Having made the run from Wisconsin all of the way west to western Montana, we were thrilled to arrive in the Flathead Valley, home of the Montana Raceway Park speedway. Just to the east lies the Glacier National Park and some of the most beautiful country we've seen so far.
Montana Raceway Park hosted the G.E.T. Rich 212 race that offered a gold bar to the top th
We combine our coverage of the G.E.T. Rich 212 race at MRP with our visit to Colorado National Speedway, which we actually attended some three weeks later. I wanted to talk about the asphalt side of our Tour in the same issue, just like I combined dirt tracks last issue.
I had heard a lot about both of these speedways for some time before actually coming to them. Although I had been to Colorado to race at Pike Peak Int. Raceway, I never made it to the famous CNS track north of Denver. And I had corresponded with a MRP racer and heard lots of good things from my friend Dick Anderson about that track.
This whole western part of our trip will distinguish itself from the Midwest tracks somewhat. Although there was much to learn back east, the passion I saw in the tracks strung out along the Rocky Mountains was no less intense. So, let's get started.
Montana Raceway Park
Located in Kalispell, Montana, MRP is a jewel of a track. It is not only a good looking facility having been built just 12 years ago in 1990, but it lies in a valley that is surrounded by mountains. Just standing in the pits and looking around at the distant vistas almost takes your breath away.
And we had some time to take a day and travel into, through and around the Glacier National Park. If you decide to take in a race here, be sure to plan an extra day or two to explore. It will be well worth it.
Montana Raceway Park hosted the G.E.T. Rich 212 race that offered a gold bar to the top th
Our Tour bus was prominently displayed right in the fan area behind the grandstands. We ar
This car was covered in fake snow I guess. It was good camouflage for Anchorage, Alaska. T
Marie AuClaire was the track manager here for our visit, just like she had been when her parents built and ran the track before selling it to the new owners a few years back, the Thornton family. Giles Thornton's grandparents were the buyers and he races his Late Model here too. Unfortunately, they passed away and the race we were attending was a tribute to Giles grandmother, Gertrude, hence the initials, G.E.T. for Gertrude E. Thornton.
This race not only paid well, $8,000 to win, but the top three finishers were also given 14K gold 1-ounce bars with the name of the race imprinted on them. Once the race was over, all of the participants were lined up on the front stretch and paid in cash by armed Brinks–type guards. These armored car guys also handed out the gold.
There was a great crowd at MRP with the stands almost full. The weather was clear, the tem
The turnout was not what the track had expected due in part to them having one of their bigger races of the year, the Montana 200, just a few weeks before. And, this track is a long way from other tracks and getting teams to travel in this economy is not easy.
Nonetheless, this was a good show and plenty of fans were in attendance. The track spared no expense in putting this on, even hosting a buffet luncheon complete with china dishes and silverware.
We were asked to place our Tour motorhome inside the grandstand gates, right behind the main grandstands and next to the concession stand. I had run through some rain on the way out west and had not been able to find a truck wash before pulling in to the track. So, I had to hand clean the entire bus with a few cloth towels and a bottle of 409. It worked great.
Every track needs a great scoreboard. This very big one at MRP shows places through tenth
The track itself is about 3/8-mile in length and banked 12 degrees in the turns. It was a bit of a tricky track due to the way it was shaped. It was how a particular car ran their line that determined how well the lap went. And there were distinct transitions from the exit of the turns onto the straights. Having the right shock package would help the car maintain bite and I saw more than a few cars having trouble in this area.
As with most long races, the most consistent handling car was the first to the checkered flag. Several cars were indeed fast, but got caught up in trying to pass too aggressively and ended up having to make their way through traffic time and time again.
Young drivers should not get too disappointed when sent to the rear, they should instead see it as an opportunity to learn how to pass and advance. Where else is that valuable experience going to come from? I have seen very good racers go to the rear and not complain. They have the confidence to be able to come right back to the front.
This is the most unique and best looking flagman’s stand at MRP I think I have ever seen,
I just saw on the MRP website that Rick Crawford will be the new promoter/manager for the track for the 2013 season having most recently managed the Mobile Speedway. I'm sure Rick will do a great job and it's refreshing to see a veteran racer run a race track. I really believe he will have a much better perspective for the point of view of the most important element of short track racing promotion, the race teams themselves.
