“Commonwealth 100″ Promoter Bill Sawyer Extends Great Deal for Fans
by Chris McWilliams on April 6, 2011
There are many reasons why Virginia Motor Speedway’s owner, Bill Sawyer was selected as the 2010 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Promoter of the Year. First of all, his racetrack is a showplace ½ mile oval that he has built into one of the best short-track facilities in the country. Then there is Sawyer’s creation of the Commonwealth 100, a $25,000 to win WoO LMS race that he launched in 2010 and now returns in 2011 for a 2nd annual race on April 15-16. Finally, there is the enormous dedication to the fans which he possesses. Sawyer offers fans a track with unmatched amenities and fantastic ticket deals like the one he has created for this year’s Commonwealth 100.
With Sawyer’s direction Virginia Motor Speedway and the Commonwealth 100 have made their mark on the dirt Late Model community. The race has become one of the best deals for fans of the WoO Late Models. This year a two-day general admission ticket to the Commonwealth 100 will include time trials and heat races on Friday, April 15th as well as the B-Mains, the 30-lap ‘Rumble on the River’ Non-Qualifiers’ Race, and the 100-lap A-Main on Saturday, April 16th. Fans may expect to see tickets cost $30+ for each day of racing at other events but at this year’s Commonwealth 100 Sawyer has priced two-day general admission tickets at just $30 for adults, $27 for senior citizens/military and $15 for students ages 7-17 which is nearly half the price of similar events. Sawyer had originally set an April 1st deadline for fans to take advantage of the $30/$27/$15 two-day ticket, but he decided to extend the price as an advance-sale incentive and simply hold it steady right up to Qualifying Night on April 15th.
When asked about the great deal last week Sawyer said, “As a way to help the fans out every little bit we can in these economic times, I just felt we needed to carry the special two-day pricing all the way to the gate on Friday, April 15. I think our price-point for a two-day ticket has been well, well received. We’ve read and heard a lot of nice comments on it, and now we’re going to let everybody take advantage of it. I think it’s important that we look after the working man’s pocketbook to make it affordable for him to be able to come to Virginia Motor Speedway for our biggest show of the year. We want to put a very good ticket price out there and hopefully do the volume of numbers coming through the gate. Fan interest has been very good and all indications are that we’re going to have a great field of cars. We’ll have the who’s who of dirt Late Model racing here, that’s for sure.”
Commonwealth 100 attendees will certainly get plenty of bang for their buck when they sit down in VMS’s comfortable 8,000-seat aluminum grandstand. This year’s event figures to be even bigger and better than the 2010 inaugural, which drew 56 cars and saw Chris Madden of Gray Court, South Carolina, take home the victory in dramatic fashion. Entertaining extras for the fans that proved popular a year ago will also be back to add to the excitement, including a pre-race driver autograph session under the bleachers on Saturday and a cannon-blasting, gun-popping appearance by a group of costumed Civil War reenactors who bring the area’s history to life both before and after the 100.
Chris Madden, who has won three times at VMS over the past two years, will return to defend his Commonwealth 100 title. He’ll face a star-studded roster of entrants, including former WoO LMS champions Josh Richards of Shinnston, West Virginia, Darrell Lanigan of Union, Kentucky (who led last year’s event until popping a tire with nine laps remaining), Tim McCreadie of Watertown, New York, Steve Francis of Ashland, Kentucky, and Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tennessee. The field will also feature WoO LMS regulars who are well-known to VMS fans like Rick Eckert of York, Pennsylvania, and 2010 Rookie of the Year Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Delaware, a 19-year-old sensation whose career began at the track. Also returning will be 2010 Commonwealth contenders Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tennessee (finished second), Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Georgia (third place), Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Florida (fast-timer), Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa (was second when he developed a flat on lap 85), Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wisconsin (second when he got a flat on lap 91) and Jason Covert of York Haven, Pennsylvania (fourth when he slowed with a flat on lap 98).
Sawyer, 62, was more than satisfied with last year’s debut of the Commonwealth 100 and expects nothing but brighter days in the future as he said, “I think we were overdue to do a major, crown-jewel-type deal here at Virginia Motor Speedway. For the first time out of the box with a major two-day event I was very pleased. All I can see it do is continue to grow. Last year’s race was a memorable show even though we had a 35 mph wind blowing all day long that made (the track) dry out sooner than we thought it would. We had a good surface when the event started (on Saturday) and there were still multiple grooves throughout the race, but the changing track made it more of a tire management situation. Madden sort of laid back a little bit and didn’t wear that right-rear (tire) out, and they all started coming back to him.”
During the Commonwealth 100 weekend, WoO LMS officials will publicly recognize Sawyer in front of his home fans for winning the tour’s Promoter of the Year honor. The top-promoter nod is another achievement in a long racing life for Sawyer, who has literally been involved in the sport since his birth. His late father, Paul, was one of NASCAR’s pioneers and owned Richmond International Raceway until selling it to the International Speedway Corporation in 1999. “Daddy got his first car the year I was born,” said Sawyer. “This will be the 62nd year that the Sawyer family name has been involved in racing, starting back in 1949 when my father got his first Modified that happened to be a dirt car. He went from car owner to promoter to racetrack builder in Richmond. Daddy and (former NASCAR Cup Series champion) Joe Weatherly were partners until Joe got a factory deal with Ford in 1956 and daddy bought him out. I was very fortunate to be raised around Joe. As a kid I can remember sitting in the floorboard of his race car when it was driven over from the shop to one of the racetracks was in Norfolk. It’s been a helluva ride. I never really saw myself as a dirt track owner, but when the opportunity afforded itself after we got out of the NASCAR situation it was kind of nice to come back to the dirt where the family all started in racing. I’ve enjoyed it immensely for the last 12 years.”
The 2011 Commonwealth 100 should be a can’t miss race for dirt late model fans as it boasts the third-largest first-place prize of the season on the WoO LMS, the Commonwealth 100 offers $2,000 just to take the green flag. Also, the Non-Qualifiers’ Race that pays $3,000 to win from a purse of nearly $16,000, and the weekend’s payout will be in the neighborhood of $125,000. For complete information on the Commonwealth 100 fans can check out www.vamotorspeedway.com and for more information on the WoO LMS they can visit http://woolms.com/.