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County’s motorsports park finally gets in gear

Sat., Aug. 30, 2008

Scott McArthur, of the Spokane Pro Gas Association, has seen hundreds of thousands of people turn out for a day of drag racing at venues around the country.

That kind of turnout is a cautious and distant dream for the raceway in Airway Heights, now called Spokane County Motorsports Park. But today will at least bring the return of revving engines and screeching tires as the racing season gets off to a belated start.

“We have a lot going for the little time we’ve had to get things together,” said motorsports park event coordinator Michael Warnecke, who’s been on the job less than a month.

The raceway has been the site of law enforcement training and other private use, but today is the first open race of the year. After the county’s prolonged and controversial purchase of the raceway, the Spokane Pro Gas Association is just glad to salvage a bit of the season.

“They are dedicated racers and they are a passionate group of racers who want to see the motorsports park succeed,” Warnecke said.

Gates open at 9 a.m. for the first of four racing Saturdays, with elimination bracket racing starting at 1 p.m. and continuing all afternoon. Warnecke has heard from drivers coming from as far as Portland and Montana.

But it’s the evening events that could really draw a crowd: Street-legal cars will race head-to-head on the quarter-mile track from 6 p.m. to midnight.

“That’s pretty much grudge races,” said Pro Gas board member Bob Hallock, “and cars just wanting to go fast and have fun.”

Friday night drag races aimed at keeping young people off the streets used to be a popular tradition at the raceway. Instead of racking up speeding tickets on Sprague Avenue and North Division Street, racers took their souped-up cars to the raceway. Warnecke is glad to bring that back.

“Get your aggressions and adrenaline out there instead of on the streets of Spokane,” he said.

In that same spirit, the $25 tech card fee is being waived for today’s street races.

“We just wanted to give the kids something cheap where they can get off the streets and come race their buddies at the track,” McArthur said.

However, street racing isn’t limited to youth. “If you’re 60 years old and want to see what your old T-Bird can do, come on out,” McArthur said.

The event is informal enough that casual racers can participate, but no drivers in flip-flips or shorts are allowed and helmets are preferred.

McArthur said getting to a raceway often means driving hundreds of miles, so his group is grateful the county bought the struggling raceway to keep it operational.

“To have a track in your backyard is one of the best things, especially if you’re involved in the sport,” he said. “If you’re not involved in the sport, it’s cheap entertainment where you can come out and enjoy racing.”

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