Spectators, racers pack Motorsports Park on 2020’s first day of fast fun

Two classic cars race down the 1/8 mile strip at the old Douglas Raceway during Saturday’s event hosted by Central Wyoming Motorsports.

Engines roared. The smoke from burning rubber rose in the air. The distinctive smell filled the skies as pillows of white fluffy clouds shielded the thousands of spectators who had gathered to witness the return of drag racing.

The throngs came from across Wyoming and surrounding states to enjoy the races sponsored by Central Wyoming Motorsports. Billed as “Resurrection 2020” in a post-pandemic-restricted sports world, the races at Douglas Motorsports Park featured more than 100 amateur racers who competed in drag races for a cash prize. Each racer brought their own vehicle, as long as it was street legal, and competed on the 1/8 mile track.

It was an event almost a year in the making, according to Central Wyoming Motorsports member Cruz VonWald.

“After I did my car show last year, that’s when the ball started rolling. In September of last year, we started getting everything together to present it to the (Converse) County commissioners. There was a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of money put into this and we’re glad we had the turnout we did.”

VonWald and other motor heads like him are hoping that the large turnout and the revenue that came with will be enough to convince the City of Douglas to provide them with a permanent track to hold their events. The current raceway on E. Richards is on land owned by Converse County but sits inside the city limits, creating a jurisdictional headache at times as raceway organizers have tried to plan for long-term events. Plus, the county has, or had, plans for the land aside from leasing it for drag racing . . . but that was pre-pandemic, of course.

VonWald, who is running on the Republican ticket for county commissioner, is generally credited with keeping the sport alive in the community after the demise of at least one for-profit and one non-profit efforts failed.

“We brought in people from Colorado, South Dakota and I think a couple from Montana,” VonWald said. “They come here because there are no tracks anymore; there’s nowhere else for them to go. Everybody says the track doesn’t ever bring in any money, but when I was setting up I saw at least six different car trailers over at Safeway gas station were filled up. It might not be huge amounts but it’s more money than normal.”

And in the “new normal” this summer, any revenue from tourism and event efforts is a welcome sight for businesses hard hit by closures and lost revenues. Spectators and even those just driving by the packed raceway Saturday often commented about how great it was that something like this has returned.

A Casper resident who wanted to be identified simply as John, wondered why the races aren’t something that happens more often.

“They have this nice track here. I just don’t understand why this isn’t a regular occurrence,” John said. “There weren’t a lot of people here early in the morning but as soon as noon rolled around, the place was packed. A little town like this should be happy to bring in people from out of town as much as possible. These races really bring people from all over together.”

VonWald and Central Wyoming Motorsports have lobbied the county commissioners and the city officials to allow them to set up the track as a permanent location to hold these events, but talks of selling the land to be developed for commercial use have also arose, leaving the group uncertain for the future of a permanent space. They thanked the county and the city in a statement on their Facebook page for the chance to hold the event.

“Thank you to Converse County for giving us the opportunity to lease the track this summer. The City of Douglas has helped us every step of the way and shown nothing but support. Our mission as an organization is to build a track for the racers by the racers and this is how it’s done,” they wrote.

The organization plans to hold up to four more events, with the next slated for July 18. VonWald said as the events grow, the group would like to donate some of the proceeds to the Douglas Volunteer Fire Department and possibly some local charities.

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