While racetracks around the country remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fairgrounds Speedway in Cortez emerged one of the most popular racing venues in the Southwest as drivers hit the road to compete in the sport they love.
A full range of racing, highlighted by sanctioned International Motor Contest Association events, have taken place, and on Friday and Saturday, drivers put on a show for packed stands.
“(Race promoter) Gene Williams has brought our racetrack back to the Four Corners community,” local driver and engine builder Tony Hill said. “He has stepped up and worked his butt off. Our track is in good condition, we have a great crowd out there, and we have more cars in the pits than we’ve had in years.”
Drivers jump at chance to competeWhile two full evenings of nonstop racing stole the show, drivers from throughout the U.S. Southwest seemed as excited to talk about trading paint and battling for checkered flags as they were to talk about the importance of maintaining normalcy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to several racers, Fairgrounds Speedway is the only track within a 500-mile radius to host dirt track events this summer.
“It has definitely been challenging throughout the state with all of the regulations,” Grand Junction driver Billy Haack said. “Gene (Williams) has done a hell of a job out here letting us race and have a place to play. It gets everybody outside, and it puts some money in the economy too.”
“I think our county commissioners have set an example of what our country can do right now,” said Hill. “They’re stepped up and done something different than anyone else has done, and it shows here at our racetrack. We’ve got huge car counts, and nobody is sick. I don’t know of one person in our racing community who has come down with the virus. I don’t know what that’s all about, but I know that our county is doing right.”
Although masks were not common during the two-night event, which featured numerous “Trump 2020” hats and shirts, audience members who chose to remain distanced from one another were afforded that opportunity by what appeared to be a respectful and diverse crowd.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Dove Creek driver Brody Spangler. “Being in the Western United States, we don’t got many racetracks out here running. It’s pretty neat to be able to support these guys (at Fairgrounds Speedway).”
Out-of-town drivers provide stiff competitionFast vehicles and behind-the-wheel talent have been especially evident this season as drivers made an exodus to Cortez.
Among those were a large group of drivers from Arizona and smaller contingencies from Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.
“There are some real good guys from Phoenix who are always up in the national points,” Hill said. “There is no other place to run, so we’re getting some huge competition. It’s good.”
Among the top local finishers during the weekend races were Dove Creek’s Race Fisher, who won the stock car race Saturday, and Dove Creek’s Randy Broderick, who won the dwarf division Saturday.
Other top local finishers included Cortez’s Timothy Ihnen, who finished second in the southern sportmod classification Friday and Saturday; Cortez driver Tony Hill, who finished third in the stock car race Friday; and Dove Creek’s Brody Spangler, who finished third in the modifieds race Friday.
Asked to explain the satisfaction that came from competing in front of the large crowd, Spangler said there was no greater feeling for a racer than giving fans a good show.
“I hate to say it, but that’s the show up (in the stands),” the Dove Creek driver said. “We’re just here to do our best for them, and as long as they’re happy, we’re happy.”
The next races at Fairgrounds Speedway will take place Aug. 21 and Aug. 22 and will feature a range of IMCA events, along with sprint car races.