We have left Wisconsin after two solid months of racing and have traveled west to Montana for our visit to the Rocky Mountains. Once we got settled, we visited three dirt tracks, Gallatin Speedway in Belgrade, Montana; Gillette Thunder Speedway in Gillette, Wyoming; and Casper Speedway in of all places, Casper, Wyoming. We cover these three dirt tracks in this one installment because they are all dirt, something we have wanted to get to after all of that asphalt, and the last two tracks are very similar in the way they are run.

Our trip west took several days as we traveled almost 1,300 miles to our RV park situated in the woods outside Kalispell, Montana. Why Kalispell you might ask? Because we did a race there that I will talk about next month. Meanwhile, let's go over some dirt track information.

I want to note here that I rearranged the order of the tracks I'm writing about from the schedule so I could keep the dirt tracks together for this issue. The reason why lies in the fact that dirt racing is so different out here for several good reasons. One is that you don't really have large concentrations of population to draw both fans and racers from, so the fact that they exist at all is amazing and due to something we'll explore.

Most of these towns were established by early explorers and cattlemen who ventured into this dangerous Indian territory in the early to mid 1800s. There is still a sense of isolation out here unlike anything we see back east.

Gallatin Speedway

This track is located in the shadow of the Gallatin Field, a modest sized airport just 10 miles northwest of Bozeman. The significance is that I saw more private jets come and go from that airport than I have ever seen before anywhere. The attraction is the Gallatin river, with excellent fly fishing in the summer and Big Sky Ski area the big draw in the winter. So, the economy is doing alright here in this area.

The speedway was running Sprint Car races this Friday night and many of the teams came from far away. One team showed up from Petaluma, California, a town and racetrack we will be visiting this year for our AMSOIL CT Tour of the West Coast. And a local AMSOIL dealer was sponsoring the races for this date.

The NSA Sprint Shootout was the feature event and teams from eight states showed up coming from as far away as California, a journey of more than 1,000 miles. The other seven states included Oregon, Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Washington, Nevada, and Alberta, Ontario, Canada.

Dave and Sue Weisz run this track and did a great job of managing a large crowd and many Sprint Car teams. It was said that any time the Sprint Cars show up, the fans flock to the track. The other classes running in conjunction with the Sprints were the Street Stock and the Super Stocks that compete in the Wissota AMSOIL Dirt Track Series, the regular sanction for this track.

The track itself was in great condition, was a black consistency similar to our last dirt track, I-35 Speedway in Iowa. I said about that track, that I had never seen dirt so black. So, now I know it must run across the country at this latitude. Except for a brief time during the heat races, the track was dust free. That period was mainly due to having to wait till the sun went down to add water to keep it from drying out more.

This track has very nice grandstands too. The parking is large and would easily accommodate a full house. And on this night, it almost did fill up. Being out of town and alongside the airport, there is no objection to the sounds of racing. This is a real problem back east where urban sprawl has crept up on, and surrounded, many racetracks that used to be out in the sticks.

The Sprint Cars put on a great show, the fans were all pleased and we came away from the experience with a feeling that the show was a huge success. It speaks well of the teams and their passion for this kind of racing that they will travel these distances for a one day show. Long live Sprint Car racing.

Gillette Thunder Speedway

Unlike Gallatin, Gillette is more of a club sanctioned dirt track where the teams mostly are in control of the event. A president is elected and oversees the operations and policing of the races. The group is called the Gillette Stock Car Racing Association, or GSCRA for short.

The town of Gillette is out there in a very isolated spot along I-90, a highway that connects I-25 to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Along this interstate is a lot of nothing. I asked why a town of 30,000 people even existed way out here. The person I asked, one of the officials, pointed out to the north across some hills where I could see a large industrial plant of some sort, and a hill that had been cut away exposing a long, black streak.

"Coal?," I asked. "Yep," he replied. Just 50 or so feet under our feet runs a huge vein of coal that extends as far as the eye could see. Wyoming, and especially Gillette, supply some 35 percent of the nations coal, out-producing West Virginia.

There are also vast quantities of oil and methane gas, as well as uranium and precious metals in Wyoming. This town became "famous" for what has been termed by psychologist ElDean Kohrs, the "Gillette Syndrome." That is an attempt to explain the social disruption that is a result of rapid growth of an industry such as the coal extraction that cause boomtowns such as Gillette to appear.