* Taking Ownership: Congratulations are in order for Drake and Kimberly Nelson, who recently took over full operation and ownership of Oregon’s Coos Bay Speedway. The couple in late January announced the deal with longtime owner/promoter Chuck Prather, who had rebuilt the multi-track facility over the past decade.
In fact, the Nelsons are no strangers to the role, having been involved in race promotion since the early 2000s. What’s more, Drake’s father and grandfather promoted Meridian Speedway in Meridian, Idaho, in the 1970s and ’80s; Drake’s brother runs the track today. And Drake himself has been associated with Chaparral Speedway in Eagle, Idaho, and Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Oregon. He spent five years with Prather at Coos Bay Speedway, and recently returned after two years of operating Macon Speedway in Macon, Illinois, which is owned by Bob Sargent and racing legends Ken Schrader, Kenny Wallace and Tony Stewart.
“The move to Coos Bay Speedway will definitely put a lot of work on Kimberly and me,” Drake said, “but the Speedway is such a great place, and I want to see it continue with success just as it has with Karin and Chuck.” Among other developments at Coos Bay Speedway in 2017 are a newly minted website (www.coosbayspeedway.us) and the return of its Pony Village Mall Car Display program, where competitors can show their cars inside the local shopping plaza from March 10–12. Best of luck for the upcoming season!
* A Hire Authority: As crew chief for both Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.—including Junior’s big victory in the 2014 Daytona 500—Steve Letarte scored more than a dozen wins in NASCAR’s top series dating back to 2005. In recent years he’s worked alongside race announcer Rick Allen and fellow analyst Jeff Burton in the NBC Sports broadcast booth during the network’s coverage of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and XFINITY Series races.
Yes, the man knows racing. So it made perfect sense when, just last month, Letarte rolled out a brand new website, RacingJobs.com, designed to match race teams with prospective employees. The site itself uses a smart, searchable database that creates anonymous but detailed online profiles for job candidates. Race teams can then narrow their searches based on criteria like education, work experience, skills and pay scale. And it’s inclusive, incorporating a range of positions—from pit crews, road crews and race shops, to engineers, interior mechanics, fabricators and more—across multiple series and racing types, from NASCAR to drag racing to IndyCar.
By keeping profiles anonymous, the site strives to create a truly level playing field, where qualifications and skill sets are valued above “who you know” or word-of-mouth networking. “This project has been several months in the making,” Letarte added, “and I’m excited about the site going live and making a positive impact in the industry.”
* Island Drags: Efforts to bring side-by-side racing to Long Island (NY) received a powerful shot in the arm last month when Suffolk County lawmakers announced the formation of a committee to investigate potential sites for a drag strip. Demonstrating public-private cooperation, the committee includes members of the local drag racing community alongside county legislators and planning department personnel.
In addition to a site search, for the next 8 months committee members will study the negative effects of illegal street street racing on their neighborhoods, as well as the potential economic impact of a privately owned drag strip; at least one estimate indicates new jobs and tourism could bring upwards of $100 million in revenue.
Indeed, Long Islanders haven’t had a drag racing facility to call home since 2004, when the Westhampton Drag Strip officially closed shop. And, as advocates are quick to note, a local track would prevent area racers from traveling to—and spending money at—out-of-town venues. For more information, visit the website for “Long Island Needs A Dragstrip” at www.lineedsadragstrip.org.
* Challenge Accepted: Billed as “Three Days Of Serious Car Fun,” the 9th Annual Motor State Challenge and Optima Search for the Ultimate Street Car event has become a must-attend gathering for performance enthusiasts. This year’s program, which takes place July 20–22, includes a cruise night and dinner, a track day at GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Michigan, and a full day of autocross action at The Tire Rack in South Bend, Indiana.
Complete event details, including registration information, can be found at www.motorstatechallenge.com. Space is limited, however, so interested participants are encouraged to register ASAP.