Sunday, February 19, 2012

OneTrack Gone, Another Back?

I was dismayed at the news that Shepps Speedway near Alexander,Il was closing. Because the tracks regular race night had been Sunday for the three seasons of its existence, I had only been there a handful of times, as my Sunday nights are spent at Quincy Raceways. However races such as the UMP Summernationals, held on nights other than Sunday had given me the opportunity to make the trip of just over 100 miles, and each time I came away impressed. Due to a very limited area between the old highway and the railroad tracks, the set up for the tight 1/4 mile was a bit unique, but the facility was still more than satisfactory, and the racing was of the edge of your seat variety, especially when the ground pounding super late models took the green flag. With the early off season announcement by track owner Steve Sheppard Jr. that the track would be switching to Fridays and would at least occasionally host the super lates, I had already penciled in a few flying trips to the east after work on Fridays. So the abrupt press release announcing the track not only would not open, but would become the new home of the family salvage business only added to the sinking feeling regarding the many tracks within driving distance of my home that were either shuttered completely or running a limited schedule. So when word came late this week that an interested party from Wentzville,Mo. had applied for a special use permit with the intention of refurbishing and reopening the Montgomery County Speedway near the junction of Highway 19 and I-70 at Danville, Mo., I wanted to share the news. Not unlike Shepps, MCS is a tight 1/4 mile that offered up some breathtaking super late model and A modified action in the mid to late 2000's before closing a few seasons ago. It had been my understanding that the track fixtures were being sold off and the land around it would be otherwise developed, but based on what I assume are recent photos, the track, grandstands and other buildings appear to remain. Just recently news broke that a drag strip is being developed just down the road from the oval track, so there is reason for optimism that the permit will be granted. At this time no other details have been released, but at least there is reason to hope that another dirt oval will come back to life!
Combined with the plans for a " specials " schedule at Memphis, Mo., a return to full time racing at Bloomfield, Ia, and confirmation of racing again this season at Columbus Junction, Ia., brings hope of the beginning of a return to health for area tracks!
Quincy Raceways has been weel represented at Speedweeks, with regular competitors Michael Long, Dave Weitholder, and Jake Griffin all competing in modified action. Long has enjoyed considerable success, with several top ten finishes, including a second to NASCAR veteran Kenny Wallace. Weitholder had mechanical issues early, then had an outstanding qualifying effort washed out by rain. 13 year old Griffin had success in the Bullrush dash before losing an engine. Jake is looking to branch out this season, as he will be competing not only at Quincy with his UMP late model and UMP modified, but also on Friday nights at Hawkeye Downs in the asphalt late model division. The diminutive youngster has made great strides in his dirt program, and will be someone to watch as he tackles pavement racing.
While our 2012 season is set to kick off the last weekend in March, Belleville, Il Speedway and Highland, Il Speedway have schedule a two night event March 16 and 17 for the UMP late models, paying $1500 to win each night, plus a bonus to sweep both nights. If the weatherman cooperates, I might have to change my thinking...

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