And so we begin our final year of the AMSOIL sponsored Tour of the United States. The last three years have taken us to three-quarters of the lower 48 states and we have logged more than 50,000 miles and lived full time for a full year on our Tour bus.
This run will be our longest in both distance and time. We began our journey on June 11 making the trip north from Daytona Beach to Nashville where we would get service on the bus and a new Tour wrap before continuing on ultimately to Utah. There we visit our first two racetracks away from home.
These are really not the first stops on this year’s Tour. Remember that we attended the Battle At The Beach in February at Daytona International Speedway. We had the Tour bus there for that historic event that was the first, and will probably be the last, of its kind. More on that later.
Once we had settled into our KOA in Salt Lake City, Utah, I researched our first two stops that would be reached from our base camp. First is Atomic Motor Raceway, a very remote dirt track, and the next week, Rocky Mountain Raceways oval track, a three-eighths–mile asphalt circle track and multiuse facility.
Our first dirt race was in the vicinity of an historic atomic research facility. The very
Atomic Motor Raceway
“Dust In The Wind” is a song by the 1970s group Kansas and that title best describes our visit to this track promoted excellently by Clem Metz. It lies a few hours north of SLC in a remote section of Idaho. As I researched the track and surrounding area, I realized that there was something very strange and unique about this track. Like no other we had seen before, this didn’t quite make sense.
Its location is on the edge of a very small town in the high plains desert. How small you ask? The population at last count was 29. So, the racers and spectators mostly come from far away to the races held here. The largest three cities are Idaho Falls, 45 miles away; Twin Falls, 120 miles; and Jackson, Wyoming, 145 miles, meaning that you’ve really got to want to come here.
Is this a future race car driver? I think so. This tyke is all dressed up in his driver’s
And they do. This was one of, if not the, most welcoming tracks I have ever been to. The atmosphere was relaxed, fun and although competitive, friendly. We were immediately greeted upon our arrival by a host of racers and the track crew.
The track lies just 5 miles away from one of the earliest and largest nuclear research facilities in the U.S. now called the Idaho National Laboratory. Here, years ago, the very first nuclear reactor was designed and built so that future powerplants and nuclear submarines could be powered by relatively “clean” means.
How clean was the process of development? This Super Fund site has undergone a restoration and cleanup costing more than a billion dollars. I couldn’t help but imagine how far that radiation had drifted over the years. Would our Tour bus now glow in the dark? I digress.
For our visit to AMR, the ASA Pro Trucks were running a race on the dirt for the very first time. For most of the drivers, this was their first time off asphalt and they all had a blast, excuse the pun. They were glowing with excitement. Hannah Newhouse, lying second in series points after this race remarked, “After the first practice back in the pits, I couldn’t get the smile off my face”.
The first 25 laps of a 40-lap race, was run smoothly and there were no cautions, somewhat of a surprise to me. Then the track dried a bit and as it got slicker, a few drivers forgot to slow down. On dirt, you can only go as fast as the track allows. That was something these drivers would need to learn. And they did.
Most of the heats and feature races would be a test of patience and opportunity. In the Mini-Stock race, 76-year-old Layne Shanholtz would show his fellow racers a thing or two about patience as he came from the back to finish Second in his heat and then go on to win the feature race putting him in the lead in the points.
Each of the winners drove a smooth and error-free race overcoming sometimes faster cars. And that should be a lesson to all dirt racers no matter where you race. Time after time, I have witnessed success due to patience and only driving the car as fast as the track will allow.
The two Modified classes put on quite a show too and all in all, our first dirt race of the Tour was a great success. Now on to our next stop in Salt Lake City and a lot of hot action.
Rocky Mountain Raceways
RMR is a facility that contains not only the oval track, officially known as America First Credit Union Super Oval, but also a dragstrip and moto-X track. It first opened in 1968 as the Bonneville Raceways and operated through the ’70s and ’80s as a dragstrip.
