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Raceway operator gets enthusiastic partner

Smith to put family-friendly stamp on county track

Spokane County Raceway Park is getting a new managing partner who promised on Friday to bring changes to the controversial venue.

Craig Smith – a well-known drag racer, crop-duster and businessman – said he wants to create a family-friendly environment and at the same time improve the facilities for racers.

He announced Friday that he has purchased an interest in Raceway Investments LLC, which operates the track under agreement with Spokane County.

Smith joins partner Ron Hodgson and takes over the business interests of Hodgson’s former partner Charlie Allen.

Raceway Investments is now in the third year of a 10-year operator’s agreement with the county.

The county spent $4.5 million in 2008 to purchase the 315-acre park, which has a drag strip, racing oval and road course. Events are held on all three from spring through autumn.

The purchase was widely criticized at the time and has been a political issue in the years since.

Among improvements Smith will make at the track is the purchase of a $100,000 specialty tractor that can be used to resurface the drag strip, making it safer for racers.

“I’m ecstatic about this transition,” said County Commissioner Mark Richard. He said the track is a community asset that was saved from demolition by the county purchase. It has become a tourism draw and a popular venue throughout the 100-event racing season, he said.

The county receives $65,000 a year from the operators to offset county costs for maintaining the track.

The operators have been losing money since taking over the track in 2010, Smith said, but he believes he can make the facility at least break even this year.

“We are going to work to re-brand the image,” he said of the track.

Out are bikini contests and in will be live music from local entertainers such as Sammy Eubanks, he said.

“We need to get the community back involved,” he said. “I know it can work.”

Smith, who grew up on a farm near Odessa, Wash., sells fertilizers and other farm chemicals in the Columbia Basin and is also a commercial pilot.

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