The Yakima Speedway could be the quietest place in town this summer.
No screaming engines straining to their limits, no tires sizzling over the asphalt of the half-mile oval. And perhaps saddest of all for local auto racing fans, no crowds to cheer on the ear-numbing spectacle.
The longtime owner of the raceway, Ted Pollock, sold the 16 acres the track occupies to Eugene, Ore.-based Pape’ Group last month.
The sale to one of the Northwest’s major heavy-equipment outfits ends several years of bumpy roads for the speedway.
For the past three, Doug Bettarel and Randy Marshall Sr. have struggled to keep the track open. Caught between rising costs and the need to keep gate prices affordable for their prime fans — families — Bettarel and Marshall did everything they could to promote the sport they believed Yakima loved.
Then came COVID-19, which canceled all 2020 events at the track, save for one last run in October — the 33rd annual Fall Classic. The speedway defied state health rules by allowing fans to attend the race and drew a $2,500 fine.
By then, the finish line was in sight.
So, after six decades of racing, the Yakima Speedway has fallen silent.
That leaves local race fans with few options.
Renegade Raceway, south of Union Gap, is still around, but it’s a drag strip, not an oval — a whole different kind of racing. Tri-City Raceway in Benton City is an hour’s drive away, and the Super Oval, clear up in East Wenatchee, is twice as far.
Glum days for speed freaks.
But Bettarel, a never-say-die promoter if there ever was one, and Marshall — still one of the top racers in the region — aren’t giving up just yet. They’re already angling for paving the former horse racing track at State Fair Park and moving racing to the fairgrounds.
That won’t be the easiest ride, either. Horse racing fans are still grieving the loss of Yakima Meadows more than two decades ago, and having their history paved over probably wouldn’t do much to seal up their wounds.
Besides, many of the factors that have brought the Yakima Speedway to a screeching halt will still be in play no matter where anybody tries to put another oval. Liability insurance isn’t cheap. Neither is track upkeep, concessions and any number of other expenses.
Those are discussions for another day, though. For now, we extend our sympathies to Yakima’s racing community.
It’s a sad day for a lot of people, but they should take comfort in knowing they’ve run a good race.