Opening Night in America
As the weather turns warmer, race tracks across the country awaken from a wintertime nap to launch a new season of competition, and what played out this past Saturday at Wall Stadium in New Jersey is just one example.
At Wall Stadium, which held its first opening night on Memorial Day weekend in 1950, a nearly perfect Spring evening drew a strong crowd of race-hungry spectators and more than 100 race cars spread across several distinct classes. The track’s high-banked one-third-mile oval, essentially unchanged in 66 years, has been augmented in recent years by a smaller flat track in the infield, and on this night races were staged on both tracks.
The headline class at Wall Stadium is the Modifieds, cars descended from the junkyard refugees of decades ago but now purpose-built machines with nary a streetable part on them. The second-tier classes include cars similar to the Modifieds but with more restrictive specifications, plus there are four-cylinder stock cars built from retired grocery-getters, seven classes in all.
At speedways from coast to coast similar cars may take to the track, or there might be Sprint Cars, Midgets, Supermodifieds or others. At the grassroots level the variety of car classes nationwide borders on insane, although for the most part a Sprint Car or Midget at any one place in the country is the same as those found elsewhere.
The first race of a new season is always special. After a long cold winter, the noises, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the anticipation. At CarShowSafari.com, we make a point of visiting the short tracks in addition to the major events. Doing so has enabled us to witness everyone from Mario Andretti to Tony Stewart as they were just getting started. Which future racing star is just getting started at a track near you?
Top Image by J.J. Lane
Bottom Image by Bob Marlow