T.J.’s Notebook: Thoughts on Valvoline Raceway and More

Donny Schatz. (T.J. Buffenbarger photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

(October 22, 2019) – The unfortunate news of Valvoline Raceway being part of a compulsory acquisition by the Australian government to make room for a new rail line into the central part of Sydney was met with backlash from the racing community. The track held a rally on Tuesday to garner support. Shortly before the rally New South Wales government officials indicated they want a new facility to be built in a different part of town. While having the support of government for a new track the racing community in New South Wales should rally to keep the track in its current location.

Multiple sources have indicated the land Valvoline Raceway sits on needs to be vacant by 2021. Even if dirt was moving today to begin construction on a facility it would likely not be completed in time for the 2021 racing season and be of the same quality that Valvoline Raceway is today.

Valvoline Raceway has a very large car count for the sprint car division for their Ultimate Sprintcar Championship programs often stretching well over 40 race teams. If there is a gap between the two facilities being operational this will likely impact the car and crowd counts negatively moving into the new facility.

Since covering the sport of sprint car racing since 1996 and being involved in it my entire life I’ve seen my share of facilities go by the wayside. When you have a track like Valvoline Raceway that goes away the racing scene in that particular location often times doesn’t recover even if a new facility is built.

While the government has promised a new home for Speedway it didn’t state to what extent it would be helping with construction and relocation. If you want a perfect example Super DIRT Week was promised a new home by the state of New York at Central New York Raceway Park with a state of the art ¾-mile race track to hold their largest event at. Instead what was supposed to be a short stay at Oswego Speedway is turning into a long term agreement for Oswego to host the event as CNYRP has yet to come to fruition.

Tuesday’s reaction with petitions and a rally were a great start to bringing attention Valvoline Raceway’s plight. In a week many of the television stations, newspapers, and other mainstream media outlets will move on to another story. It’s imperative that the Speedway community in Australia continue to stand up to keep their facility long after coverage subsides. This will be key keeping the facility where it is today or making sure a new, quality facility is built in a manner where the transition is as seamless as possible.

Valvoline Raceway has long been a bucket list destination I’ve wanted to get to sooner than later. Its importance to the racing community is evident even in the United States where several of the local competitors have come over to race in the United States during Australia’s wintertime along with Americans that make the pilgrimage to be a part of the program at Parramatta during our snowy season. Hopefully the Speedway community in Australia will get the positive outcome they deserve.


• The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series is down to four remaining events for the 2019 season with Brad Sweet leading Donny Schatz by 32 points going into two nights of racing at Port Royal Speedway. The difference between a victory and last place in the feature being is 48 points. Unless something happens to either Sweet or Schatz while the other wins the championship will likely come down to the finale two races of the season in Charlotte, NC during the World Finals.

• Schatz’s victory with a Ford engine under the hood Friday at Lakeside Speedway, the first in World of Outlaws competition since August 25, 1998, was remarkable considering the engine first hit the track in competition August 16th at I-96 Speedway with Tony Stewart behind the wheel. I never thought the Ford engine program would progress from a “soft opening” with Ford executives all over I-96 Speedway in plain clothes to witness the first laps to Schatz’s win on Friday.

When the program was announced I believed it was “vaporware”, meaning I didn’t believe it would ever come to fruition. I should know better than to doubt the people Stewart has assembled to accomplish such tasks and should have learned from the few times I’ve doubted Stewart’s staff (for example wondering if buying the All Star Circuit of Champions was a wise move).

Once the engine is available for other teams to utilize it will be interesting to see when or if other teams adopt it, particularly in levels below the All Star Circuit of Champions. The other tantalizing thought is if Schatz could make up his point deficit to Sweet in the World of Outlaws standings after switching to the Ford engine. That would likely go a long way to selling a few of them to other race teams.

• I often point out a “obscure race of the week” from our Allstar Performance Event List when I have time to construct a notebook. The event featured this week didn’t appear on the calendar. Racer and Dorr, MI neighbor Nick Landon pointed out a video clip from Hudson Speedway’s “Run What You Brung” event in New Hampshire where John Burke drove his 350 small block supermodified to the victory over a field that consisting of late models with side boards, pavement modifieds, DIRT modifieds, and a host of other machinery. Check out the clip below to see Burke’s charge from the back of the field for the victory.

• Cole Duncan picked up the final track championship in the state of Ohio for the 2019 season as Atomic Speedway ended their season last Saturday. Duncan picked up the feature victory on the same night he claimed the championship.

• Bridgeport Speedway will be doing away with their 5/8 mile configuration at the end of the 2019 season, focusing on a shorter racing layout. The United Racing Club will be part of the Wild Card Weekend at Bridgeport being billed as the “5/8-Mile Finale” November 8-9.