Cold season opener offers plusses for area racetrack

Friday, April 11, 2003

Opening night Saturday at Auto Tire and Parts NAPA Racepark gave Jerry Wolsey plenty of insight into what to expect this season.

The first thing: It can get mighty cold in early April.

"The people who were there Saturday night were the true fans, because a lot of people wouldn't sit in the grandstands in weather like that," said Wolsey of temperatures that dipped into the upper 30s for his first night of operating the quarter-mile dirt oval track near Benton, Mo.

Aside from the weather, opening night provided more hits than misses.

Ninety-two cars signed in for racing in five classes. Twenty-two of them were late models that arrived for the track's return to weekly competition after it was dropped in May 1992. No division had fewer than 16 cars entered.

The drivers on hand Saturday raced on a smooth surface that became unusually dry-slick early in the program.

"Keeping the track smooth was one of the biggest demands we've heard from drivers," Wolsey said. "But even Saturday it needed more water. It got dusty, and even though we want it to stay smooth, we won't let it get that dusty again.

"Trying to find the right combination of moisture is hard to do, but I think we're almost there."

Wolsey and the track's crew have an extra week to work on the right combination because of an agreement made with I-55 Raceway owners Ray Marler and Winston Cup racer Ken Schrader, whose track in Pevely, Mo., will host the World of Outlaws sprint circuit Saturday.

ATPR will not open Saturday but will reopen April 19.


  • If you miss Saturday's World ofOutlaws event, mark these dates as the tour's regional stops: April 11 at Sedalia (Mo.) State Fairgrounds; May 10 at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill.; July 12 at I-55 Raceway; and Oct. 17 and 18 at Delta Bowl Speedway near Tunica, Miss.

    Two season-opening dates were called off Friday because of rain. Malden (Mo.) Speedway and Fredericktown (Mo.) Raceway each called off their schedule and will return to action at 7:30 p.m. today.

    SEMO Raceway near Blodgett, Mo., will host the Coca-Cola Spring Showdown for karts Saturday. Practice is today with racing at noon Saturday. There will be competition for $13,000 in prize money among 11 kart divisions.

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