Colorado National Speedway
Jim Nordhougen, track promoter, showed me the way around Colorado National Speedway and we
I have consulted with some of the top racers at this NASCAR sanctioned track over the past 15 years and had always wanted to come out here. I love Denver, the Rocky Mountains, and snow. Although I wouldn't see much of the latter, I would spend about three weeks in the Fort Collins KOA, ride the mountain trails in my Jeep Wrangler, play some golf, and enjoy a bit of a break after our hectic Wisconsin run.
I made four trips out this way in the early '90s staying in Beaver Creek, Frisco, and Leadville with friends from Florida who had moved out here. I almost moved myself, but lost out in a family vote. But I never forgot the feeling of those tall mountains. It was good to be back.
From CNS, you can see past the front range and into the peaks of the Rockies. We were greeted by Jim Nordhougen, the track owner/manager/promoter. He proceeded to tell us all about his passion for this track and how he had made many improvements in the operation over the past few years.
What he came up with included two wide restarts (as opposed to the traditional single-file restart) where the leader chooses which side, a separate starting line before the finish line (so, there could be no jumping the start), special events not racing related such as a monster truck only show, qualifying three at a time to cut down on the length of the program (easily done using the transponders), separate fast dash races, one for the quickest half of the field and another for the other half, and a chain X race where three cars are chained together and race in a figure 8 layout.
He proceeded to tell us all about his passion for this track and how he had made many improvements in the operation over the past ...
In the dash races, the "less than fastest half" race provides a winner who normally does not run up front and or win feature races. And, after winning this dash, they are automatically included in the draw for pole of the feature event. So, this sub-winner gets cash plus a trophy plus could end up starting on the pole for the main event. How cool is that?
A couple of future stars talking over what is to come. And this is our obligatory head-and
Jim also caters to local businesses by providing an exclusive area with a full bar, tables, food and comfortable seating. It gives companies a chance to entertain clients, provide fun for valuable employees, and added value for being a track sponsor.
The track was a 3/8-mile oval with medium banking. It has a couple of severe dips that pretty much exclude any bumpstop or coil bind setups. The transitions are just too much for that. So, conventional setups rule out here.
The ones who ruled the top two classes, at least on this night, were Bruce Yackey in his Late Model and a Grand American Modified prepared by David Gee. Coincidentally, or not, these two are partners in G.A.M. (Greely Automotive Machine) engines, builders of high performance motors for all types of competition.
I try to notice the extent of the safety crew and preparations when I visit tracks. At CNS
On a tricky track like CNS, a lot of things must be taken into consideration. Experience in driving this track counts a lot, but chassis preparation is everything. Along with the difficulty of driving the correct line comes the necessity of keeping the car under you, or keeping the four tires attached to the asphalt.
The cars that did well here were the ones that had good shock packages, great balance, and were looked after as far as the basics of alignment. I saw more than one car fade quickly after a fast start, a sure sign of an unbalanced setup.
Jim doesn't crowd the show with too many classes. There are three stock car classes plus the chain race. This keeps the event to a comfortable length and allows families a chance to get home at a decent hour. Too many tracks crowd too much racing into a Friday or Saturday night and overrun the curfew. Kids have a shorter attention span than adults and if you expect to draw whole families, you've got to keep the program inside a certain time frame or risk losing the interest of the front gate people.
For entertainment purposes, the track ran a chain “X’ race where three cars are chained to
I like to see many different classes and the Legends and late model trucks are gaining pop
We were on the lookout for Smokey’s Chevelle and we think we’ve found it. I have seen a ha
Experience in driving this track counts a lot, but chassis preparation is everything
Now that we have completed our stay in the Denver area, we head south down I-25 toward New Mexico where we will stop at the I-25 Speedway in Pueblo, Colorado. Thereafter, we will be staying for a spell in Raton, New Mexico before moving to our most southerly destination, Albuquerque and the NAPA Speedway. Both of these tracks have lots to offer and the extent of the various racing acativities at NAPA will amaze you.