Tyson Lang (18) races during the Central Welding Supply 125 for Pro Late Models at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe on Oct. 17, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Tyson Lang (18) races during the Central Welding Supply 125 for Pro Late Models at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe on Oct. 17, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Evergreen Speedway season opens without restrictions

Saturday’s races mark a return to normalcy after the pandemic played havoc on the past two seasons.

MONROE — For the first time in three years Evergreen Speedway will feel like normal on opening day.

Evergreen Speedway’s 2022 season gets the green flag Saturday when the racetrack holds its season opener. Pro Late Models, Street Stocks, Hornets, Stingers and Youth Hornets are on the program for the season opener, and track president Doug Hobbs is ready for the return of normalcy.

“Opening up fully the way it used to be is nice,” Hobbs said. “Every business was affected by the pandemic, but we’re trying to get back to normal and everyone is happy about it.”

The coronavirus pandemic played havoc with Evergreen’s past two seasons. The start of the 2020 season was postponed more than three months, and when racing began it was in front of empty stands. In 2021 Evergreen raced a full season, but opened the year at just 25% capacity for spectators.

However, there are no restrictions as the 2022 season gets underway. There’s no limit on attendance, and there are no requirements for masking or distancing by spectators.

“We’re still going to take some of the best practices from the past two years and apply them,” Hobbs said. “We’re still going to have sanitizing stations, we’re still going to have reminders about covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough. We’re partnering with the Snohomish Health District to make sure that even though we’re through the pandemic, people still keep their guard up.”

Despite the restrictions put in place at the start of last season, Hobbs said the 2021 season was a tremendous success.

“It was truly an outstanding season,” Hobbs said. “We had to start at 25% capacity, then moved to 50% in June, then opened fully for the Fourth of July, and it was actually a phenomenal season. When we were at lower capacities we sold out, and we even had some standing-room only nights when we were at 100% capacity for some of our bigger events. I think it was because there was so much pent-up demand to do something.”

There are some changes at the track for this season, including the installation of LED lighting for both the grandstands and the course, as well as some paving work on the track. However, the most significant change is the addition of a third major track to go with 3/8- and 5/8-mile ovals. A roval, which is a cross of an oval and a road course, has been incorporated into the existing tracks. The 0.6-mile roval includes turns one and two from the 5/8 track, then takes a diagonal to the 3/8 track. The effect is that it will give the drivers a right turn to go with the usual lefts going around the ovals.

“It’s been in the plans for a long time, we had hoped to get it done two years ago,” Hobbs said. “But everyone was so far behind in supplies and workers because of the pandemic that it had to be put off until this year.

“We still have to do some testing, so I’m not sure when the inaugural race will be,” added Hobbs, who said the roval will be used by Pro Late Models, Street Stocks and Mini Stocks. “We’ve had so much bad weather this winter that we weren’t able to get the pavement done until this week. But I’m sure it will be debuted by at least May.”

Evergreen’s racing will also be accessible to a wider viewership. The track’s successful partnership with CW11 to have races televised on tape delay locally prompted Evergreen to take a further step, partnering with FloSports to stream all its racing live on the internet.

“We actually did that before, but it was very limited with not that many cameras,” Hobbs said. “Now because of the CW11 broadcasts we have a full production of seven cameras, GoPros and such. We’ve increased our capabilities and production quality so that we’re able to do this more nationwide.”

Evergreen is also working with CW11 on extending its television deal. It began in 2020 as a consequence of the pandemic preventing fans from attending and was originally a three-year deal.

Evergreen’s biggest race will once again be Summer Showdown, a Super Late Models event that takes place July 22-23 and attracts drivers from across the country. Other major races include the visit of the ARCA Menards Series on Aug. 20 and the Galloway Shootout for Pro Late Models on June 25.

Evergreen’s top weekly series continues to be Pro Late Models. Snohomish’s Naima Lang won the 2021 points championship, his sixth points title in Evergreen’s premier division. Hobbs said the Pro Late Model fields will be substantially larger this year, with the car counts expected to increase from the low teens to about 20. Hobbs credited the CW11 broadcasts for the increase as drivers have been able to pick up sponsors because of the added exposure.

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