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200,000 People Can't Be Wrong

An overview of auto racing in the Treasure Valley


There are more ways to spend your entertainment dollar in Boise than ever before. We have professional baseball, hockey, basketball, numerous concerts, festivals and other events to enjoy throughout the year. All of these activities are widely known and covered extensively through various media outlets throughout the valley. One sporting event, however, is rarely seen in the Boise media. Rarely, that is, unless tragedy strikes or it is an extremely slow news day.

The motor sports scene in the Treasure Valley is alive and well. It attracts more people on a yearly basis than all of our other professional sports combined. The reason behind this is me and countless others like me. I am an average racing fan. Racing fans go to see the event, the atmosphere, the drama and the comradery. Racing fans love to see the battle, regardless of the outcome. Racing fans can cry in the worst moments of the sport and in the finest. This can sometimes happen in the same four hours.

Most all of the Boise Weekly readers have probably heard of the two most well-known racing venues in our area. In Meridian we have Meridian Speedway and located between Eagle and Emmett is Firebird Raceway. These are both top-notch facilities and this writer will give them their due. But first let us start with one of the lesser-known racing facilities. Located just behind Firebird Raceway off of Highway 16 is a wonderful motor sports facility called Chaparral Speedway. Originally built in 1972, it was called Super Oval. It is a high-banked three-eighth mile oval set in the beautiful Foothills. This track operated consistently from 1973 to 1986. Shortly thereafter money and legal problems regulated it to sporadic openings and closings. That is until the year of the "resurrection" in 2003. At that time Adam Nelson acquired the rights to operate and promote the track. With legacy and persistence on his side (his father, LeeRoy Nelson was a past promoter at Meridian Speedway), Nelson has once again given this historic track the recognition and attention it has so long deserved. Entering this facility feels like taking a step back in time. The concession area feels more like an old-time carnival and has numerous vendors offering every evil but beautiful form of food you would expect at a stock car track. You can also bring in your own coolers with drink and food, with the stipulation being no alcohol or glass containers. The racing is fast and aggressive. In the case of a wreck (there are usually several) Nelson provides entertainment and antics on the infield mic along with good music playing on the PA. You'll find all the usual classes of racing here from the highly exotic open wheeled super modifieds to the basically "run what you brung" honking hornets. All in all, I believe this speedway is on the road to greatness. If you would like to attend this weekend, you'd be in for a treat. Included for only $12 will be a fantastic 75-lap feature race for the late model stock cars along with exciting racing from the ISRL modified, street stocks and mini stocks. Appearing also will be the "Dupes of Hazard"—an exhibition of sanity-challenged drivers, intentionally if not creatively destroying old jalopies for the entertainment of the crowd. As always, kids 12 and under get in free, gates open at 4:30 p.m., and racing starts at 7 p.m.

Now let's get things straight, literally I mean. Let's talk drag racing. The Treasure Valley is home to one of the nicest and most well-known drag racing facilities in the Northwest. Now, at the risk of insulting a good deal of readers, I feel it necessary to explain the sport of drag racing. Drag racing is a match of acceleration between two vehicles on a flat, straight 1,320-foot paved course. The car covering the distance the quickest is declared the winner. Firebird Raceway and the legendary New family have been providing Southwest Idaho with this pure adrenaline form of racing without interruption since 1968. No other racing facility of any kind in Idaho has drawn more elite stars of their respective form of racing. Although the top of the top drivers no longer make the trip to Firebird due to the obscene cost of appearance fees, Firebird has seen them all. The list reads like a who's who of drag racing: Ed "The Ace" McCollough, Tom "The Mongoose" McEvan, Don "The Snake" Prodhomme, just to name a few. However, if you've never seen a drag race before, there's still plenty of action. Alcohol and nitro funny cars and dragsters throbbing with 6,000 horsepower (that is not a misprint) still fly down the quarter mile in 6 seconds. Add to that the exhibition jet cars throwing blistering flames while traveling over 300 miles per hour and wheel standers covering the entire track on two wheels and you're sure to have memories to last a lifetime. Another unique thing about drag racing is its accessibility to the public. Fans can wander right through the pits while all this action is going on. This gives you an opportunity to talk to the drivers and to watch them prepare their cars for the next round of racing. Drag racing is also one of the easiest ways for the racing fan to feel what it's like to race in the same format as the big guys without spending a fortune. Most any street car can race here, given you show up on the appropriately scheduled day. Your car has to pass a simple technical inspection. Basically if your car has good brakes and tires, functional seatbelts, radiator overflow tank, and a secure battery, you're ready to race. Firebird's next big event, the "Fox Hunt," starts Friday, May 20 and runs through Memorial Day. The name fox hunt is given because all ladies get in absolutely free. It always draws monstrous crowds because of the holiday weekend and a fantastic turn out of the fastest and baddest cars around. If you like to really "feel" your racing action, then this one's for you.

Now for the grandfather of them all, if not because of its sheer longevity in the valley, then for its continued popularity and racing excitement week in and week out. The venue is Meridian Speedway, "under the big yellow water tower," as the ads always say. The drivers call it a bull ring because of tight racing action and the ever-present crash wall all the way around. Originally constructed in 1951, it was nothing more than a dirt circle in a cornfield. As racing in the valley matured, so did the track. In 1962 it was paved into the quarter mile shallow banked surface we know today. Through the years additional grandstands were added and improvements made to the pit area. Admission is $10 for adults, seniors are $5, children ages 6 to 12 are $4 and children 5-years-old and under get in free. If you want in-your-face racing, this place can't be beat. If you sit in the one of the front rows you will literally be only a few steps from the cars screaming by you. You can witness firsthand drivers manhandling their cars, seemingly impossible passes made lap after lap, and hear the tires scream in pain as these horsepower jockeys push their cars to their limits and beyond. At regular Saturday night races the gates open at 4 p.m., time trials at 5 p.m., and racing starts at 6 p.m. No coolers or outside food are allowed here, but the track's concession choices range from pizza to hamburgers and the prices are very reasonable. Meridian Speedway's next big event is also on Memorial Day weekend with two shows. The first is on Saturday and the second on Monday. Saturday features the Bill Crow Memorial late model feature along with the midgets (this is a racing class, no letters please), street stocks, ISRL modifieds, mini stocks, and a class where street cars and novice drivers race head to head. On Memorial Day everything starts one hour earlier. This event features my favorite, the Bob and Tom Naylor Memorial. This race honors the Naylor brothers, both of whom died in racing accidents, with a wicked super modified feature race. Also included are the Grand American modifieds, super stocks and hornets.

There you have it, everything you wanted to know about the motor sports in the Treasure Valley but were afraid to ask. Be sure and check the Web sites for more information. Until next time, always remember what my Pop told me, "It's not where you start but how much money you spend to finish first."