governor and public officials are saying, ‘don’t gather and let’s have social distancing,’ then we need to do that.
“This situation will continue to change and we will persevere and get through this,” Craft said. “The minute they tell us we can go, we want to be ready.”
Craft said the track will be a family project. Penny will handle advertising while David Jr. will likely be in charge of social media. He said Joey wants to learn all aspects of the raceway — from track prep and promotion to management.
“My family is going to work intimately with the track, but it is also going to require help from lots of folks, too,” Craft said. “It can be whether they are volunteers or paid employees or just someone who commits to a few weekends over the season. But it will take the community,”