Racing director has big plans
January 19, 2013
I had the opportunity last week to sit down with Dan Simpson, the new managing director of the race track in Fernley, which has been renamed Reno Tahoe Fernley Speedway. Simpson is a life-long racer who has raced just about everything on wheels in his career. He is also the head of the King of the West sprint car series, which is moving into Northern Nevada in a big way this season. Simpson has purchased the oval track property, and will also operate the road course under a lease arrangement.
Race fans and racers will see lots of new amenities this season. Simpson is refurbishing the current grandstand seating and will be adding seats he has obtained from the Rangers baseball park. There also will be permanent bathrooms installed, permanent concession stands, and showers in the pit area for competitors who want to camp overnight. Perhaps the most important change from the racers’ standpoint is the improvement to the track itself. Simpson told me that they are bringing in 150 truckloads of high quality clay from a pit in Fernley. They will take out the top two feet of existing dirt, remove all the rocks, and put the new clay on top.
An electronic timing and scoring system with transponders will be used to score the races. Future plans include an 11 -foot by 25-foot diamond vision screen that will function as a scoreboard and can also be used to show video replays and in-car video. A solar array will provide power, and new LED lighting for the track will be installed.
“It is a work in progress,” said Simpson, noting that it will take some time to implement all of the improvements. He hopes to have the scoreboard operational by the end of the 2013 season.
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Simpson also said that he was thrilled to be working with Vuki Wilson and Matt Ramthun, who operated the track last season. The pair will stay on to run the operation, with pretty much the same local racing classes as last season. Simpson told me that he was very impressed with what he saw of the operation last year, and wants to maintain the atmosphere and enthusiasm of both the volunteers and the racers.
As far as the schedule goes, there will be 10 points races for the local racing divisions – April 14 and 28; May 12 and 26; June 9; July 7 and 21; Aug. 18; and Sept. 1 and 15. On three of those dates, June 9, Aug. 18, and Sept. 15, IMCA Modifieds and Dwarf cars will compete in a special series that consists of those three races at Reno-Tahoe-Fernley and three races at American Valley Speedway. The King of the West sprint cars will compete at the track with two-day shows on May 17-18; July 5-6; Aug. 9-10; Sept. 13-14; and Oct. 25-26. One of the local racing divisions will race those weekends as a support race for the sprint cars. There also will be a flat-track AMA motorcycle race in conjunction with the Street Vibrations motorcycle show in September.
Simpson intends to keep the track as busy as possible, and is working on staging vintage and TT motorcycle races on a regular basis. He also has an idea for something he calls the “Four Hour Rally de Lemons,” which will use part of the dirt oval plus an infield section with some tricky turns and jumps. He is already working on building some four-cylinder “pro stock” cars for the race, which as the name implies will last for four hours. Four drivers will be assigned to each car, and the race will be red-flagged each hour for a driver change. It sounds like great fun. He is also working on plans for a number of driving schools, both on the road course and on the dirt oval.
Of course, all this takes money. Simpson is actively pursuing sponsorship from a major Reno hotel/casino, as well as sponsorships from local businesses. For further information, or to find out about sponsorship, go to either http://www.rtfspeedway.com or http://www.fernley95Aspeedway.com.
To find out about becoming a volunteer at the track, contact Matt Ramthun at 775-830-2993.