A NEW ERA
Racing season set to begin at revamped Fort Dodge complex
When Jason Vansickel accepted the position of track promoter and manager at Sports Park Raceway this past winter, an immediate vision came to mind.
Vansickel’s interest in reviving the reputation of the track at Frontier Sports Park wasn’t for personal gain, though. The 38-year-old got involved for the greater good of supporting a passionate Fort Dodge racing community.
”I just saw this as a huge opportunity to help turn a nice facility around and give the drivers and fans an experience they deserve,” Vansickel said. ”We’re going to do things the right way.”
Sports Park Raceway’s 2017 season debuts on Sunday evening, when gates open at 4 p.m. Hot laps are at 5:30, with racing immediately to follow at 2298 South River Road, just south of Fort Dodge.
Vansickel has teamed with local fixtures Marty Pringle and Dave Doughty to get the 150-acre complex up to speed this spring, and the Hubbard-Radcliffe graduate believes both competitors and spectators will be impressed by the new atmosphere.
”We’ve sided and re-done the buildings, built a VIP deck, added more picnic tables up top, cleared up the ponds in the infield, put together a full and affordable concession menu, and obviously just cleaned (the facility) up with a lot of hard work,” said Vansickel, who was with Hamilton County Speedway in Webster City for the last three years. ”And of course, the track has been improved and re-shaped.
”Marty and Dave have been great. They’ve really helped with their local connections and awareness of what should and shouldn’t be done. From Marty, Dave, myself and the rest of the staff and volunteers, there is a full knowledge of what it’s going to take and how to get there. I have complete confidence in that.”
Six classes will be offered to drivers this season under non-sanctioned IMCA rules: Sport Compacts, Hobby Stocks, Sport Mod, Stock Car, Modifieds and Late Models. Race nights will be every Sunday through the end of July, with admission prices set at $10 for fans 14 years and older, $4 for kids age 7-13, and $8 for military and seniors age 60 and up. Special $5 admission weeks are set for May 14, June 18 and July 16, with a Unity Point fireworks show on July 2.
”Everything I do as a promoter is with the fan’s perspective in mind,” Vansickel said. ”I’ve been around racing my whole life, and I’ve raced (competitively) since 1998. I’m always thinking of the fans’ experience above everything else. If you’re in it for yourself, you’re in it for the wrong reason.
”It’s good to know that Marty and Dave feel the same. They’ve been with me every step of the way, and I’ve really appreciated their input. We want this to be affordable entertainment for the racing community here. They are more than ready.”
Vansickel’s goal is to have 75 or 80 cars in action weekly, with around 600 people in the stands on average.
”I see a lot of very positive signs that those are realistic numbers,” Vansickel said. ”We had 51 cars and about 250 in the grandstands watching (on April 23) for the test and tune, which is a great start. We’ll work hard to make sure this is an environment drivers and fans want to come back to, and we’ll also keep our website and social media updated to both (retain and attract supporters).”
Vansickel wasn’t sure what local and area businesses would think of the track’s latest venture, but he has been ”overwhelmed” by the positive response.
”You never know how the community will react based on what’s happened before, but the businesses and the people who want to get involved have really been amazing,” Vansickel said. ”Again, that’s where people like Dave and Marty have really helped make a difference.
”We want to send a message that we’re going to get things headed in the right direction. We’re all passionate about making racing successful and relevant here for good.”
Sports Park Raceway results, standings, photos, videos and more are available at sportsparkraceway.com, or by liking their Facebook page.