Last days of Champion
August 27, 2005
I remember an old Groucho Marx joke where the doctor told the patient, “I’m giving you 30 days to live.”
The patient replied that he couldn’t pay his bill, and the doctor said, “OK, I’ll give you another 30 days.”
Just the reverse is happening with Champion Speedway, as its life has just been shortened by a week. The last race for the 42 year old facility had been scheduled for Sept. 24, but now Sept. 17 will be the grand finale. I called promoter Les Kynett about the change in schedule, and was told that it was because the demolition date had been moved up.
“Escrow is scheduled to close on the 27th, and the new buyer is going to raze the track almost immediately. They’re concerned about liability if someone gets onto the track and hurts themselves,” Kynett told me.
By holding the final event on the 17th, the track will have time to dismantle equipment that is being sold to other racing facilities . . . scoreboard, lights, PA system, concession stand equipment, etc.
“Thunder Bowl Speedway, Reno-Fernley Raceway, and Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon will all be purchasing equipment, and they need time to dismantle it and remove it from the facility before the bulldozers move in,” said Kynett.
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The track’s final days will be a mix of tradition and a celebration of one of its newest racers. Mackena Bell, a 15 year old sophomore at Carson High School who is currently locked in a battle for the Legends points championship, will be honored with “Mackena Bell Night at the Races” on September 17. The race is sponsored by K. Bell Tile & Marble, and autographed framed photos and Mackena Bell racing shirts will be included in the drawing prizes for the evening. In addition, Kynett told me that the track will be hosting a barbecue from noon to 3 p.m. at the track, and everybody is invited.
“We want racers, former racers, officials, former officials, crews, press, and especially fans to come out for the farewell party,” said Kynett.
The feature race on the track’s last evening will be the finale of the CASA Sprint Car series, a 100-lap marathon that promises to be a barn-burner.
And because many of Mackena’s fellow Carson High students have not seen her race, Kynett is offering free admission the previous Saturday night, Sept. 10, for all CHS students who present their Student Body Card.
If you are reading this, you probably have more than a passing interest in racing, so it would behoove you to get out to Champion one last time. We’ve lost many great racing facilities over the years, mostly for the same reason . . . the property they sit on is more valuable as housing or shopping malls.
I had a discussion last week with Rob Woods, proprietor of RWW Fabrication, a race prep shop. Rob is also the local Legends dealer, and has a lot of strong ideas about the sport. It is Rob’s opinion, and one that I share, that local racing venues like Champion are also threatened because people have so many more entertainment choices these days.
And with NASCAR available on TV 24/7, a lot of folks choose to stay home and watch racing on the tube rather than go to the track. The problem is that the drivers you see in Nextel Cup, Busch Grand National, and Craftsman Truck races all got their experience at tracks like Champion, Reno-Fernley, Thunder Bowl, and Fallon. If those tracks fail due to lack of fans, lack of competitors, the greed of developers, or whatever . . . where will the next generation of drivers come from?
It’s sad but true that most kids who would have raced at these local tracks in years gone by are now racing in the virtual world, on their personal computer or their X-Box or their Playstation. And while the video games are getting more and more realistic, they lack the one basic reality that was pointed out by my friend Parker Johnstone, a former Champ Car racer.
“What they need is a guy standing there with a sledgehammer to hit you in the head when you crash, so you can experience what that really feels like!” Amen, Parker!