By Kristine Lowder
Racing fans and anyone who enjoys “loud, exciting and very quick race cars” are in for plenty of speed and excitement at the Grays Harbor Raceway this year. “There will be lots more fan excitement,” says Steve Beitler, Promoter and General Manager of the Grays Harbor Raceway. He adds, “We’re going to continue to grow the classes. We have lots of new drivers and new cars.” The season opens on April 25 and includes the Summer Thunder Sprintcar Series.
Located at the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds in Elma, the raceway is a 3/10 mile, semi-banked, clay, oval race track. It’s a magnet for those who feel the “need for speed” and enjoy watching sprint car racing in a family-friendly venue.
“We definitely cater to families,” says Beitler. “The best part about being involved with the raceway is seeing all the families doing something fun together and having a great time.” He says he also enjoys watching new racers develop.
“We average around 1,000 to 1,400 for a regular event,” says Beitler. Attendance at special events such as fireworks shows, monster trucks or World of Outlaws averages around 3,000 or 4,000 according to Beitler. He says, “It’s a great way for moms, dads, kids, grandparents and everyone to spend time together and have fun.” Beitler adds that the American Sprint Car Series national tour is coming back in July.
Beitler took over promotion of the Grays Harbor Raceway about a year ago. Before that, he was with the Skagit Speedway for about 14 years. Beitler’s involvement with racing began at age eight when he went to work at Skagit Speedway selling programs and doing clean up. He started racing himself during his senior year in high school, building his first race car with money earned milking cows on a dairy farm.
Beitler says he raced “for over 20 years on the national series and with World of Outlaws.” He’s been around racing for about 50 years. He says he had a great career and cherishes the friendships he made when racing in America and Australia. “I will always be involved in Sprint car racing at some level,” says Beitler.
The Summer Thunder Sprintcar Series was formed in 2013. It’s popular with sprint car teams and fans who like to travel to different tracks. The series hosts between 12 -14 races per year at Skagit Speedway, Grays Harbor Raceway, and the Central Washington State Fair Dirt Track. All located in Washington, the proximity of these tracks make it possible for teams and families to see great racing at different venues and still be close to home.
“Sprint cars are loud, exciting, and very, very quick race cars,” according to the World Sprint Car Guide. Simple and low-tech by design, these V8 powered, open wheel racing cars are designed primarily for running on short oval or circular dirt tracks, usually a few inches apart and at 100+ miles per hour. They’re “the fastest form of open-wheel dirt Speedway racing in the world” and can draw sizable crowds.
Douglas is a racing fan from Tacoma. He comments, “What a fun dirt track to go spend an evening at the races! They have good prices for families and give a lot of racing in one evening. Don’t forget to bring jackets and a blanket because it does get cold when the sun goes down,” he advises.
The Summer Thunder Sprint Tour includes Memorial Day races and fireworks (May 23), the Summer Thunder Sprint Series (June 6 and September 6), Mid-Season Championships and Fireworks (July 11), and the Rolling Thunder Big Rig Truck Races (August 15). Season championships and fireworks are set for October 3. Additional information is available here.
Grays Harbor Raceway is located at 32 Elma McCleary Road in Elma. The 2015 season opener for the Grays Harbor racing series is slated for April 25. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Racing starts at 7:00 p.m. Event classes include 360 Sprints, Modifieds, Focus Midgets, Street Stocks, and Outlaw Tuners.
The ticket hotline can be reached at 360-757-6959 during regular business hours, Monday through Friday. Reserved seating is only available when purchasing all nights of the event. Season passes are also available.