Sports

Racers dazzle at speedway's 'media night'

The e-mail invitation invited me to come out, see what's new and take part in media night at Port Angeles Speedway.

That was a couple of weeks ago and I decided to take up the invite and visited Port Angeles Speedway on a windy Saturday night.

As I was making the short drive to the oval, I was thinking about my first trip to the ASCRA Speedway at McDonnell Creek many moons ago. That was the track built by Jim and Pat Seeds and the members of the Angeles Stock Car Racing Association.

The track had a clay surface, probably was not even a quarter of a mile, had a small wooden grandstand and the stock cars of the day had a ball roaring around the track.

Very soon it was on to Port Angeles Speedway, the current plant between Port Angeles and Sequim. Wooden grandstands, a paved track with a little banking in the turns and a meadow parking lot above turns one and two housed the viewers who wanted to party and watch races at the same time.

I was "hired" as a track announcer and could not pass up $25 every Sunday afternoon and all the beer I could consume. Usually the day started with time trials (two times around with best time determining starting order in heat races and main events), then a big drivers' meeting, then trophy dashes, heats and the big main events.

We saw some great drivers, folks. One of the best, if not the best, was Monte English in his super stock. He had a knack of moving up from last place to first in a very short time and was such a good sport he even backed off a bit in lopsided races to make it more fun for the fans.

Ron Eaton, Doug Linde, Jim Allen and his racing team, Bill Huizinga and others were just a few of the great drivers.

Forks used to have a big contingent of outstanding drivers.

I recall some super stock races that had 25 cars going in the main event. Lap counters in the tower had a heck of a time.

After the death of Jim Seeds, Pat and the family ran the place for a while, then Reg Midgley of Victoria purchased the property, then a series of owners, including Huizinga and Don Perry, tried to keep the track going.

As I drove in, I was met by current track operator Bert Johnson and his crew. The wooden grandstands still stand. There's a brand new aluminum bleacher at turn four and a new building for the beer garden. The concession stand still puts out those five-napkin Speedway Burgers and the giant chili dogs.

All racing cars are issued a portable transponder when they sign in at the back gate. The electronic device is attached to the front bumper of the car and all times are electronically calculated when they hit the starting line where the computer control is located.

Time trials are a breeze now as they send out four cars at a time in the various classes to time in. After four or five laps warm up, all are timed in. It's sort of like a mini-heat race.

One employee still logs each lap by hand, just in case of electronic malfunction.

The super stocks are now street stocks or hobby stocks, There are outlaw compacts, hornets (four-cylinder cars), junior hornets and queen bees (women who drive hornets) and Johnson brings in dwarf cars, sprint cars, midget auto racers, drift cars, vintage modifieds and trucks, along with special events like the Old Time Racing Association of Victoria that put on a 40-lap show the night I was there.

The Olympic Peninsula Association of Demolition Drivers has split into several groups now but they put on a crash-to-pass show most Saturday nights as a wind-up to the regular program. They also have a truck version of the popular race. There also is a boat race that packs the place as cars pull fiberglass boats around and the drivers have to have their boat hit another boat to pass.

I guess it took the Johnsons three days to clean up debris from that event in June.

There are some big races coming up - the hornet nationals from July 18-19 will be an event drawing hornet cars from all over the state.

Coming up is a monster truck show on Friday and Saturday, July 24-25, then Dusty Russell brings his auto daredevil show to the speedway Aug.1 with racing, crashing and jumping and an attempt to break the world record for dive bombing.

Fans are urged to get tickets in advance for the monster trucks and the auto daredevil show as cars sometimes are backed up to the highway trying to enter the gate.

For the entire schedule, go to www.PortAngelesSpeedway.com.

As for media night? I was sort of looking forward to getting in a car and driving around against my fellow journalists, if, in fact any of the car owners were willing to let a novice behind the wheel.

But when intermission came and the call for media to appear, lo and behold I was the only "media" to show up. Where was my boss, Mike? Where was the Sequim radio station?

Well, there can't be a race with one car, so it was called off. Just in time, too, as weather was coming in and they wanted to get the 40-lap main for the old cars going.

Anyway, after looking at how the drivers get into the car (one leg through the driver's side open window, then haul the rest of their body into the car and belt up into a tiny seat), I decided maybe it was a great thing the media race never happened.

Reach Scooter Chapman at scooter@olypen.com.



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