Recently Elko Speedway named me, along with Pete Hackett, as the announcers for this upcoming season. This excites me on many levels including the fact that Elko is one of the very few tracks in America that deliver both asphalt and dirt races at the same exact location, and has since 2010. Bristol Motor Speedway experimented with it about a decade ago with mixed success and Berlin (MI) Raceway ran a dirt race last October and will try again this autumn.
I have come to learn that a lot goes into switching the race surface back and forth. Here is a thumb nail sketch of this labor intensive process:
Elko Speedway uses the same dirt every year to limit the number of rocks. It takes about 16 hours to install the 3200 cubic yards of dirt on top of the asphalt track at a level of 4-6 inches deep.
The racing groove is much different for the dirt cars, Elko Speedway makes the track about 12 foot wider to accommodate the swooping corners needed by the dirt cars.
Once the surface is laid, the T.L.C. begins. If the dirt is packed too hard the track will not soak in moisture pushing the surface up to the wall and drying out. Nothing is more boring that watching a truck watering the track after every race. Ideally they want the top two inches of soil to hold moisture and get tacky, but not too wet, causing ruts and slop.
Like a baseball groundskeeper, it takes constant maintenance and a person who can anticipate problem areas before they happen to have a smooth and fast surface.
Elko Speedway will race three dirt weekends this spring with the $5000 to win Elko Mod Nationals April 26-27th, Spring Dirt Nationals May 3 & 4 and then the highly anticipated World of Outlaws Sprint cars on Friday May 10th with a Late Model race event on May 11th.
Then the process of removing the dirt surface begins, it takes about 30 full hours to complete the process of scraping off the dirt by a trained heavy equipment operator who is very careful not to damage the tar below. Then they sweep the track with a sidekick broom, then wash the track, walls, billboards and even the grandstand with a 5000 gallon pressure washer. The track sweeper does its job next and finally the asphalt cars hit the track for practice on Thursday May 16th.
I personally like both the dirt and asphalt racing but, many race fans are loyal to just one or the other. So, over the next couple of months you might see a variety of bumper stickers in the parking lot. Anything from "Dirt is for racing, asphalt is to get you there," to "Dirt is for farming, asphalt is for racing."
Elko Speedway is one of the few places where you can take in both types of racing and decide for yourself without having to move from your favorite seat.
Get more information at www.elkospeedway.com
*Dean Reller photo