Luke Graham: The allure of the speedway

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Saturday evening in Hayden, it seemed as if there was a high school football game going on.

The streets were quiet. Not many cars in town. Local businesses closed down early.

But with football season yet to have begun, the lack of warm bodies in town could have meant only one thing.

It was race night at Hayden Speedway.

And much like the football games that take place at the high school in the fall, the Speedway in Hayden brings something a little more special.

Maybe it's the size of the quarter-mile oval dirt track. A track that short and on dirt always provides entertainment and intrigue.

Maybe it's the fans. Like at the football games in the fall, Speedway fans follow the drivers, have their favorites (probably because it's their brother/sister/friend driving) and root with every inch of their body.

Maybe it's the pit crews. It always seems it's a quasi-family reunion. With brothers helping brothers, fathers helping brothers and boyfriends helping girlfriends. It's really a thing to behold when a driver wrecks his car, has mere minutes to fix it and one of his competitors and their crew come to help.

Maybe it's the racing. The No. 60 car might be the guy that owns the corner store or the No. 63 car might be the girl that works in the office right down the hall. Some drivers feud, some drivers win, but all of them compete for the love of the sport. And as I was told numerous times Saturday night, "if you break even, you're doing well."

But most of all, it's the atmosphere.

The Speedway's a throwback of sorts.

It was built on an old landfill in 1964 and throughout the years, it's seen many different additions. In the late 1970s, tires were inserted for guardrails. Then, in the late 1980s, lights were brought in for night racing. The biggest change came in 2000 when the track was re-cut and enlarged to a true quarter-mile track. It also was widened to 80 feet, and the pit areas were made bigger.

What's not throwback, however, is the racing.

It's racing in its purest form. Short track, true fans and drivers not doing it for corporate sponsors or to impress anyone but themselves and the faithful fans.

In the end, it's hard to describe the Hayden Speedway if you've never been.

What's not hard - and equally as interesting - is the allure of the little track.

It's not flashy, it's just fun.

- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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