|"A DIAMOND IS FOREVER"|
Toby Hallett Aka "Shipjumper99"
|“A DIAMOND IS FOREVER”|
By Toby W. Hallett
The feeling returned after a long absence Saturday night, many race fans know the
one I am talking about and it's just about the worst feeling in the world.
Arriving in Wheatland, MO around 3:30 central time I was not sure what to
expect, after all I had seen the photos, heard some comments but never, ever
imagined what I was about to witness. Turn south at the only yellow light in town
and there you are, “The Diamond of Dirt Tracks” Lucas Oil Speedway, the
facility is situated in the south east corner of town and it fits in nicely into the
quaint little town of 495 people.
Greeted by workers on horseback I began to realize that this was not your
ordinary racing facility. Big time auto racing track owners have built dirt tracks in
the past to be companion tracks to their NASCAR facilities and compared to this
place they have all failed miserably. Seating at most of them is way back from the
track not giving you that feeling that most of us dirt track fans desire, one of being
part of the action. The facilities are “cookie cutter” for the most part and all of
them lack character. This is not the case at Lucas Oil Speedway.
One trip through the pits and you quickly realize that this place was not built with
just the fans in mind. Concrete and asphalt cover the pits and many stalls have
amenities such as air and electricity hookups. A two bay car wash with an outside
wash for haulers is one that all racers love. The “hot pit” is an area just off of turn
4 with air and electric for those who encounter problems during the race and need
to change a tire or repair some damage. A huge backstretch grandstand provides
racers, crew, families, and sponsors a great view of the race track. On this night it
was also full of fans that were not able to get a seat on the packed front stretch.
Maybe his place was truly designed with the racer in mind, or was it?
The concrete Midway behind the front stretch grandstands provides fans with a
place to mingle and purchase their favorite drivers shirt or hat. Just outside of turn
one sits probably one of the greatest ideas ever implemented at a dirt track, an
oval concrete go cart track for kids of all ages to spend a little time at before and
during the races trying to beat your buddy, family or foe in a 10 lap race. For a
small fee of 6 dollars you strap yourself in and go at it in these “mini sprint” type
racecars. What a blast!
Bathrooms are certainly a topic for discussion at any track I have ever visited so I
decided to see what Mr. Forrest Lucas had up his sleeve for “The Diamond”. Tile
floors, individual stalls and very sanitary conditions almost made me think I was in
a high dollar conference center rather than a dirt track proving that nothing was
spared on this project.
The front stretch grandstands are more than just seating for fans. High back
stadium chairs, a gift shop and huge suites with indoor and outdoor seating provide
the opportunity for large corporate groups to entertain workers, clients or family.
At the south side of the front stretch is the Diamond Bar, complete with indoor
seating and closed circuit television. Once again the feeling of an upscale hotel bar
was the setting but a very relaxed atmosphere greeted everyone who entered. All
of this and I had not even seen any racing at this place so I was still very skeptical.
The track itself is one that every racer and fan dreams of, a big 3/8 that's
relatively flat with no obstructions of the racing surface. A great lighting system
provides drivers with daytime like driving conditions everywhere on the track. A
huge 20 scoring position scoreboard hang on either side of the mammoth video
board that provides replays and highlights. This place was truly built with the fans
in mind and certainly they achieved that. Many fans I talked to say that the place
is very racey every night and usually have a great crowd every week. With
amenities like this I can understand why.
I have been to so many tracks in the country, Dirt Tracks, NASCAR, NHRA, and
every other type and NOTHING, that's right NOTHING compares to Lucas Oil
Speedway. I found one thing that needed to be addressed (no lights in spectator
parking lot) and I brought it up to Mr. Lucas after the race and he assured me it
would be taken care of. Now that’s what I call class. Forrest Lucas is a class act
and knows how to treat fans, drivers, employees and his contribution to Dirt Track
Racing should be recognized sooner rather than later.
The racing at times was some of the best I have ever seen. There were three
maybe four distinct grooves during both the Lucas Oil heat races and the A-mods.
Only one heat race was there a decisive winner and even that was impressive as
Earl Pearson Jr. made the bottom work like no one else. “WOOOO JAMES” the
track announcer said to James Essex after the heat races and I agree. The track
workers did an excellent job of preparing the surface and should be commended as
well as every employee of Lucas Oil Speedway. The feature was no
disappointment neither as the track started to black off and became a two groove
very racey surface. Brian Birkhofer worked his way past Earl Pearson Jr. on the
top but tires proved to be the key on this night as Pearson went back around him
on the bottom and never looked back. Side by side racing is the norm at Lucas
Oil Speedway and every race at that place is worth watching.
I think right now its time for everyone to start looking at Lucas Oil Speedway and
the model they have set for a modern age dirt track. I recommend that the Dirt
Track World Championship be moved to Wheatland, Mo in the future or hell any
of dirt late model racing’s crown jewels including the World 100. This place is 10
times better than any RACE TRACK (not just dirt) you have ever been to and if
you haven’t been there go now!
The worst part of the night was leaving, many race fans get “the feeling” at some
point in their lives. You know that feeling of man I just wish it wasn’t over yet, or
man I got to wait how long to come back here. That feeling of what I just witnessed
was great and I can not wait until next time, that’s the feeling I got leaving Lucas
Oil Speedway and it’s been a long damn time since I have had that feeling.