With a spiffed up track, a boost of new racers and a new class of Legend cars, the Terrace speedway has doubled its popularity this summer.
The Terrace Stockcar Association built the 3/8 mile oval track on Queensway drive, south of the Skeena River, in 1967, and they gave it a complete overhaul this spring.
Phil Hustad, the association’s new president, said they built new bleachers on the south end, mowed weeds, moved the mud pits, and graded parts of the track and fixed up the tire boundaries.
The tune-up to the track came after the election of a fresh batch of executives, with new ideas and the right connections to make things happen, Hustad said.
Hustad was elected the new president, Kris Sweet is the new vice-president, Toni Reinert is the new treasurer and Jullian Brand-Kofoed is the new secretary.
Together they marshalled a handful of sponsors from as far as Smithers who donated equipment and help to clean up the track.
Hustad says they are planning more improvements next spring, including paving some pits and the entrance, expanding the sign fence, fixing the north grand stand and the timing booth.
But the facelift at the track isn’t the only thing that doubled the crowds at the races.
Hustad said the new class of Legend cars is stirring up new excitement for the sport, since the cars are new and among the fastest available.
“People who know about racing, know about [the cars],” Hustad said. “They’re like a go-cart on steroids… They bring a lot of interest out.”
The cars are small, 10.5 feet long, and have a motorcycle engine and so they bring racing speed up to the next level.
They also introduce a new level of competition into speedway, as they all have the same motors.
“It makes it a very level playing field… it’s not a money driven race, it’s a skill driven race,” Hustad said.
Hustad said the cars are actually what got him back into racing after he stopped in 2008 because of work commitments and the expense of the hobby.
Last November, he decided to jump back in, putting his name up for president of the speedway and starting a home business selling the cars.
But it hasn’t just been Legend cars getting more attention.
Paul Fleming, one of the speedway directors, said there’s been an increase in the car count in every one of the racing classes this year.
Last year averaged 8-10 bombers and four street stock racers, and this year it is up to an average of 14 bombers and 10 street stock, as well as five Legend cars on average in that new class.
“I think its partly the local economy,” said Fleming of the growth. “We haven’t had people, or there haven’t been funds to go racing… I think people have better stable jobs right now so it’s looking better.
“There’s also quite the contingent of young racers [who joined this year],” he added.
Previously there has been one or two racers 16 and under, but now seven young people are regularly racing. Of those, at least three simply hit their 14th birthday to allow them to race.
“Their parents have been out there, they’ve been around racing, and they’ve wanted to get into the cars, and now they are finally old enough to do it,” Fleming said.
They have recruited friends, and Fleming has encouraged a few young people to get into it this year, he added.
For Nathan Archer, one of the young bomber racers, both Fleming and family had a hand in getting him into the sport.
“I was 14 and wanted to drive cars,” Archer said. “My dad used to race, so I spent a lot of time out there when I was younger.”
When he turned 14, Archer was invited by Fleming to be his B driver, where he got a feel for racing and then later he bought his own car.
Archer said most of the young people have family connections, but a few have been drawn through Fleming and other racers.
“They want to be able to drive… you learn about defensive driving, how to keep in your lane and keep in front of people,” he said.
For him, it was also a chance to learn about mechanics and types of cars.
“It has taught me lots about automotive stuff and certain cars. It’s a great community to get in with: Everybody is so knowledgeable and willing to share knowledge and tricks of the trade,” he said.
As for the growth in fans, Archer said that comes with the added racers, but is also because of the new Legend cars.
“I think the Legend class has brought more fans out, because it’s a bit more intense,” he said. “Everyone is going faster, they are nicer cars, it’s a little more entertaining to watch,” he said.
The speedway races wrapped up last weekend with demo day, and mud races, originally planned for this weekend, were cancelled this year due to lack of volunteers.