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Keeping Pace

The Inland Empire deserves to be part of the national racing scene

While battling the impacts of a terrible cold, it dawned on me that the Inland Empire should be part of the national racing landscape. We have great facilities, loyal fans and motels and space to accomodate a large gathering for such an event–the question is what series should that be?

Doug Pace
Motorsports Correspondent
The Spokesman-Review

When it comes to racing of any kind on a national level and that series making stops in the Pacific Northwest, the list is short and not expected to grow or move past the Tri-Cities to the east anytime soon.

The World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series, NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing and Unlimited Hydroplane racing (with its base in Seattle) are the only traveling series that came into the region this season. At one time NASCAR’s Truck Series and open-wheel IRL teams ran in Portland, Ore. with the trucks also making a stop in Monroe, Wash.

Race fans throughout the Inland Empire for now get in their favorite modes of transportation and head to the aforementioned stops of national series in our region be it Seattle for a drag race, Skagit Speedway for the Outlaws or the Columbia River and Lake Washington for the big boats.

You can bet that more then a few would like to see a favorite series or driver in their own backyard as opposed to hitting the byways and highways of our region to get their fix.

While the top-3 tiers of NASCAR may never come to the greater Northwest due to a lack of facilities large enough to host them-despite two solid road courses in Portland and Seattle, the real hope for a national stop in the Inland Empire may rest with a unique approach.

With only one large-scale dirt track east of the Cascades (Yakima’s fairgrounds complex) until you get to the bullring in Billings, Mont., the chances of seeing World of Outlaw sprinters crossing the mountains are very slim. NHRA Full Throttle teams tested Spokane County Raceway for many years but the revamped facility would need to overcome its current financial obstacles to host an event of that level.

Which leaves the Unlimited Hydroplane Series.

Many years ago Lake Coeur d’Alene was a stop for the thunder boats and with some access improvements may be able to bring the show to our area once more. The series itself has gone from a national power to a niche item, but still attracts hundreds of thousands of loyal followers to events from the Midwest to the Northwest and for the first time in its history–the Middle East.

Imagine for a moment what a large-scale motorsports stop would mean to the regional economy. Consider the fact that our region has accomplished big sporting events with not one but two U.S. National Figure Skating Championships, several NCAA basketball regional games, a frenzied following of Arena Football and of course the commitment to Washington State and Gonzaga basketball from a fans perspective.

Like NASCAR’s fans, hydro enthusiasts come out in droves for an event. With the potential of three stops (Seattle, Tri-Cities and a potential Inland Empire race) in the Northwest spread out over a three-four week time span, it may be possible to build the event into the draw of national prominence our region deserves.

Some would question a car racing fans interest in watching boats race in circles on the water. Many of those fans would consider attending simply to be part of the spectacle that is national level racing. The turnout for a regional NHRA race last June in Spokane was over the top and many in the crowd were more then straight-line fans.

To make an Unlimited Hydroplane race possible in the region race fans would have to step forward and petition both the series and an area to host them be it Lake Coeur d’Alene, Flathead or even Pend Oreille. Civic leaders would need to hear that efforts to bring in a race of that scale to the region would be worth the financial and manpower commitments.

Yes, it would take a tremendous undertaking, but it can be more glow for our sports community to shine through when looking for other large scale events to come to the Inland Empire.

The concept is possible–but do fans have the desire.

Here’s your chance to have your voices heard. Would you support a national level-racing event in the Inland Empire? If so leave your comments for others to see.

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Keeping Pace

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