Sprint Car Invite to be held under lights

Posted: Friday, August 22, 2003

The Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions - Circle Track Division will hold racing under the lights at Twin Cities Raceway for the first time tonight.

The occasion is the Morrie Wilkins Memorial Sprint Car Invitational. The event is expected to bring drivers from Fairbanks, Wasilla, Palmer and Anchorage to the peninsula. Time trials are at 6 p.m., while racing starts at 7 p.m.

Chet Soares, the president of the Circle Track Division, said at least 12 sprint cars are expected at the event.

"It'll be our biggest event of the year," Soares said.

Also racing will be two trucks from Northstar Speedway, Late Models, A Stocks and B Stocks.

Soares said the Main Events will be held when it's dark out, allowing the lights R&K Industrial Inc. is bringing to work their magic.

"I know that's the first time we've had night racing on the peninsula," Soares said. "I also think it's the first time there's been racing under lights in Alaska."

The darkness should allow the crowd to see flames shoot out the pipes on the sprint cars as they race their way around the track.

But, Soares said, the event will be exciting for reasons other than the lights.

The event will be held at Twin Cities Raceway, which, at three-eighths of a mile, has the largest and fastest dirt track in the state.

And sprint cars are all about speed. They can turn laps at Twin Cities Raceway in 15.5 seconds. Late Models usually take 22 seconds to complete a lap.

Sprint cars get their speed from their powerful motors. Despite weighing 1,200 pounds to a Late Model's 3,000 pounds, sprint cars have 800 horsepower, as compared with the 400 to 450 horsepower of Late Models.

Sprint cars also fare a lot better in the corners thanks to their fat tires and their wings, which glue them to the track on fast turns.

"They're the most popular car for folks to watch," Soares said. "The reason is speed."

When sprint cars get on the track in numbers as high as 12, things start to get interesting quickly.

Last season, Twin Cities Raceway was holding an event with over 12 sprint cars when one of them rolled. Since everything was so frenetic, the other cars did almost a full lap before the flag man noticed the rolled car.

Part of the reason for that is the dust that the cars generate as they rip around the track. Soares said the Circle Track Division is putting down special chemicals to keep the dust to a minimum Friday night.

"We're going to have two flag men, and we're going to do better with dust control," Soares said. "Every race day we learn something.

"The main thing is for everybody to leave with their cars intact."

Five of the racers Friday will be from the area. They are Randy Barnes of Kenai, Marty Fell of Kenai, Jackie McGahan of Kenai, Cameron McGahan of Kenai and Pete Ischi of Soldotna.

The races are being held to honor Morrie Wilkins, a big-time booster of sprint cars before he passed away.

The Sprint Car Invitational rotates around the state, and this year it is Kenai's turn to host the event. A big crowd is expected. Soares said he has taken calls from fans in Big Lake, Fairbanks and Willow regarding the event.

General admission is $10 per person. Seniors and children ages 6 to 12 get in for $5. Pit passes are available for those over 11 years of age. They cost $15.

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