By GLEN HIBDON
GTR Sports Writer
Legendary dirt track Tulsa Speedway bit the dust 14 years ago. Next spring, a reincarnation will take place at Tulsa Raceway Park.
An as yet unnamed quarter-mile facility is expected to open north of the drag strip next March, running up to nine different classes in front of grandstands containing room for 2,000 fans. The plan is the brainchild of TRP owners Todd Martin and Keith Haney, along with race director Jimmy Boles and dirt track general manager Barry Grabel.
Grabel wants to call the new facility “Tulsa Speedway,’’ in honoring the old race route. He hopes many familiar names and families will return to cockpits and grandstands, bringing back the lure of good times past.
“This will be the first dirt track in Tulsa in 15 years,’’ said Grabel, who took on the project in December. “Todd Martin and Keith Haney approached me and said ‘we have a mud track that hasn’t been used in a couple of years and we would like to convert it into a stock car track. Can you help us?’”
Grabel jumped at the chance to transition the old mud bog facility into the rebirth of Tulsa Speedway.
“The concession stand, bathrooms, bleachers and lights were already out there and it’s easy to put in two high banked turns,’’ Grabel said. “We plan to run on Friday nights around the drag strip’s schedule. We will not run a weekly show, but will have a high points champion in each class.’’
On race nights, fans will pay a $15 admission fee, which entitles them to watch dirt track racing and up to 80 cars test and tune at the drag strip. Dirt track classes include winged and non-winged sprint cars, A and B modifieds, factory stocks, late models, midgets and perhaps flat track motorcycles. A smaller track inside the main oval welcomes micro midgets. Grabel said classes will rotate from show to show.
“Races will start at 7:30 p.m.,’’ said Grabel. “We will try to maintain a three- to three-and-a-half-hour program. We will start on time because we don’t want to hold the crowd captive.
“A lot of the teams are tired from being on the road and they want a local place to go on Friday nights. Then they can take their families somewhere else on Saturdays and Sundays. I think we can be an asset to the city because we will entertain fans. Our whole objective is to get fans back into the seats.’’
Meanwhile, Boles said construction on the track has been delayed due to poor weather and was behind schedule at the beginning of September. Boles, who has worn just about every hat at TRP in his 15 years at the site, is excited about the prospect of combining the two types of motorsports.
“We want to turn dirt track fans into drag fans and drag fans into dirt track fans,’’ he said. “It’s kind of a challenge, but we think we can make it so everybody has a place to race.’’
Boles grew up around motorsports and has a taste for the administrative and maintenance sides of racing. Toward that end, he’s hoping revenue generated by the dirt track will help bring back NHRA national events to TRP.
Before the 2020 dirt track season can open, there is still much work to do. TRP purchased additional lights, fences and a wrecker truck from South Coffeyville Speedway and is looking for a grader. Clay dirt has yet to be installed by Blaine Morton, owner of Morton Excavating of Coweta. Clay is expected to limit the dust and flying dirt particles during races.
“We’re still in the beginning stages of getting some stuff bought,’’ Boles said. “The cost (of the entire project) depends on how much help we can get. It could be between $50,000 and $500,000. We wanted to open by the end of the year so we could get some practice sessions done, but we’re at the mercy of the weather right now. Nature has slowed us down.’’