The ink has dried from Tuesday’s Spokane County Raceway operational contract signing between Ronald Hodgson, his partner Charles Allen and the Spokane County commissioners. Now it’s up to Cindy Gibbs-Arias, who will oversee the day-to-day operations as general manager, to get SCR ready to open in less then four weeks.
Allen and Hodgson were selected Feb. 23 to operate the Airway Heights facility for the next 10 years and have been in final contract negotiations that wrapped up this week. Each brings a wealth of experience, but they have entrusted Gibbs-Arias with the task of getting SCR back on its feet.
“The grounds are actually really clean, but we do need to do some landscaping to prepare the overall facility,” Gibbs-Arias said. “The drag strip needs to have all the old rubber stripped off it to be ready to race. Our road course is pretty much ready to go and we’re preparing to have work done at the oval.”
Much of the work will be safety and amenity improvements to the entire complex, she said.
“We plan to add ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) seating at the oval side, install barriers in Turn No. 4 and continue repairs to the grandstands that were started last year,” she said. “There will be safety fencing in place at the end of the drag strip near the scoreboards to restrain a car from going to far off track if that were to occur. Overall safety for everyone is a big emphasis that Ron and Charlie bring from their experiences at Castrol Raceway (Hodgson’s racing facility in Edmonton, Alberta) and Firebird (International Raceway, Allen’s facility in Phoenix).”
Gibbs-Arias is excited to spread the word of the track’s reopening to the community.
“I take in the positives everyday talking with business and community leaders about the benefits they see in what we’re doing here,” she said. “From supporters including (county parks director) Doug Chase to companies such as Pepsi, Napa and all of our associated sponsors from last year that have gladly stepped up again, I know once we do things out here in May everything will be done right with the racers and the community in mind.”
Work to improve SCR’s image should lead to added support from the community, she said.
“One goal we have for 2010 is to re-brand the entire track in people’s minds,” she said. “The facility has a colorful history to it, but the time has come to put a new face out there. We want Spokane to see how much integrity is going into this facility with Ron and Charlie at the helm and to understand it’s in good hands.”
SCR is known for thrilling drag racing and competitive road racing, but oval excitement is an important part of overall facility planning.
“We don’t have an oval-track manager in place at this time, but do have a short list we’re working from to find the right person to lead that portion of our facility,” Gibbs-Arias said. “Race teams from across the region have let us know they want to see (the oval) open and we recognize the importance of the oval to racing in general.”
She downplayed speculation in the community about the half-mile’s demise and offered that the operators see a bright future for oval racing, including visits by organizations from NASCAR to the World of Outlaws eager to take part in circle-track racing at SCR.
“Many groups have shown an interest in what we’re doing here, but for the (World of) Outlaws we’d have to put clay in the infield, and for NASCAR there is plenty of work to do to be ready for one of their events, and at this time we don’t know if we’re ready for that in 2010, but those are just a few of the things being talked about,” she said.
Racing starts at Spokane County Raceway on May 21 with Friday Night Street Legal Drags followed by NHRA Bracket Racing on May 22.
To reach The Spokesman-Review’s motorsports columnist, Doug Pace, e-mail him at email@example.com. Also see his online column at spokesmanreview.com/ blogs/keepingpace