Jim Powell’s smile said it all.
“The track is back like it was when I started racing here in 1994, back like it was when my dad — Ol’ Snoopy — was racing in the 1970s,” said Powell, one of the contenders to win this year’s hobby stock championship.
Powell’s words had to be music to the ears of promoters Paul Holtschlag and Tony Rhinberger. There were long, hard hours put into reshaping and restructuring the .29-mile oval starting way back in October.
Track officials took considerable grief last season for the condition of the track and the “one-groove racing”. It appears those complaints, which were well-founded, are a thing of the past.
Judging from the feedback I got Wednesday night during the first practice, the consensus was a major thumbs-up for all of the offseason work done at 8000 Broadway. I was only there for the first couple of hours of a scheduled four-hour session (I had to get home to watch American Idol), but I hope to get a feel from more drivers Thursday and Friday nights at additional practice sessions.
There are still a couple of rough spots that need to be ironed out — modified driver Vance Wilson called them “whoop-tee-dos,” pulling out a motocross reference — but it is obvious by just looking at the track it is a brand new Bullring. Or should that be a brand new-old-new Bullring?
The corners are much, much flatter and wider, and the amount of surface removed on the straightaways, especially on the front straight, is eye-popping. You can see the line on the front straight wall concerning how much dirt was removed.
“I could feel the corners again, I wasn’t (leaning),” Powell said.
Wilson called the wider, flatter, racier track “much improved.”
“It looks a lot better than last year,” he said. “There’s been a lot of improvement.”
The pits are also in much better shape. The grounds have been filled in, leveled off and cleaned up.
“(The facilities) really look nice,” said one of the veteran workers at the track.
“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” said another. “It really looks great.”
Gates open at 5 p.m. both Thursday and Friday nights for the final practices of the spring.
The season begins Sunday night with late models, modifieds, stock cars, modifieds and wild things. Racing starts at 6:30.