Back on the Track

So Greg Friend and I dropped in on the action at Memphis International Raceway last night to have a look at the first Test & Tune session held under the track's new ownership group.

We arrived a little late, and left before it was all done, but it was a good feeling to see one of my favorite gearhead haunts operating once again like nothing ever happened. The place looks pretty much like it did the last time I was there almost two years ago. The most noticeable exception being the still missing section of pit side grandstands that were wiped out during a springtime mega-storm. The wrecked stands are obviously gone, but no replacements have been installed just yet. It looks like most of the re-hab efforts have gone toward creating an all new drag strip surface on which to race, the installation of timing equipment, functional bathrooms, and other essential infrastructure. The missing grandstands can come later, when there are races on the schedule that demand them. There's plenty of places to sit for now.

The management of MIR made the decision to flip the switch Sunday evening after a closed door test session, so this T&T was a non-advertised deal, and a pretty well kept secret. Word got around that the gates would open via Social media, and email. Still, the spectator count was sizable, with cars extending to about the finish line of the 1/4 mile strip, and the on-track participants were also fairly numerous with about half the available pit space being occupied. Also note that this was a Tuesday evening, which has always been the "extra" T&T session. Thursday has always been the primary tune up and grudge race night, and it just so happens they're going to do another one of these this coming Thursday, along with a "Midnight Madness" race on Friday, and a 10.5 inch tire "heads-up" race on Saturday. Next week, two more T&T nights, so it looks like they plan to stay fairly busy.

I only had my "usually available" pocket camera on hand to document the sights with since I arrived from work with only a taco stop in between. It was pretty dark after the sun went down, so my photos are what they are. But here's a few shots that manage to show something that is almost universally unheard of... a closed racetrack that has re-opened and is racing again, and in a bad economy no less.

Note the modern muscle... many new age Camaros, Mustangs, recent Pontiac Firebirds, a Viper, some Corvettes etc. were on hand. Vintage performance cars along with purpose built dragsters and altereds were also stretching their legs on the MIR 1/4 mile. Greg is even seen glad handing with local Top Fuel shoe Clay Millican. who was serving as an interim crewman to some of his own crew guys personal race cars. Also notable was the voice of old Lakeland drag strip announcer Jimmy Deese calling the on track action throughout the evening.

It's been a long wait to see this finally happen. I plan to attend frequently and try and do my part to help keep the track open. These places are too hard to come by in the modern world to unnecessarily lose them, and I'm glad to say that this one is back in action.