Now that all the dust has settled, all the points/counter points leveled, and settlements reached, it's a good time to look back and see what has been built from all the rubble left from the eventful evening two weeks ago at Bonneville Raceway Park.
What was supposed to be one of the biggest races of the 1988 season curdled when West Valley police dropped the curtain on the first of three acts.Ninety-five percent of the 7,000 fans had no idea anything other than racing was happening, and even though they were not at all pleased they left. A few fans caused the problem, a few more, angry at being told to go home, became involved in the volatile spectator/police clash afterward.
That over, Bonneville management presented a plan to West Valley officials, which they agreed to, that would eliminate the problem area and thus the problem.
Hereto and forever after, there will be no parking on the oval track for major races. The only cars allowed into the race grounds for major events will be race cars. All spectators will now park in the parking lot next to the track and walk through the gates.
Consensus is, and no one argues this, most problems develop from alcohol consumption. Not so bold people become bold after several drinks and more than ready to prove it - to anyone. Good judgment in the past has prevented problems.
It has always been illegal to bring alcohol into the track. Security does check all cars, coolers, purses, anything that might hold a bottle or can, and confiscates anything that might contain alcohol. That's how it's always been.
Beer (one per I.D. per customer) is sold. It's enough to quench one's thirst but makes it difficult for a fan to get drunk. Security officials, in fact, stand by all beer stands and anyone teetering is ordered to the soft drink line.
Some, and it's not right to call them fans, try smuggling in alcohol . . . hidden in door panels, stashed under chassis, tucked under shirts, injected into oranges. At one race, a long hose carried beer from a truck, parked outside the fence, to people inside.
Without easy access to vehicles, it will be far more difficult to bring in alcohol. And, most likely, under such restrictions the troublemakers won't come. Chances are if they do they'll settle down and watch the races when they see how much better they can be when seen through clear eyes.
But, what happened shouldn't have. And, had a cooler head prevailed it wouldn't have. One officer ordered the track closed, and the other officers were forced into supporting the order. They had no say. They tried to make the best of a poor decision. The rocks and the abuse were not deserved.
Nor was the abuse on some of the fans deserved, if, in fact, there was any. The two fans claiming to have been struck by a West Valley police officer never stepped forward to prove their charges. Still, the fans were angry. Any fan would have been. As track manager Dick Godfrey said, try stopping a Jazz game and see what happens.
Sorry to say it was done. A group of people did cause a disturbance, the race was stopped and poor judgment by some people, venting their anger, put officers in jeopardy.
It's over, now, and hopefully racing can be put back on track. Most race fans are there to see good racing. Only a few come to drink and play fools. The new policies will no doubt bother some of the good race fans. They will, however, make it more difficult for troublemakers to drink enough to gain missing courage.
However, some fans will likely stay away from Bonneville, either because they're angry over the lost race and money, or are afraid of it happening again. Hopefully, Bonneville can weather the storm. Utah needs the race facility. A lot of good fans have come to enjoy the races, be they drag, oval, motorcycles, road racing, sand drags or mud races, and a few shouldn't spoil it for them.
All eyes will certainly be on Bonneville today when it holds its "apology" race. All fans sent home from the 28th race will be admitted free, and those that were not there will be charged a mere $5.
Bonneville and West Valley officials have worked hard to make this a good, fun race and looking back on what happen and the changes made, there's little doubt that it will be just that.