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Proctor Speedway ready for racing season

The season begins May 19 with Sunday Night Showdown

PROCTOR, Minn.-Racing fans will soon head to the stands for another season of high-octane action at Proctor Speedway.

Drivers were ready to hit the dirt track the first weekend in May, but several days of heavy rain put those plans on the back burner.

“It always depends on Mother Nature,” said Mike Donnahue, president of Proctor Speedway. “That’s the hardest part. We can’t fight the bad weather.

However, Proctor Speedway officials are used to dire situations on the track. “One time we got to the point where we couldn’t open the fairgrounds because of the sewer and water system,” recalled Crash Carlson, the Speedway’s former president. “I had to rebuild that before I could race in the spring. And we’ve done a lot of things here.

Carlson has been participating in the local racing season for over 70 years and has done more than enough to keep Proctor Speedway operational. “Our stands were condemned and I had to demolish the stand. I built a grandstand with Halvor Line trucks and trailers, and we had the Silver 1000 Race, seating 2,000 people, and it was a lot of fun.

How did he get the nickname “Crash?” »

“I reached the grandstand,” says Carlson, who himself was a runner for 25 years. “The engine collided and the car was on fire. And I was getting out of the car and I decided I’d rather burn than get run over because I went back into the fire.

Carlson’s days behind the wheel may be behind him, but he and other retired racers are still active in keeping the sport connected to its roots.

“This is what we need,” said Daniel Suomala, vice chairman of the Proctor Speedway board of directors. “The older generation is explaining to the younger generation what it’s about. And we need that to help kids come here, you know, a new generation of young riders. All the help we can get to keep everything going.

21-year-old driver Paul Ripley of Proctor is one of many up-and-coming drivers who have a “healthy addiction” to racing. Just ask him how much he spent on his car.

“I don’t know, too… Too much,” Ripley smiled. “Tens of thousands and thousands of dollars, just to get the car on the track… Then thousands more to get it ready to race.”

Ripley also says he works on his car every night. “It’s like having a second job. You go to your regular job, come home, and then every night is spent taking the car apart, to make it go faster.

“Before, you could go home and build an engine for $400 or $500,” Donnahue says. “Now they order motors and they cost $27,000 to $30,000. And you have to have it to be competitive. It’s a real competitive sport. People put their heart and soul into it. And it’s great.

No matter how much racing has changed over the past half century, two things have remained the same, the first being the sport’s emphasis on family.

“It’s great to have a lot of different families that can come and work hard for us,” Donnahue said. “Lots of volunteers. And it’s getting harder and harder (to find) these days.

The second being the respect each driver has for each other.

“We always get excited when someone pushes us into the wall, and we become hostile for a week or two, then we become friends again.” Carlson said.

“If someone needs help with something, someone breaks something, someone has a major accident, you see the drivers involved in that accident helping them.” said Nick Gima, a local auto racing announcer. “You see other drivers from neighboring pits coming, you see drivers who have similar cars coming to help them. There is great camaraderie between the drivers and the family aspect of the race itself. Among the fans, among the drivers, among the teams, without equal. You know, it’s the family aspect that makes it really, really special.

As the 2024 racing season gets underway, one of Proctor Speedway’s main goals is to get more people in the stands on race day.

“I hope people can come see us because we put on a good show.” Donnahue said.

“We need more people at the races than (the number of people coming now), but we’re doing well,” Carlson said. “We survive and it’s a great sport.”