Qlispé Raceway Park is a sprawling complex.
Covering 577 acres, the facility features a quarter-mile drag strip, a 2.5-mile paved road course and a half-mile oval track. Years of neglect have taken their toll on the venue and the racing surfaces, however, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians took on the task of restoring operations when it purchased the site from Spokane County for $6.1 million last June.
Friday marked the first day of racing on the road course this year. General manager RJ Nomee got his start in the sport as a 19-year-old racing his 1972 Nova at the site when it was the Spokane County Raceway, and he acknowledged the return of racing was important to him on a personal level. He said the track will serve drivers “from the Cascades to the Rockies.”
“A lot of racers mothballed their cars because unless you have sponsors driving four hours to the nearest facility to be able to race, it took the wind out of a lot of people’s sails and they couldn’t afford it,” Nomee added. “Now with fuel prices and driving a monster motorhome and towing 28,000 pounds, it takes a lot of fuel.”
Nomee said the road course was easiest to get back to racing condition. The asphalt surface remains in good shape, he said, and organizations that rent the track provide their own timing systems.
The drag strip will need a new timing system installed, too.
“It’s going to take a long time to get just because of supply issues,” Nomee said. “We’re thinking late fall, if at all this year. But we could – possibly – do some street-race style, low prep, ‘ready-ready-go.’”
The oval track is not in racing condition.
“Long term we’re not sure what we’re going to do with the oval just yet because it’s going to be costly to repair,” Nomee said.
Nomee noted that Qlispé (pronounced kuh-lee-SPEH) benefits from a forward-thinking layout.
“Some people will tell you it’s the best in the entire West because of the way it’s designed,” Nomee said. “The racing surface has been dug into the ground, so we’re not as affected by crosswinds like some other tracks are. Other tracks are just level like an old airstrip. They put bleachers out there and just go racing. But if you’re going 200 mph, a 10 mph crosswind can really affect you.
“… All the staging lanes (on the drag strip) are downhill. If you’re driving an alcohol or nitro car you need somebody to push it because you only start it when you’re ready to race. One person can push it. Seattle, for example, is so steep that six people couldn’t push my car up that hill to get to the starting line.”
The venue is located on the adjacent parcel of land west of Northwest Quest Casino. Nomee said that gives the facility a big advantage over its rivals.
“You have something nobody else in the country has,” he said. “You have a first-class racing facility 2 minutes from a first-class hotel and resort. Even Vegas doesn’t have that. It takes 45 minutes to get from the strip to the racing surface. We’re hopeful that it’s going to be everything it was dreamed to be.”
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