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Patrick Springer, Published February 19 2010

Auto racing promoter wants speedway talks to resume

The roar of engines might be heard once again this summer at the Red River Valley Speedway after all.

At least the race promoter and Red River Valley Fair management will try again to settle their differences.

That was the word Thursday, when the fair board was told that race promoter Danny Schatz wants to restart talks.

A Schatz representative faxed a letter to the fair board Thursday afternoon expressing a willingness to resolve “the small differences” between them.

“On behalf of Valley Racing Inc., I would like to have a chance to sit with fair manager and board and work out the small differences in this lease,” wrote Ivan Sailer, who represents Schatz. “I believe they can be worked out so both sides are happy.”

Negotiations between Schatz and the speedway collapsed last week, when he withdrew from negotiations over a dispute involving the number of race dates.

Among other differences, Schatz, who said he has invested more than $40,000 in the speedway’s dirt track, wanted to race during Big Iron, the annual agricultural machinery exposition.

Bryan Schulz, the fair association’s general manager, said he is optimistic the differences can be resolved.

“I think we can work this out,” Schulz said. “We’re willing to sit down.”

But the fair manager added that it would be “physically impossible” to host stock car races at the same time as Big Iron because of security concerns and logistical problems.

“You’ve got millions and millions of dollars of equipment sitting out here,” Schulz said.

Neither Schatz or Sailer, who were not at the fair board meeting Thursday night, could immediately be reached for comment. No talks have yet been scheduled.

The meeting was packed with stock car fans, sponsors and drivers. Many appeared relieved by the announcement, and hope the green flag will result.

Chris Ritter, a stock car driver from Barnesville, Minn., was cautiously optimistic.

“It was kind of what we wanted to hear,” he said. “Everything has been up in the air there for a week.”

Fargo-area racing sponsors have been reluctant to commit, given the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the speedway, which has operated for 42 years.

“We’re going to sit and wait again,” Ritter said. “The longer we wait, the harder it’s going to get sponsor money.”

Joanne Dieterle, business manager for the Jamestown (N.D.) Speedway, said other racing tracks within a 200-mile radius would suffer if the Red River Valley Speedway shuts down.

“I’m glad to see that they’re going to talk some more,” she said. “We were expecting it to hurt the whole industry.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522