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Start your engines

STEPHENVILLE – A group of volunteers are working hard to try to develop a driving track for racing enthusiasts in Stephenville. Local business owner Scott Simms, with an assist from his father Gary, is part of the group developing Western Speed Park.

“We’re still in the middle of forming our committee, getting it all set up,” says Scott. “It’s going to be a speed park so whatever form of racing we can do, we will do.”

Scott also foresees competitions being held for go-kart racing, drag racing, eighth-mile racing, snowmobile racing and more. Even though everything is not yet set up, the park has already held two autocross events in October. The first one alone drew 17 participants.

Autocross is an individual race around a timed, pre-determined course. The group redesigns the layout of the course after every event to keep things fresh and challenging.

“This is all going to come with time, but right now our problem is asphalt. The asphalt that is there has been there since the fifties. It’s eroding pretty bad to the point where it’s unusable when you’re drag racing,” notes Scott. “The only thing that was usable was the autocross. We were able to go around the bad spots on the asphalt with our pylon course.”

There used to be a speed park in Stephenville once before that Scott believes closed around 1994. Three years ago he began to germinate ideas to start up a new park, which he has got around to actively pursuing this past year.

“You know there was a lot of things that had to happen,” he says. “Now that we have insurance put in place and a permit, we’re able to actively race on there in a way where it’s co-ordinated, and in a way where it’s as safe as possible, and every effort is put in to keeping it as professional as possible.”

Once the committee is finalized, Scott hopes to form a club to deal with the asphalt problem and then move on to testing, among other tasks. The goal is to make the speed park races a regular, weekend event for racers and fans to enjoy.

“We’re going to have to find money. I don’t know how much it’s going to cost yet. We’ve never even really gotten quotes. I can imagine it’s going to be into the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” says Scott. “But aside from that everything is basically already there.”

The site has guardrails, fencing, and most of the safety lines and distancing markers from the previous speed park. Scott says having those already in place makes for a good head start, and will help further rejuvenate the industrial side of the town. Carolina Avenue, which runs parallel to the speed park, has been recently repaved.

“We need bleachers,” says Scott. “We need to make spectator areas where it’s safe.”

Some of the existing fencing still needs repair and Scott says there will likely have to be some snow fencing installed to mitigate wind conditions during snowmobile races. He doesn’t think the remaining obstacles are insurmountable.

“With enough determination and volunteer work, we should be able to at least get something there with regards to snowmobile racing, because right now it’s another obstacle,” says Scott. “There’s lots of things to do in the summer when the weather’s good, but what do you do for the six months of the year when the weather is not good?”

So far it seems determination and volunteer work are plentiful. Scott credits the Town of Stephenville, the business community, racers and even the public for jumping in to help get the Western Speed Park up and running.

“At one point, for cleaning it up, we cleaned the whole area down there for the drag strip in the matter of a weekend. It was incredible. We had plow trucks coming in from everywhere, knocking off the grub from the pavement that was there for 50 plus years. We had sweepers down there – I mean people down there with brooms – and town trucks. It was crazy!”

Scott promises there will be events coming in the summer of 2021, and hopes to put down new asphalt next August if enough money can be found. But it’s hard to commit to a timeline yet because there still remains many unknowns.

“We do have people standing by and they’re ready to organize a snowmobile event,” promises Scott. “We’re doing everything we can to get it going as soon as we can.”

To learn more check out the Western Speed Park’s group on Facebook or Instagram.

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