Rick, a handyman, told me all about the local dirt racing track and his son, Rusty, who drove in a race so I packed up my folding chair and camera and drove over to the track for a look-see. Pulling onto the grass parking lot, I could hear the roar of motors as they revved. It was exciting to hear all the noise and see people streaming in to watch all the action. For a lot of them, this is a Saturday night ritual to come and support their family and friends.
Planting my chair on a hill to the left of the stands, I saw the one-third mile dirt track and the Limited Late Models Division tearing around the track all wanting to place first in these time trials. These are the most powerful of all the cars that will race tonight with their V8 motors pushing up to 125 miles per hour. There are eight divisions ranging from Classic cars to Super Trucks. The vehicles are equipped with aluminum bodies and steel cages while the drivers are pretty much hidden by their jumpsuits and helmets. This may not be NASCAR but it’s serious business.
The track is like any other with its oval shape and banked track. The dirt is so well packed and wetted down so its surface is shiny and looks slick. The fun comes from watching the cars speed up on the straightaway and brake to slide their rear end around the curve before accelerating once again on the second straightaway. This is a finesse move and some are better than others. Most maintain control, but a few have just a little too much speed and hit the wall.
As the race begins, they come onto the track looking and feeling not just bad, but BAD. They strut onto the track and stroll around the track for one and all to see. With all of this division’s cars on the track, they finish up the lap in slow motion before gathering at the start line. At a signal, they round the track again maintaining any easy pace through the first curve and straightaway. Engines are straining at being held back as they near the second turn and finally the roar of full throttle begins with heart racing power through that turn and down the track.
As the race begins, you see more speed, more daring, the second runner seriously pushing to get into first before the last lap. It’s thrilling to watch them as they round the track time and again. Inevitably, there are crashes, but nothing like you see on television. These are rather sedate fender benders, but the caution flag flies and uncommon road courtesy occurs. The cars are towed off the track and men run out to clean off the track before the race resumes.
Owners will put anywhere from a few thousand dollars up to $25,000 into their cars. But here in this very place is where racing is fun. This isn’t run for glory or financial gain. It’s for the thrill of racing and sometimes you might win a modest fee.