New season roars to life at racetrack

MINERAL WELLS – Racing kicked off with a rush Sunday at the West Virginia Motor Speedway near Mineral Wells, as a new season started for a variety of motor sports in the area.

The first event at WVMS was the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the day also featured the Renegades of Dirt traveling modified series and EDGE Hot Mods.

For the first time in over two years, the newly shortened 4/10 mile dirt oval will see a full slate of events from April through October, officials said.

“We decided to shorten the race track,” said promoter Brian Ferrell. “We had drivers saying the track was too big and too fast.

“We have tried to take some steps to slow it down a bit to their liking. We also made it a little smaller so the local guys can come out here and compete with the guys in these traveling series.”

Being the first event with the new configuration, track officials were not sure how many people would be out Sunday, but they were still anticipating a good turnout.

“You never know, but we are expecting a large crowd,” Ferrell said Sunday. “We are not sure, so we will just have to wait and see.”

Sunday’s event featured such competitors as Jimmy Owens, Scott Bloomquist, Don O’Neal and Steve Francis among others.

Many of the people are fans of dirt track racing, Ferrell said, adding for the last couple of weeks he had been fielding calls from people as far away as Florida, Michigan and New York state who were interested in coming in for Sunday’s race.

“Lucas is one of the premiere dirt late model groups in dirt track racing,” he said. “In NASCAR, you have your Dale Earnhart Juniors and so on.

“In the dirt world, these are those people,” he said.

Organizers are planning to bring in a number of events throughout the 2013 season.

“This is a special event track,” Ferrell said of the venue south of Mineral Wells. “We are trying to run, once a month, different classes of cars and events to bring in the different fan groups and events.

“Over the Memorial Day weekend we will have monster trucks here. It is not always going to be race cars. It will be monster trucks, sprint cars and whatever.”

Ferrell credits Lynn Chapman, president of West Virginia Motor Speedway, with putting the time and effort in to bringing these kind of events to the 69-acre facility.

Cyndi Stiffler, of Farmdale, Ohio, was part the Integra Fabricating team in the Renegade Tour for modifieds on Sunday. Her husband and daughter both race.

“We have two modifieds,” she said. “We travel all over Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“We are following the tour this year,” she said, adding this is her 14-year-old daughter Amanda’s first season running the modifieds.

“She is doing pretty good,” Stiffler said. “She is a little undermotored, but she is doing good.

“We are taking baby steps. We took her out on the tour to get her a little better and a little faster.”

Her husband, Scott, has been racing for 20 years and their daughter had grown up in the sport.

“It is a family thing and we just love doing it,” Stiffler said.

A large crowd of people were waiting in line at the main gate and people steadily were coming in for awhile at the start of Sunday’s program.

Marc McCormick, of Vienna, was one of the people looking forward to getting in to see the races.

“I came out with my son,” he said. “He wanted me to come out with him.

“It is the first time I had been out here in years.”

McCormick was a racer himself at one time.

“I want to see the races,” he said. “I used to drive these cars from 1979 to 1990.

“The cars slip and slide around. It is just a great show. It is the greatest show on dirt. I did it for 11 years and I wouldn’t have traded it for a minute.”

Inside the gates, Chuck Barr, of Parkersburg, was walking around with family waiting for the races to start. They came out to see some friends of theirs from Gallipolis, Ohio, compete in the modifieds.

Barr came with his boys, one who is 4 years old and another who is getting ready to leave for the military in June.

“We are trying to get in as much racing as we can,” he said. “We are out here for about every race they have.”

Barr thinks the new track configuration will work out fine.

“It is going to take awhile to get it tuned in,” he said. “Everyone has their pros and cons about.”

Barr said he just enjoys the excitement of each race.

“I like it because it is wide open, sideways and it is just fun,” he said “It is like being a kid again and playing in the dirt.”