MONROE — When Evergreen Speedway opens its 2018 season Saturday, spectators should be prepared for one thing:
The Monroe racetrack begins its 64th season of operation Saturday with a repaved three-eighths-mile track, and the new surface is expected to make the racing action faster than ever before.
“There’s a ton of grip and a ton of speed,” two-time Super Late Models points champion Mike Holden said about the repaved track. “It’s going to be way faster.”
The three-eighths track underwent its first facelift in 40 years last November. Since then drivers have had the opportunity to test on the track, including practice sessions each of the past two weekends. The consensus first impression among drivers? Get ready to see some records broken. The current track record for Super Late Models on the three-eighths track is 16.380 seconds, a time set by Naima Lang in 2012. That number isn’t expected to survive the first weekend.
“We were one of the first cars to test on it in December,” defending Super Late Models points champion Trenton Moriarity said. “We did a mock run in 30-degree weather and ran a 15.7, and I’ve seen people go 15.4. If you hit one perfect lap on a good, cool day, we may be in the low 15s by the end of the year.”
Veteran Super Late Models driver Doni Wanat has already put in 217 laps on the repaved track via testing earlier in the year, which means he has a good feel for how the track is going to run.
“It’s definitely faster for sure,” Wanat said. “It’s about a second, second-and-a-half faster than it was. Other than that I think it has a lot more grip on the track, so we’re not sliding around as much. I’m kind of interested to see if it will be a two-grove race track or a one-groove race track.”
How the track wears in over time will determine what the racing is like. A one-groove track, which is how the drivers described Evergreen’s track the past couple years prior to the repaving, means more in-line racing, with cars going side-by-side mainly to pass. A two-groove track would allow for side-by-side racing around the entire track.
“There’s a lot of speculation that there could be one groove,” Holden said. “But it was pretty much one groove before, so I don’t think that would be a big shocker. We don’t really know what to expect.
“It may be better racing,” Holden continued. “The old track, if you bumped into someone they were going spinning because there was such low grip. Now I think you can get into somebody and play a little rougher, and people should be able to save it and drive away from some of the contact.”
Regardless of how the track ends up running, the drivers believed it was time for it to be repaved.
“It was worn out and falling apart,” Holden said. “There were times a few years ago where we had to stop races completely because chunks were coming out of the track. The last few years they did a good job of patching and holding it together, but it needed (the repaving) for sure.”
The repaved track seems to be bringing out the competition, too. More than 30 Super Late Models are signed up for Saturday’s opener, which makes for a large field.
“We have people coming to the first race who would come when we raced the five-eighths track, but never when we were on the three-eighths track,” Wanat said. “We’re going to have 30-35 cars on opening night, and there’s going to be probably at least 10 cars more than ever raced on the three-eighths track the last five or six years, so that’s a good thing. Then there’s a lot of people from the other side of the mountains who are waiting out opening night and aren’t doing the whole series, but are coming to race later. A lot of drivers are excited.”
The Super Late Models will be the feature class of Saturday’s racing, but the day will also include Super Stock Figure 8s, Stinger 8s, Hornets, Mini Bump 2 Pass, Busses and a fireworks show. Several northwest sports legends will be in attendance, including former Seattle SuperSonics point guard Slick Watts, former Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Warren, and former University of Washington safety Lawyer Milloy. Gates open at 2 p.m. with racing scheduled to start at 6 p.m.