This season, Twin Cities Raceway Park in Vernon will open the next chapter in its storied history.
During the offseason, Tom Wetherald of Columbus took over the lease to operate the track.
I’m not aware of any experience that Tom has with racing except for sponsoring Tony Stewart’s Munchkin in the Christmas week indoor midget races in the Fort Wayne coliseum. However, auto racing is entertainment. And Wetherald knows a lot about entertainment.
One thing that Wetherald does know about running any kind of business is to hire the people who can do the job and to let them do it. Wetherald hired Troy Tabata as general manager for the track.
Tabata has been around racing all of his life, and he knows how racers think. He knows what’s important to them, and he knows how to meet their needs and how to keep everyone reasonably happy.
Tabata started by working on the track’s physical plant. The previous operators removed most of the equipment when they left, so Tabata rounded up a grader and some equipment that would be needed to get the track in shape. He added gravel to make the pit road more usable. They have been repairing the grandstand by replacing missing and broken boards. And, most importantly, they have added 65 tri-axle trucks full of badly needed new dirt. They have been gradually working the new dirt into the track.
The one thing that Twin Cities has needed most recently is a consistent schedule. The competitors need to know where they can race and when. It is easier for a competitor to race the same place every week. They know what the track will be like and they know how to set up the car for the evening. If they go someplace different, it may take them until feature time to get the right setup on the car.
A consistent schedule also is important to the fans. A fan may have a favored class that they follow or favored drivers that they like to follow. It is easier for them, too, to attend races at a particular track.
Tabata said their season will run every Saturday night from mid-March through September. Their weekly shows will feature Dirt Late Models, Modifieds, Super Stocks, Pure Stocks and Hornets. In addition, they will have a couple of sprint-car shows early in the season and a couple of King of Indiana TQs later in the season.
Another aspect of the change that many of us will enjoy is getting the Collins family involved again. Ted and Sue Collins owned the track from 1980 to 1988, when Ted died. In 2003, Sue and her sons, Trent and Tory, took over the promoting of the track until Terry Eaglin sold it. The Collinses then left to become key employees of Lawrenceburg Speedway.
The family decided to take some time off last season; however, it seems that none of them were ready to give up racing. Sue will be running the concessions at Twin Cities. Tory will be racing his dirt late model and Trent will be turning the wrenches on Tory’s late model.
Troy advises that they have a new website that they will keep updated with the latest information. It is www.twincitiesracing.net/. Visit often to keep up with the latest information on Twin Cities.
Ganassi-Sabates team wins
Chip Ganassi Racing with Felex Sabates started the 51st running of the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona strong and were the team to beat all day.
However, during the final few hours of the race the Corvette wheeled by Max Angelelli and the Ford/Riley under the control of A.J. Allmendinger were on hand to keep the Ganassi team honest.
Scott Pruett’s share of the win tied him with record five Rolex wins, tying the record held by road course ace Hurley Haywood.
Somehow, you would not expect a 24-hour race to come down to an economy run, but that is just what happened. The Ganassi team made its final move in the fuel mileage chess game when Juan Pablo Montoya ducked into the pits for a splash of fuel with seven minutes to go, passing the lead to Max Angelelli in Corvette DP.
However, Angelelli was forced to come in the following lap to deal with his own gas problem. This, of course, passed the lead back to Montoya and the Ganassi team.
Following the race, Scott Pruett said, “It’s just an incredible day all of the way around, winning with these guys, winning with Chip, winning with TELMEX and with BMW.
“Then at the end of it, having gotten to know Hurley well over the years by racing with him and just as a friend — and to have him there at the end — was pretty special. It was a very special thing.”
The Ganassi team went on to take the win with drivers Pruett, Memo Rojas, Montoya and Charlie Kimball.
The Corvette DP team came with Max Angelelli, Jordan Taylor, and Ryan Hunter-Reay came home second.
Placing third was the Ford/Riley team consisting of John Pew, Ozz Negri, A.J. Allmendinger, Justin Wilson and Marcos Ambrose.
Tim McKinney is an auto racing columnist for The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5632.