I-37 Speedway Hands Out 2017 Hardware, 1/6/18
By JM Hallas
Pleasanton, Tx.(Jan. 6Th, 2018) As the 2018 racing season rapidly approaches, I-37 Speedway by R&M Promotions honored its class winners and track sponsors Saturday night with their first annual banquet. Ray Doyon and Michael Keylich(R&M Promotions) emceed the event along with track manager George Jones as they finished their first season of operation. At times the trio were more like a '3 Stooges' comedy act, just without the slapstick antics.
The first to be honored was Kris Workman, who you may recall was one of the many seriously injured during the early November shooting at the Sutherland Springs Church. Workman, a racer in the local Pure Stock division, was in good spirits despite his injury and vowed to get back in a racecar again. He received a standing ovation from the packed house full of racers and their families.
Next were all the track personnel, many of whom are volunteers, that staff the facility from the ticket booth to the concession stand and souvenir stand to tower and line up staff. All the 2017 class sponsors were next to be recognized, Cash Bred Off Road(Modifieds) Swenson Racing Products(Sport Modifieds), Nogalitos Gear(Limited Late Models), SABFI Transportation(Street Stocks), All In Designs(Pure Stocks) and Brown Chevrolet(Sport Compacts) as well as track sponsor Alamo Hot Rod Parts. Nogalitos Gear chipped in some extra goodies for all the class winners.
Robbie Opiela, who took over the kids Go-Kart operation, was called to honor the top three in each of the Go-Kart classes. Youth; Blaine Markgraf(champion), Hayes Bettis and Aubrey Moore. Junior; Peyton Jones(champion), Ruby Bettis and Blaine Markgraf. Senior; Ryker Hernandez(champion), Faye Bettis and Cameron Dinsmore, who was unable to attend after the funeral of his grandfather earlier in the day.
Capping the nights honorees were the top three drivers in all six local classes. Talon Minten picked the first of two championships with his Modified title with Cody Leonard and Jason Borlace, second and third respectively. T. Minten got his second after his Sport Modified championship with Cody Leonard and Johnny Torres, who will be sporting a new car for 2018.
The Limited Late Model title went to Frank Okruhlik, who says he going back into retirement, followed by Jason Kelly and former multi-time class champ, Trey Votion. Wade Jones retook the Street Stock crown in 2017 adding another trophy to his collection, with Cody Leonard(bridesmaid a third time) and Shawn Moore.
Dakota Heinaman grabbed his first I-37 Speedway championship in the Pure Stocks with Aaron Leddy and William Saunders. The Sport Compact saw Robert Kelm, who will be moving up a class in 2018, dominate the class with nine wins for the year with Jamie Garner and Gordon Dowdy.
After a very successful first season for the newbie promoters and staff, 2018 looks to be even better. Upgrades are being made to the ¼ mile track just outside of Pleasanton with a new transponder system, enlarged pit area, new spectator seating being added and suites in the works. The track will also go through somewhat of a facelift with new clay being brought in and added, mostly to add some additional banking in turns 1-2.
Coming in 2018 are four visits from the returning Dwarf Car Racing Series of Texas as well as two visits from the Southern Texas Late Model Series. Making their inaugural visit will be the Texas Outlaw Modified Series(TOMS) and negotiations are in the works to bring back the Lone Star 600 Mini Sprints.
“I'm proud of what we did for our first year,” said Doyon. “I think it went pretty well. On a scale of 1-10, I'm going to say 7 or 8. With the turnout we have here at the banquet, I think we did well. It's a great turn out. I think people believed in us and saw we were trying to bring a business side to racing. We knew we weren't going to make a lot of money going in. Overall people saw we were putting a lot into our track, facilities and racing program.”
“Our bad point was probably track prep. We didn't do so well the first part of the season, but we improved a lot at the end of the year. We got compliments the last part of the season. Every race we learned something new and progressively got better.”
“I've never even come close to running a track. When I was a racer I'd just stay in my pits and never worry about anything. Holy cow! As a promoter there's so much that goes on behind the scenes. It's amazing how much staff, money, supplies, material, electronics, thought, effort, actually go into to this.”
“We hope to increase the car count in all our classes next year. The class I'm really looking forward to is Pure Stocks. I hear of so many car being built. We've increased purse money in several classes and look to increase others if they get the car count up. We're working on more track sponsors which will help the racers, like heat race money.”
“We're working on bringing in some more soil. Some soil that will hold a bit more moisture. We will add some from the middle-up in turns 1-2 to increase the banking a little. Not because we want to go faster, but we want the cars to handle better and add an upper groove so that corner won't be so bottom dominant. Then we'll have a 'sweet suite' that will be good for our sponsors, a place for birthday parties or special occasions. One of big requests was last year was pit speakers and we're working on that as well.”
“We tried to get a USMTS show in the coming year, but at this stage of our promoting we just felt it was a little risky. They put on a great show and hopefully the following year we can do that. We've worked with Kody(Hardage) at Southern Texas Late Model Series before and we have coming early and late in the season.”
“The TOMS were an easy deal, the money was right. We wanted to bring some faster Modifieds to the track. We feel like we have one of the racier surfaces in south Texas. I think we'll get some three wide racing if we get the track right that night. Kieth(Pirtle) was hitting me up to find them a Friday track. I'm glad to hear Texana stepped up for Friday night. This should help bring more of their guys down from north Texas. They have a good group of some big name guys in that series and I'm hoping that our regular guys will try to compete with them.”
“The Dwarf Car Racing Series of Texas guys are great to work with. They put on a good show and have a good following of fans that show up. We're still working with the Lone Star 600 Mini Sprints. Their racers seem to be pushing their promoter to come back since they enjoyed the track even though they got rained out before the finish of the night.”
“I think we did very well for two guys that no idea what they were getting into,” added Michael Keylich. “Luckily we had a lot of support behind us. That was the biggest deal. Our family stepped up to help us out greatly, without them we couldn't have done this. We learned a lot. I think this coming season will be better for both, us and the racers. We just ran out of time on some improvements last year. We didn't get to do everything we wanted to do. This year there's a lot more coming.”
“Coming from drag racing the two worlds are kind of different, but at the end of the day, the same. It's a big family. Everyone tries to help each other out. There are some rivalries out there which is different from drag racing. In drag racing if you lose to a guy you're over there helping him get ready for the next round, then barbequing and drinking beer afterwards.”
“In dirt racing you have to be careful going to someone else's pits. We want to try to change that here. There are people already this way, but we'd like for everyone to have respect for the other guy. It's racing and it(wrecks) happen. I'd like it if our guys, if they wreck someone, to go over and ask what they can do help get them back on track again. That's me trying to bring the drag racing side over here.”
“I'd like for this to be a friendlier place to race. If someone has a problem they're typically in mine or Ray's pits. We try to talk everything out and explain our view and listen to there's. We want racers to come back. There are some things we had to do, but I think it set an example for that. All in all, I think we did great and next season will be better.”
“The high point was all the great racing,” explained track manager George Jones. “It's been an awesome season. The biggest change between venues for me has been the racers, the rules and the lifestyle. It's way different than the guys that just go in a straight line. It's a lot more competitive here. Everything was handled great. There were a few problems, we tried to be fair in every situation.”
“I'm looking forward to the new transponder system next year. That's going to improve our scoring. We're also setting up a system to get guys money for heat races that may not do so well in the features. We'll also be adding suites, more spectator seating. 2018 is going to be way better than 2017, by far.”