NASCAR’s first trip of the summer to the Iowa Speedway isn’t the only major racing event going on in the state this weekend.
While Nationwide Series stock cars will take the track in Newton, dirt-track fans will get their fill of big-time sprint-car racing at the 34 Raceway in Burlington on Friday night as the prestigious World of Outlaws will visit the high-banked, 3/8-mile clay oval for the first time in four years.
The most popular dirt touring series in America nearly sold out its inaugural event in Burlington in 2008. However, the second show in 2009 saw a drop in attendance — hence the four-year hiatus.
“A lot of times what we do when we schedule is we won’t go back to a place every year unless it is a traditional event,” World of Outlaws vice president of public relations Chris Dolack said. “It helps with the crowd each year when you come back. It makes everybody want to be there a little bit more maybe than the next time you come.”
The mindset here is that the less regular a major touring show like the World of Outlaws comes to your home track, the more special it becomes when that date finally arrives. The Burlington track believes in that theory, too.
“Since we skipped a couple of years, I feel like the excitement has grown again and probably more than the actual first year,” said Amy Laue, one of the track’s owners.
Putting on a show this prominent isn’t as easy as the cars showing up and driving around the track. Laue estimated that Friday’s event will cost 34 Raceway around $125,000 after it pays all of the drivers, the support classes, track employees, insurance and advertising costs.
For a small dirt track, inviting a series as big as the World of Outlaws to come and race is not only a major commitment but a financial risk, as well. Which is why filling the stands is vitally important. That is exactly what 34 Raceway intends to do.
“I think it puts us on the map as one of the premier facilities for hosting sprint car racing,” Laue said. “Just having a prestigious event and seeing all of those huge haulers come in and all of the different big-name drivers who race all over the country, and being able to bring that to your fans here, locally, is really rewarding.”
Laue estimated that anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of the crowd from the first two shows were local race fans — people who live within two hours of the track. The rest come from outside of the state and all over the Midwest, which will once again provide an economic boost to the city of Burlington.
The drivers love this hidden gem on the eastern side of the state, too.
Seven-time Knoxville Raceway track champion Terry McCarl, a one-time World of Outlaws feature winner this season, grew up watching races at the track. McCarl, who helped promote the two previous shows at Burlington, loves 34 Raceway so much that he once looked into taking things to a whole new level than just driving his 410-cubic-inch-engine sprint cars at the oval.
“I actually looked into buying it before Amy and them bought it,” McCarl said. “That’s how much I like it. It’s a perfect track in a great location that puts on great races. There are a lot of hardcore sprint-car fans in that area, too.”
Quality racing has never been an issue when the Outlaw drivers visit Burlington.
“It is nice and wide. You can really race on it,” McCarl said. “Come feature time, there is usually a top and a bottom and you can really pass guys. It has always been one of my favorite tracks.”
What: World of Outlaws
Where: 34 Raceway in Burlington
When: Hot laps begin at 6:30 and time trials start at 7.
Tickets: $35 for adults: $15 for children 6-12; 5 and under are free. Fans can reserve seats online at slspromotions.com.
Drivers to watch
– Jason Sides is currently 13th in the series pointS standings but is the only driver that finished in the top five during both of the 34 Raceway’s World of Outlaw events in 2008 and 2009.
– Oklahoma native Daryn Pittman enters the event as the series points leader with five victories on the season.
– Five-time series champ Donny Schatz is 157 points back of Pittman in the standings. Schatz recorded two top sevens at Burlington in 2008 and 2009.
– Joey Saldana, who won this race four years ago, is currently winless on the season but still sitting fifth in points.
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