A reader asked me a question on Twitter a few weeks ago, wondering when the dirt oval at Avondale would reopen. Good question, I thought, so I tracked down track manager Bob Smith.
Smith also runs Thunder Valley Speedway at Bishop’s Falls, where four classes take to a paved track, and we started by discussing that. The eight-race season is going fairly well, he told me, although two races have been rained out.
No surprise there.
The 40 registered teams hope to make up a couple of races this weekend, then keep to the schedule for the expected 600 fans as the air heated up and the track stayed dry. Wish them luck.
Smith has been working with track owner Pat Squires for 20 years. He’s done his share of racing, too, and says he didn’t have to be convinced to take on the track projects. “He didn’t have to twist any arms, I can tell you.”
As you would expect, the majority of Thunder Valley’s racers are Avalon-based. Bulk of the population and all that. That’s what made the Avondale track so popular, and that’s why Smith’s boss was glad to get it.
At the time of purchase, there was talk of pavement, expansion, diversification. The reality is Avondale remains quiet for the second straight summer. That, of course, was never the plan. The group had hoped to have the facility cleaned up and ready for pavement this spring, and have the thunder rolling through the hills by now.
A different storm set that timeline back. Tropical storm Leslie tore the roof, and much of the third floor, from the track’s new central building. There were also a few questions about the property itself that needed answering.
“We were very disappointed to have to put it off,” Smith said this week. The property issues were cleared up this week, and “we couldn’t be happier.”
“We’re really happy with the way it worked out. It worked out for the best.”
That means the schedule is back on. Smith hopes to resume construction this month with an eye to finishing site work by the fall. That will give everything time to settle over the winter, so they can lay the blacktop in the spring of 2014.
“We purchased this with the intention of turning into a major event venue,” Smith said. Stands will seat 5,000 when the track opens, with plans to hit 15,000 a couple of years after that. They hope their improvements will attract CASCAR and Canadian NASCAR races, high-end monster truck tours, pro-stock drag racing, not to mention concerts or anything else that might command that kind of space.
“When you see this completed,” Smith says, and you can hear the excitement in his voice, “you’re going to say wow, what a spot.”
Ken Simmons, The Telegram’s new media editor, breathes exhaust and exhales
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