MONROE — After an abbreviated season without fans last year, Evergreen Speedway is set to wave the green flag on a 2021 slate it hopes will be much closer to normal.
The Monroe speedway kicks off its season Saturday night with five main events, including a 100-lap Pro Late Model race. It will be the first of 28 consecutive weekends of racing at Washington state’s lone NASCAR-sanctioned track.
And for the first time in more than 17 months, fans will be there to take in the action.
The 12,500-person capacity venue is allowing 2,500 fans to attend Saturday’s opening night, according to Evergreen Speedway president Doug Hobbs. That comes after the state unveiled Phase 3 of its “Healthy Washington” reopening plan earlier this month, which allows larger venues to admit up to 25% capacity or up to 9,000 people, whichever is fewer.
“We’re obviously very excited to get back to racing and get open,” Hobbs said. “We’re extremely excited to have fans back.”
Safety precautions at the racetrack will include socially distanced seating and mandatory mask-wearing, except when eating or drinking. There also will be increased cleaning and sanitizing, including restroom sprayers, extra wash stations, sanitizer dispensers and a hygiene crew to wipe down handrails and other high-touch areas.
“We’re taking a lot of precautions to make sure that we’re doing everything right and we follow all the state and county guidelines and health department rules,” Hobbs said. “… We want to make sure that (fans) feel, and are, safe to come here.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Evergreen Speedway is coming off an abbreviated season last year that spanned from late-June to mid-October. The lack of fans was a major financial challenge for the track, which receives the vast majority of its revenue through ticket and concession sales. Some of the track’s premier events, such as the Summer Showdown and the Mark Galloway Shootout, had to be canceled because of the inability to provide a substantial purse.
“Obviously in any business, you need paying customers,” Hobbs said. “So having lost the 2020 season to all your fans, … that is a huge impact — not only to us, but as importantly, it’s a huge loss to local businesses, local hotels, local gas stations. We know from county records the economic impact of Evergreen Speedway has a huge presence on all the surrounding communities.”
Hobbs said the racetrack’s “saving grace” last season was the three-year television contract it signed with CW11 to broadcast taped versions of its races on a weekly show called “Home Track Heroes.”
Evergreen Speedway produced the show, and CW11 broadcast it one week later on Sunday evenings to an audience throughout the Puget Sound region and beyond. That helped keep fans engaged, expanded the track’s audience and provided exposure for car sponsors that lost in-person viewership. CW11 will continue to broadcast the show on Sunday evenings this season.
Evergreen Speedway returns to a full schedule this year, with NASCAR races and well over 100 total events spanning from Saturday’s opening night to the Oct. 2 season finale.
Among the highlights are the Mark Galloway Shootout on June 26, the Summer Showdown on July 23-24 and the Central Welding Supply 125 on Sept. 18. The Galloway Shootout and Summer Showdown both will include Super Late Models, which are the premier division of asphalt short-track racing cars.
Other popular events scheduled for this season include sprint car series, Formula Drift racing, Rolling Thunder Big Rig racing, an action sports collective called Nitro Circus, demolition derbies, fireworks shows and more.
“We have some great shows lined up,” Hobbs said. “… We’re just happy to relaunch the new normal.”