BELPRE - A former dirt track racetrack in Washington County is reopening this month under new management, over a dozen years after the last race was held on the track.
The Legendary Hilltop Speedway, located on Blue Knob Road off Ohio 7 between Belpre and Marietta, will be operated by FLY Motorsports LLC co-owners Christopher Erb of Belpre, Steve Valencourt of Parkersburg and Lhan Weppler of Devola.
The quarter-mile dirt track, which opened in 1962, has been used for racing since 1998. Weeds reached three feet high on the property when the group began efforts in April to reopen the track and tons of dirt had to be moved to put the track back in shape for racing, Erb said.
Photos by Wayne Towner
Three local men, from left, Steve Valencourt, Lhan Weppler and Christopher Erb, are working to reopen the Legendary Hilltop Speedway on Blue Knob Road off Ohio 7, midway between Belpre and Marietta. Area racers will be able to test the track today and the “Grand Re-opening” of the track is scheduled for Aug. 19.
"This is a great opportunity to take over a place that has so much history," he said. "We have so much respect for this great track and what it has meant to the sport of dirt track racing over the years. It's time that this track was brought back to life."
Erb said the track will race on Friday nights and run Mini-Stocks (4 cyl.), Pure Stocks, Street Stocks, Mod Lites, TSMA Modified, TSMA Hot Mods and Mini Wedges weekly. It will also run several special events throughout the year on Sunday afternoons to include Fastrak Crate Late Models and Enduro Races. The current season is expected to run through October and possibly into November and they hope to get a full season started next spring.
Prior to deciding to go into business together with the track, Erb had done some racing himself over the past couple of years, primarily at Muskingum County Speedway, Zanesville and Skyline Speedway, but Valencourt had not. The racetrack property is owned by Hilltop Auto Wrecking and the three men are the latest to lease it over the years to operate the track.
Legendary Hilltop Speedway
The Legendary Hilltop Speedway, located off Ohio 7 between Belpre and Marietta, is reopening under new management after closing in 1998.
The quarter-mile dirt track was originally opened in 1962 and is now being reopened by local residents Christopher Erb, Steve Valencourt and Lhan Weppler.
A "test and tune" open house for racers will begin at 1 p.m. today for local dirt-track racers interested in checking out the reopened track. The public is also invited.
The Grand Reopening of the Legendary Hilltop Speedway is scheduled for Aug. 19.
"I had been looking for some type of business maybe that I could enjoy being a part of and this fit the bill," Valencourt said.
Erb said a lot of work has been done on the facility to get it back in race-usable form, including work on the racing surface. There are also plans for replacement of the entire press box, work on the grandstands, a new concession stand, painting and other work. Temporary seating will be used while the owners bring the original grandstand up to current codes.
"The good thing about Legendary Hilltop Speedway is everything is already there and laid out the way a good racing facility should be, we just have to take what's there and make the necessary upgrades and fixes," Erb said. "Our goal is to get the track up and running as soon as we can."
Tentatively, the Legendary Hilltop Speedway will unofficially roar back to life today at 1 p.m. with a "Test N' Tune" day.
The cost will be $20 for cars wanting to try the track and free for the public.
The official grand reopening of the track is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 19 with Mini Stocks, Pure Stocks, Street Stocks, Mod Lites, Modifieds, Hot Mods, and Mini Wedges. General admission is $8-$10 with pit passes for $25.
The opening date is subject to the amount of work that needs done to the facility and weather conditions. If things get going, they hope to have weekly events each Friday
"We've been getting a really good response, mainly from spectators and racers," Erb said of interest in the racetrack. "A lot of racers say their grandparents or their parents raced here when they were a kid. They really want to see it open so they can come back and be a third or fourth generation (racer)," Erb said.
"Everyone I've talked to has either a relative or a friend or someone they know who has raced here in the past," he said.
More information is available on the track's official website at www.legendaryhilltop.com. Race fans can also follow Legendary Hilltop Speedway on Facebook by liking the official Legendary Hilltop Speedway Facebook page. The track can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erb said the use of the Internet and social media has been a big positive for the project from the beginning. They have been keeping track of their restoration work online and continue to receive positive and immediate feedback from those interested in the project.