By TJ Buffenbarger
Last week I made the three hour trip down Interstate 69 to the Gas City Speedway. This wasn’t to see USAC, All Stars, World of Outlaws, or any other group. I went just to see a typical Friday night at a local race track. In fact, it was fan appreciation night. For $5.00 general admission fans got to see a full program of traditional sprint cars, UMP Modifieds, and the Street Stocks. I can honestly tell anyone though it’s worth driving twice as far as I have to for what might be the best short track going in the United States today.
This might be a normal Friday night, but this isn’t your typical weekly race track. The Gas City I-69 Speedway is a 1/4 mile heavily clay that provides the most exciting two, three, and four wide racing I have ever seen at any race track. I went up in the stands Friday night with my Dad and the Nichols gang near turn one. Sprint cars tear around the track throwing mud as high as the light poles, coming out of four just like the pictures I grew up looking at in Open Wheel Magazine from ASCOT. It still gives me chills every time I experience it.
This is a track where you hear the regular fans say things such as, “Each week you don’t think the racing could get any better, and somehow it does” and “Why go anywhere else?”. For instance on this night fans got to see Brian Tyler, Derek Davidson, Bill Rose, Mike Mann, Brandon Petty, Tony Elliott, and Dave Darland race with others for $5.00, when it would normally cost the whopping amount of $10.00 to get in!!! Many of these nationally known drivers make Gas City a Friday night stop on a regular basis during the summer.
Even with the great racing, it’s all the little things this track has done right that really gets my attention. The concession stand food is hot, tasty, and very affordable. All the walkways behind the stands are either paved or graveled, with the pits done in some kind of a surface similar to a horse track that doesn’t seem to ever get muddy. The most amazing thing of all though might be both the pit and grandstand bathrooms are super clean. Then I turn on the sink, and hot water comes out. HOT WATER! I don’ think I’ve ever been to a track with hot water in the restrooms!
The people that run and work at the track couldn’t be nicer as well. Bill Rose is 45 min from Bloomington Speedway, but makes the trip up to Gas City to race regularly because of the track and how the people treat him there. What Jiggs Thomason and his crew at Gas City have done is make the racers and fans both proud to be there on any given night. Many times one side or the other suffers with conditions of the facility or race track. Both sides of the fence as in pristine condition for a local race track.
The neatest thing though to me about the entire thing is they will have more seats eventually, but it’s never going to be like the Route 66 and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It’s a nice local track with more personality that any of the above mentioned tracks could ever dream of having. Gas City seats a couple thousand people maybe right now, but they will build more stands if they can fill what they have now. Word is getting out, and those stands have been filling more every time I go back. To me it’s the local track that is doing everything a racer or fan would want. Even with things going well the staff is always asking people what they could do better. The awesome thing is they listen and act upon those suggestions. All those people that run the RPM deal in Florida need to make a trip up to Gas City to see the model dirt track in the country.
So I’m hear to say the secret is out, and I believe Gas City I-69 Speedway has the best weekly program in the country. I have never seen week for week better racing though the Time Trails, Heats, Semis, and Features. The show moves along quickly, and they don’t believe in dust. This is my invitation to everyone to leave the goggles at home, bring a good attitude, and come sit up near turn one in the Slideways Section with everyone to enjoy a great Friday night of weekly sprint car racing. Why stay at home and watch TV when you can come see sprint cars tear around the Gas City 1/4 mile three and four wide throwing mud as high as the lights all night.
I sure won’t be, that’s what V.C.R.’s are for!