Some prospective buyers flashed big money but refused to put it on the table.
By BOB JACKSON
SALEM -- Quaker City Raceway might soon be under new ownership despite the fact that there were no takers during an auction at the Green Township drag strip.
Just hours after the auction Saturday failed to generate an opening bid of at least 1 million, owner Daniel Swindell said he was negotiating with "a couple groups" who were interested in buying the property on West South Range Road, which actually is in Mahoning County. He declined to name the potential buyers and said he was not sure whether the track will be ready, or able, to open in April for the traditional start of the drag-racing season.
"We're trying to work something out. That's all I can say at this point," Swindell said.
Swindell said he bought the raceway in February 1999 and had some 3 million invested in the property and upgrades. It had been for sale for several years with no takers, so he had hoped to sell it at the auction.
The property was broken down into nine tracts, which were offered for sale individually, in combinations and as an entire parcel. The total of the high bids for the individual tracts was just less than 640,000, and there were no bids on the combined-tract options.
What was surprising
That didn't surprise auctioneer Lee Hostetter of Beaver Falls, Pa., who said by far the most interest expressed to him by possible buyers before the sale was in keeping the property together and retaining the racetrack.
That's why he said he was dumbfounded when it came time to offer the entire 181-acre property for sale, but no one among the hundreds of spectators and potential buyers budged.
"He's got more than 3 million in this," Hostetter told the crowd. "If you think [Swindell] is going to give it to you for nothing, well he's not going to do that."
Some in the crowd said they were reluctant to bid when there was no guarantee the winning bid would be accepted. Hostetter said Swindell would have had the option of rejecting the high bid and refusing to sell at that price.
"I don't know what the hell happened here today," a frustrated Hostetter said after the unsuccessful auction. "I don't know what happened to all those people who came up to me and showed me their money this morning."
Hostetter said a 100,000 down payment would have been required from the successful high bidder immediately after the sale had the entire property been sold. Before the sale, four people approached him and showed him that they'd brought that much with them and said they intended to bid for the track. He said all of them said they wanted to buy the whole thing, not just part of it.
He said people had called him last week from as far away as New Jersey and Georgia, offering to pay 1 million for the property if he would take it off the auction block and sell it to them. He passed those offers along to Swindell, who rejected them and said to continue with the auction.
Swindell said he wasn't surprised at the lack of response when it came time for prospective buyers to open their checkbooks.
"I kind of expected it. It's the nature of the beast," he said. "They were hoping I would just give it away."
Many in the crowd said they had either been spectators or drivers at the track for years and had come out Saturday simply to find out its fate.
Wayne Mros of Clinton, Pa., said he started racing a 1978 Chevrolet Camaro at Quaker City about five years ago. "I had a lot of good times here," said Mros, 57. "I just want to see it stay a racetrack. It's a shame that might not happen."
Despite the uncertainty over Quaker City's ownership, the Steel Valley Super Nationals still will be held there this summer, said owner Brian Caiazza.
"We have a contract, and we'll be here, & quot; Caiazza said. "Even if we're the only event here this summer, we'll be here."
The event is scheduled for June 22-24. It had been held for years at the Canfield Fairgrounds but moved to Quaker City last year.