Then in 1995, the track was purchased by Spencer Young who owns the Young Automotive Group of car dealerships locally and transformed it into a state of the art facility with a new quarter-mile dragstrip, a 3/8-mile oval and then a motocross track that has been recently redesigned and remodeled.
We didn’t have far to go for our second race of the Tour. We were camping in our KOA near the heart of SLC and had only a 10-minute drive to this asphalt track situated near the Great Salt Lake. This show would be a bit short on teams, but to our amazement, the fans just kept coming.
The Midwest was going through a heat wave and the temps on this day would reach 104 with no clouds to shade us. I was thinking that the attendance would be low due to that heat, but I was wrong.
The track management put our bus right at the entrance to the grandstands and from this vantage point we could watch every fan walk by on the way to the seats. They came in early in droves and kept coming right up until the feature races began. I would say that the large stands were more than three-quarters full by the time the races began.
The show featured the Ford Focus Midgets, Modifieds, winged Sprint Cars, and double-deckers. The Sprint Cars are thrilling to watch with their high speeds on pavement, but the most exciting racing award went to those cars I had never seen or heard of before.
The karts run on a smaller track located inside the third mile big car track. These 500cc
There were two Modified classes, the Sport Mods and the IMCA modifieds. Both put on a grea
The double-deckers are two compact cars attached together and stacked on top of each other. There are two drivers. The one in the top car steers and the one in the bottom car operates the gas pedal and brakes. They run a different course configuration for every race and this one utilized half the track and half the figure eight course.
The lap started at the flag stand, ran counter-clockwise through turns one and two, then down into the infield along the “X” and then turned a sharp left past the flag stand again. As the race got going and it neared the end, the cars went into the last turn harder and harder and several times almost tipped over into the fence. It’s a strange thing to watch, but fun.
This track ran a very tight schedule and the racing was done by 9:30, the earliest I have ever seen a short track finish up. That was by design as the track manager, Mike Eames told me. This gives the families a chance to bring the kids and still get home at a decent hour to get them to bed.
Promoters should be more sensitive to the families when scheduling the races and moving the program along. If the races drag on too long, the families will have to leave early, before the final races which are usually the feature events, and as such, miss much of the best action.
It takes just a few of these “partial shows” for the families to decide to do something else for their entertainment. Dad leaves disappointed, the kids are tired and cranky, and mom just wants to do what is right for the kids. And I can’t blame her.
By setting an earlier finishing time, everyone wins, including the teams who sometimes travel great distances to compete and need to get going toward home after the event. I have never heard anyone complain about finishing early, but I’ve heard a lot of negative talk about shows that run long up to and past midnight.
So, kudos to RMR and the management team for running a great show, being sensitive to the needs of the racers and fans and operating a very clean and modern facility.
Moving on up the Road
Now that we’ve gotten a couple of races under our belt, it’s off to Idaho for more action. Our RV plan was to spend a few days in the Meridian/Boise area before our Fourth of July race on Thursday at Meridian Speedway, but a look at the projected temperatures for those days predicted 106 to 108 highs and that was not acceptable.
So, I searched and found an RV Park in the high altitudes of Stanley, Idaho, among the Sawtooth mountain range and quickly reserved a spot until Thursday morning. I am so glad I did that and if you are ever in Idaho in this area, please do yourself a favor and visit this area. It is one of the most amazing sights we’ve seen on our entire Tour.
We’ll come down from the upper regions and visit Meridian Speedway for their special 4th celebration on that Thursday and then get in another race at Stateline Speedway which lies all the way up on the east side of Spokane, WA, but still in Idaho. We’ll tell you all about those events in our next installment.
The track management put our bus right at the entrance to the grandstands and from this vantage point we could watch every fan walk by on the way to the seats
Don't forget to check out the rest of our series on The 2013 AMSOIL Great American CT Tour!
Atomic Motor And Rocky Mountain Raceways
Meridian And Stateline Speedways
Wenatchee and South Sound Speedways
Skagit and Deming Speedways
Evergreen, Douglas County, and Coos Bay
Calistoga, and Silver Dollar Speedways