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in the world of drag racing

Black Bar

The latest update as of March 26, 2000

9:00 AM  -  Less than thirty minutes ago, one of Seattle, Washington's best-known monuments imploded into history in a spectacular blast of dust, smoke and debris. 5500 sticks of dynamite did the deed and as this is being written, the instant replays continue on local television. Only 24 years old, but obsolete and beset with structural problems, the Kingdome (indoor sports arena) was demolished. But did they pick the wrong target?

Barely twenty southeast of the Kingdome's downtown site lies an even older "monument": Seattle International Raceway. Also beset with structural problems, indifferent management and ownership questions, has the time come to demolish this sports venue also? Bigger question though: would anybody notice if it happened?

I can already visualize the top-end interviews at this year's Northwest Nationals:
"John (Force), how was that winning pass in the final?"
"Well she left pretty hard and that ol' hound-dog was really trucking until we hit the craters at the three hundred foot mark, but I could see out the side that Skuza was havin' trouble dodging the boulders until halftrack, then she cleaned up nice and hooked up pretty good going through the gravel, but when she went into the gulley at the finish line I thought I saw Elvis . . ."

If only, eh? So how much longer will the former Pacific Raceway (opened in 1960) continue to operate as SIR? And how much worse can it get before the NHRA finally pulls the plug on one of its least successful events? Take that one big cash-cow away . . . and the present track lessee would be gone quicker than a lean fuel engine can eat a set of pistons. Of course, he's living on borrowed time anyway, as his lease expires at the end of 2001. Then what?

If, and that might be a big IF . . . the Northwest Nationals is still on the schedule for 2002, could we expect to see a major reconstruction of the facility? Frankly, without more than one major event per year, the longterm viability of SIR is very questionable. To recoup the costs of the long-needed improvements, and off the top of my head, I'm guessing at least $2-3 million is required, would be very difficult.

In the last few years, numerous rumours of big expansion plans for the track have been floated: mostly revolving around the resurrection of its original multi-purpose capability. As a site for an INDY car race, a NASCAR road race, etc. But is Seattle a large enough market to attract such high-profile events? Barely. True, in the last decade its profile has risen greatly, with Boeing and Microsoft leading the way, but the city's location in the far northwest corner of the U.S. has always mitigated against truly major events.

Drag racing, being the "poor cousin" of the better promoted, attended and much more successful NASCAR and CART associations has always been willing to place events in locations that no other motorsport would go near. Remember the Cajun Nationals, the World Finals at Amarillo, Texas, the original site of the US Nationals at Grand Bend, Kansas? Need any more examples?

So what has brought on this latest attack on the track that I love to hate? The moving of the Federal-Mogul event from SIR to Mission this year? No, not really, it's really just the Kingdome blast that made me start thinking about taking a few more shots at the track and its current lessee, Jim "The Rock" Rockstad. The countdown to the end of his "reign" continues, but how much longer will the track continue to operate?

Let's hope the facility can outlast the current management and experience a sorely-needed rebirth as a drag strip that people can look forward to entering, that racers can actually look forward to running at, that an association can be proud to list as a National Event venue. Is that too much to hope for?

Time to run now; the sun's up . . . well, sort of, and Mission Raceway is open for business. George Swann has promised to be out there with his new front-engine Top Fuel dragster and the Optura is dying to do some work, so until tomorrow, hang tight and check this page on Monday for some pics and words on the action at Mission today.

Black Bar
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