By DUSTY WIEGERT
Special to The Hays Daily News
SALINA, Kan. -- Three years ago opening night at the Salina Speedway was a far fetched idea.
The track sat dormant from 2007 to 2010, growing weeds and small trees while it seemed that racing might never return.
Then in 2011 the track sprang back to life courtesy of promoter Tommy Hendrickson with a complete rework of the track and facilities.
Now entering 2013 the track will open with an exciting schedule for the season including 25+ race dates!
Saturday April 13th's season opener brings the start of a new year with six divisions in action: Friesen Chevrolet Late Models presented by M&H Motors, Belleville Motorsports IMCA Modifieds, Xtreme Motor Sports IMCA Northern SportMods, Auto House Mod Lites, Budweiser IMCA Hobby Stocks, and T&R Dirt Construction Mini Stocks.
The Saturday night special edition of racing is due to the Salina Bombers Indoor Professional Football game on Friday night. Friday night's game will feature Salina Speedway night, showcasing cars and drivers from the Speedway.
One big change this season is the amended Stock Car division, now named the Coors Light Street Stocks, with an opportunity for more cars to compete in an opened rules format. They will make their season debut on April 26th and run on the nights when Late Models are off.
A huge event last year returns on May 31st as the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) National Tour rolls into town. Kevin Swindell won last year's inaugural event and afterwards remarked how it was the "funnest race of his life" as he exchanged slide jobs on the way to the win. This year's event will feature IMCA Modifieds and IMCA Northern SportMods as support classes.
June 21st will make Merchant's Night at the Speedway with many Salina area business' giving away tickets to fans.
The Independence Day weekend will once again feature the 3rd Annual Topless Challenge on July 5th. This unique event allows the fans a better view of the drivers as the IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Northern SportMods, and Mod Lites remove their roofs to race.
August will bring the annual Landstar night, a big one for the trucking company and CDL drivers in the area.
The season will conclude on September 27th with Championship Night, but the racing won't be done yet.
The 3rd Annual Fall Fling will take place October 3-5. Five divisions are on the tentative schedule to compete in the season ending event that many consider there favorites around the area.
Many improvements have been done to the facility, including upgraded lighting in the pits and the grandstands, and a new sound system in the pits as well. A new lineup board featuring a flat screen TV is also available with up to the second lineup announcements. A new parts building has also been constructed to house Xtreme Motor Sports parts for the racers.
Another huge change is for the families of fans. Beginning this season all kids ages 17 & under get FREE admission to the grandstands! The Speedway would like to make it entirely possible to bring a big family out and enjoy Friday night racing all season long.
The T&R Dirt Construction Mini Stocks will likely see a new champion or the 2013 season. Last year's champion, Brendon Thiessen, has announced that he will run a limited schedule in 2013 due to work commitments, leaving the door open to a host of young drivers seeking the top spot. Fourteen year old Russell Roberg set a blistering pace throughout last summer to capture a plethora of wins and is a definite favorite along with last year's Rookie of the Year Elliott May, Fall Fling winner Brian Dunsworth, Dallas Dunn, John McNabb, and Amber Bird. They will be joined by veterans Stacey Fuller, Randy Rice, Paco Montague, Wayne Juenemann, and more. The Mini Stocks will compete 21 times in 2013, with 19 scheduled points events.
For the Budweiser IMCA Hobby Stocks, last year came down to tie-breakers for the Championship with GW Fuller taking home the hardware over a tie with Rick Slothower. Fuller will return to compete again for the top spot with car owner Bill Wolford. Most of last season's top 10 in the point standings will return along with a few new faces in a very competitive and high car count division. The IMCA Hobby Stocks have 21 events on the schedule, 19 of them being track points shows.
In 2012 Salina's Brandon Gray put the hurt on the Auto House Mod Lite division, capturing a string of wins to propel him to the Championship. In 2013 he turns with a new look to defend his title against a strong division of rising stars and a few somewhat new challengers in the division. Both Justin Kinderknecht and Danny Morrison Jr. look to swoop into the division to steal the spotlight in a talent packed atmosphere. The 5/8 scale modifieds powered by motor cycle engines continue to be a fan favorite for 2013 with much anticipation. The Mod Lites will race 16 times in 2013 with 15 of those being points events.
Capturing a Championship in the highly competitive Xtreme Motor Sports IMCA Northern SportMod division is no walk in the park, nor is it easy to do the year after winning Rookie of the Year, yet Jesse Levin accomplished that task last season. He piloted his #11J to the title easily over 2011 champion Josh Rice. Both return in 2013 to go after another crown against a slew of heavy hitters and rookies alike. The IMCA Northern SportMods will run nearly every event at the Speedway in 2013 for a total of 26 times, 24 of which are for track points.
As mentioned earlier in this article the Coors Light IMCA Stock Car division has been replaced with the Coors Light Street Stock division. The Street Stocks have always had a cherished place amongst Salina Speedway fans and teams and the division returning signals a much needed change for the fast stockers. Last season Austin Carter went on a winning streak to capture the division title over Justin Murdock. With Carter moving into the IMCA Northern SportMod division and Murdock stepping away a new champion will be crowned in the division that has sparked interest from not only the local contingent but also from drivers in Hutchinson and Wichita to Junction City and Topeka. The Street Stocks have 9 events tentatively scheduled to see how the division will do at the Speedway.
"Smokin'" Joe Cleveland was just that during the 2012 season, Smokin' Fast! Cleveland picked up a handful of wins en route to the Championship in the headlining Belleville Motorsports IMCA Modified division. Cleveland returns with a Grave Digger like wrap scheme to contend for multiple titles against some of the best in the Midwest. The IMCA Modifieds will be featured on the schedule 26 times for 2013, with 24 of those being for track points.
For the first time in over 20 years the Friesen Chevrolet Late Models presented by M&H Motors took to the track for a "season" of racing at the Speedway. With car counts increasing throughout the year a veteran of the Speedway took home the Championship, Delbert Smith, aka the Iceman. Smith battled his teammate Darrick Klima frequently during the year to come out on top. Smith's son Dan Smith will also run with the division in 2013 along with many new faces in what's expected to be a banner year for the division. Ryan Grit, last year's winner of a new 604 crate motor courtesy of Friesen Chevrolet, also expects to be a contender for the title. There are 14 events scheduled in 2013, with 13 counting for track points.
With the exception of the Saturday night season opener, racing on Friday nights will occur throughout the season with pits opening at 5:00PM, Grandstands at 5:30PM, Hot Laps at 7:00PM, and racing to follow.
For more information on the Salina Speedway please visit www.racesalinaspeedway.com, Like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/salinaspeedway), or Follow us on Twitter (@salinaspeedway1)