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Keeping Pace

Fri., April 24, 2009, 6:23 a.m.

Fresh and new

General manager Jay Livingston oversees the major changes to Spokane County Raceway.  (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
General manager Jay Livingston oversees the major changes to Spokane County Raceway. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The catch phrase in sports most hear when referring to a new stadium or race track is "if you build it they will come." Jay Livingston, general manager of Spokane County Raceway may not be advertising that statement to the public as the sole reason to watch racing at the refurbished racing facility but you wouldn't blame him for borrowing the line based on all the work that has gone on recently to prepare for the tracks first full season of racing under new leadership.

Refurbished raceway set for return to action

Doug Pace

New paint, improved racing surfaces, new equipment, rebuilt towers – to say there has been an abundance of work going on at Spokane County Raceway this offseason is an understatement.

Beginning Saturday the facility returns to action, this time under the leadership of Bucky Austin and his management team that came onboard over the winter. Austin and his team were selected by Spokane County to operate the racing complex – formerly known as Spokane Raceway Park – for the next 25 years.

With guidance from general manager Jay Livingston, a major undertaking to get all three racing facilities – the quarter-mile drag strip, the half-mile oval and the 2½-mile road course – up and running has been ongoing and picked up once the weather improved over the last month.

“There has been a lot of work involved in getting ready for (the oval’s practice on Saturday and an NHRA inspection day on Sunday). People are going to see some big changes out here,” Livingston said.

Fresh and new are the buzzwords regarding the improvements being made at the track, he said.

“It has a fresh new look to it, from the concrete (launch and warm-up) pad we’ve put in at the drag strip, to paint-work, safety improvements to the oval track’s rebuilt tower and the bathroom refurbishments.”

Livingston oversees the facility with a focus on the drag strip but also works closely with road course manager Michael Warnecke and oval track manager Larry Bertrand to bring a unified approach to the facilities operation.

While many in the area know of the drag strip and oval track offerings, the three-person team points out that the road course has seen some improvements with more to come. Their big show comes May 8-9 with the Adare Motorsports event followed by the Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association race May 23-24.

“You’ll see a realignment (in coming weeks) of the road course where we totally remove it from (using the drag strip). We’ll make some changes to some of our run-off areas and have already been doing surface repairs and an overall cleanup,” Livingston said.

While most of the improvement work should be completed by the May 3 SCR racing opener with the NHRA local series and a circle track program on tap, there will be some things left to do in preparation for the grand reopening event – the ASA Northwest Late Model Tour 125 on May 9 on the half-mile oval.

“We’re still going to be working on a few things, including our concession stands,” Livingston said. “There will be temporary snack shacks in place (for the first few weeks of racing) while we complete the rebuilding of those stands.”

Coming on the heels of the ASA event will be an NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series stop June 12-14. This will mark the first time that the NHRA has held an event in this area with the series’ premier drivers in Top Alcohol Dragster, Funny Car and Sportsman Cars expected to take part.

Having gained the NHRA sanctioning for Spokane County Raceway prior to the start of the 2009 season is a big accomplishment, Livingston said.

“In my mind they are the top sanctioning organization (for drag racing). There are racers who have never been to this track because it was not an NHRA-(sanctioned) facility. Now that we have met the safety requirements with all of our improvements, we’re looking forward to having the Lucas Oil Series here in June.

“This race will bring a ton of racers to Spokane who have never visited before to race and that will be a benefit to everyone (in the community).”

Livingston dispelled rumors that Spokane County Raceway is aiming to showcase itself for an NHRA Full Throttle National Event similar to the one held in Seattle each summer.

“This area is the 77th-largest (media) market (in the United States) while Seattle is in the top 15. I think the only way we could ever see that happen is if the Seattle race itself were to go away. The stars would have to align for it to happen, that’s for sure.”

To learn more about the Spokane County Raceway season, go to www.spokanecountyraceway .com

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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.