After 15 years, the thunder came back to Clearwater.
The Clearwater Speedway welcomed drivers and spectators back to the track on Saturday, July 3, for their opening weekend. Originally set to open in May, the event got pushed back due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Just days before the event started, participants, organizers and race enthusiasts got some good news — the province would be moving into the next step of its reopening plan, meaning spectators were allowed to attend.
“We’re really excited to be out here,” said Emelia Cinnamon, who travelled to the track from Valemount with friends and family to watch her husband, Joel, race. “It’s nice to see people out here, feels really good.”
She said they had come out to the Clearwater track once before it had shut down. The weekend opener was their first time back to the track and Joel’s first race.
Drivers and spectators came from all over, including Barriere, Valemount, Merritt and Vanderhoof, to take part in and watch the races.
There were other rookies on the track, too, including local driver Madyson Clark, 15, who won the first race of the season on the track since it’s closure over a decade ago.
“It felt more than amazing racing on that dirt track for the first ever time in 15 years,” she told The Times. “Knowing that my family raced on the same track years ago and I was following in their footsteps made me feel so lucky to have a great set of people to start that track up again.”
Each driver started the day with a timed lap, something Clark said was stressful, as all eyes are focused on the one person going around the track. Once everyone had taken their lap, it was time for the first group, the street stock cars, to take to the track.
When she’s driving, Clark goes into a different mode; her mind goes blank and probably couldn’t tell you her name if you asked. And not every race is the same. The following day, her car had mechanical issues, though she still managed to race, and got kicked out of her first race due to a couple of faults. During the second race of the day, she had to head to the pit because her 1981 Monte Carlo began to overheat.
“After 15 years of the track not running then all of a sudden it comes back alive and I was the first person to win a race on the grand re-opening felt pretty amazing,” said Clark. “I was proud and was more than proud with everyone that made it happen. I was definitely emotional after that first race.”
The races will return to the Clearwater Speedway Aug. 7 and 8.