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Off the track
For decades, Olympic Peninsula race fans considered it the place to be on Saturday nights from early spring to early fall.
Now, the Port Angeles Speedway is no more.
Last week, construction crews were at the site of the speedway, located off U.S. Highway 101 between Sequim and Port Angeles, deconstructing the quarter-mile track.
Calls to racetrack owner Josh Armstrong, who also owns the adjacent Armstrong Marine, Inc., were not returned.
“It’s one of the last good spectator sports we had here,” said William Lester, a racer who’s seen his son and grandchildren take turns at the speedway.
Former track announcer Don Perry, who estimates he was involved with the speedway for 18 years, said he was sorry to hear the news.
“(It was) a lot of good entertainment for a lot of good people for a lot of years,” Perry said. “I wasn’t too surprised — I thought it lasted a lot longer than I thought it would.”
The racetrack had seen facility improvements since Armstrong bought the property in 2005, including repaving the oval track and the addition of a scoreboard. But the Port Angeles track met the same fate as several smaller racetracks across the state in recent years.
Perry suspects the economy had something to do with the track’s downfall.
“It’s no longer a Saturday night sport,” Perry said. “It costs you thousands of dollars to race even the lower class cars.”
The rising cost of gas and tire repair likely got to be too much for drivers, Perry said, and racetrack owners have to charge more in admission to keep the track open.
The speedway was home to a bevy of classes of racing, among them Hornets and Junior Hornets, Stock Cars, Compacts, Midgets, Hobby Stocks, Street Drags, Pro 4 Trucks, Dwarf Cars, Vintage Modifieds and many more. It also was home to several special events, including demolition derbies, stunt shows and monster trucks.
That wasn’t the case when the track opened in the early 1970s, Perry said, noting that the speedway then was home to just two classes — Stock Cars and Hobby Stocks.
“We (on the peninsula) are limited in the drivers we have,” Perry said, estimating the racing population at 60 to 70 or so. With two racing classes, that made for 30-35 cars in each race.
“Then the track started morphing — everyone wanted to start a different class,” Perry said. “We’d have four cars. That’s not a race. (Fans are) not willing to pay to watch follow the leader.”
Racers from the peninsula and regulars from Graham, Morton, Federal Way, Marysville, Spokane, Tacoma, Woodinville and Victoria, British Columbia, recalled good memories of racing at the track online last week, at the speedway’s Facebook site and on chat sites such as nwracechat.com.
According to online posts, as late as Feb. 22 racers were expecting to gear up for a 2011 season.
“We were trying to find out what to do this year,” Lester said. “We kept hearing rumors and rumors. Then we saw an excavator tearing the grandstands down.”
Perry said a revival of the racetrack is unlikely.
“Sorry to see it go,” he said.