Circling an extremely slick track in his red nonwinged sprint car at speeds approaching 100 mph, Jason Grady probably felt some butterflies.
Piloting small cars equipped 850 horsepower engines nothing new for Grady however, and thus, a few nervous moments during victories at Fairgrounds Speedway on Friday and Saturday night did little to faze the longtime driver, who has been racing since he was 15.
“(Sprint cars) are like a wild beasts,” said Grady, who races out of Farmington. “They’re like a car on serious steroids.”
Among the highlights of the weekend’s sprint car action was a wild crash on Saturday night that resulted when Las Lunas, New Mexico driver Bill Waltman lost control on the back straightaway and rolled several times before coming to rest on a berm above the track.
“That’s what happens when you come up on somebody too fast,” said Waltman, who walked away from the wreck with a broken finger from which the bone was protruding. “The car is completely junked, but the track was great, and we’ll be back.”
Other highlights included several nail-biting finishes in several International Motor Contest Association classes that included sport-compacts, hobby-stocks, sport-mods, modifieds and sprint cars.
Local hobby stock driver Brooklyn Kibel finished first in the hobby stock class on Friday night, and Dove Creek resident Cameron Spangler finished fifth in the sport-mod class on Saturday night. Complete results for all the classes were not available as of the press deadline.
Throughout the two-night racing event, fans consistently cheered despite spats of rain and after the conclusion of the races, drivers agreed that they will not soon forget the slick Cortez track and the near-capacity crowd.
“(Fairgrounds Speedway) is totally different than my hometown track in Albuquerque,” Grady said. “Here, it’s real finesse. “This is the slickest place I’ve ever been to and I’ve been all over the country.”
“I love this race track, it’s just amazing” added Spangler. “We have cars coming all the way from Arizona and Texas this year and the racing has been really good.”
A total of 17 sprint cars raced at the track over the weekend, marking the first time that the high powered cars have competed in Cortez in nearly 20 years. While sprint cars will not compete at every race in Cortez this season, sprint car drivers will return to the area for a race in July.
“It’s really cool to see the sprint cars back,” Spangler said. “People love them and it’s really cool for the race track.”