- Written by webmin
New dragstrips here in the United States are so rare, they border on nonexistent. With the spread of suburbia and the rising cost of operations, it’s all most dragstrip owners can do just to stay open and keep the neighbors and noise regulations at bay. Yet in Washington state, something unusual is happening: a brand-new dragstrip and road course are taking shape.
The two race tracks, together known as the Ridge Motorsports Park, are the brainchildren of Rod and Karen Powell, who live nearby and were looking for a way to invest the money they got from selling their manufacturing business. Rod, a car guy for life, former amateur Porsche racer and current amateur GT1 stock car driver, said what led him and Karen – and their business partner Joe Manke – to envision the motorsports park was the lack of safe track day venues in the Northwest.
Our local tracks have tremendous localized pressures regarding neighbors, noise, environment, the usual. And lots and lots of walls. The tracks when built were in the middle of nowhere, but alas, housing came out to meet them over the years, and now, constant battles. So, we saw a market opening.
We also felt that building a racing facility with two distinct racing surfaces and each having its own paddock would be popular as well. Our tracks, in fact most tracks, combine the dragstrip with the road course, so one user group is always waiting for the other to get off track. Around here, it is the drag racers that have to pay the price, as road course work takes the bulk of any day. I have seen these guys line up for hours just to get a parking spot so they could enjoy their sport, and it made no sense. We want this track to be easy to use, thus desirable to come back to. Building a separate racing surface for our customers just makes good business sense.
We also spent considerable time at Thunderhill in California, and realized, from a business perspective, that a club level track facility could be very successful indeed. For us in the PNW, Thunderhill in Willows CA is somewhat of a mecca, we will drive 10-12 hours one way to run it. Lots of elevation, good pavement, rental garages, etc. Things we lack up here.
Lastly, we wanted environment. The PNW is truly one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and a race facility nestled into the trees (think Spa-Francorchamps) we felt would be a hit.
Since the track’s inception in 2005, the Powells and Manke have located a 173-acre piece of property in Shelton, Washington, not far from the Seattle/Tacoma area (with another 80 acres on option), they’ve begun clearing the land, and they’ve cleared the most important hurdle of all: They got their special use permit from the county in April. That means construction of the tracks has already started, and Rod said their goal is to get the track surfaces laid by August 15 for an opening date of September 15.
“All of the user groups typically book a year out, so we will probably do an ‘invite only’ kind of schedule this fall to keep everyone excited, and schedule dates for 2012,” Rod said.
As far as the dragstrip is concerned, it will be a NRHA-regulation 1/4-mile strip, but Rod said no decision has yet been made to have it sanctioned by the NHRA or IHRA. The 2.43-mile, 15-turn road course (with a 2,800-foot straightaway and 500 feet of elevation change) will be designed by Steve Crawford, the main designer for Thunderhill, based on initial designs by Johannes van Overbeek. The first phase of construction will focus on the tracks themselves, while phase two will focus on adding bathrooms, food service facilities, and rental garages.
For more information, visit RidgeMotorsportsPark.com.