Promoter Kevin Guthrie's expectations were exceeded last Saturday night when Columbia Motor Speedway Park had its season opener in Hermiston.
"We had a great turnout," said Guthrie, who was a pit steward last season at the facility but decided to lease it this season when the previous promoter wasn't going to. "The show was over by 10 p.m. There was good, clean racing. As far as the fan count, it was just under 1,000."
The car count wasn't so bad either: seven Late Models, nine street stocks, four Limited Sportsman, and 21 Hornets.
Race director Chris Baker thought that was OK.
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"Especially considering how things are going all around the Northwest," Baker said.
Guthrie said that race fuel for Late Models runs about $8.60 a gallon. So it's not cheap.
But that hasn't stopped the drivers from making the trek to Hermiston, which draws competitors from the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla area.
Both Guthrie and Baker expect another big crowd tonight when the track holds its "second" season opener, consisting of four completely different divisions -- Columbia River Legends, Super Minis, Mini Stocks and Hobby Stocks.
Baker said the Legends field should be pretty good with an estimated 15 cars. The cars are kit cars with motorcycle motors in them, and they look like Chevy's from the 1934-37 range.
Guthrie said he and Baker planned to split the season openers up to get people home early.
"Our biggest complaint last year was we were running until 1 or 2 a.m.," Guthrie said. "Families want to get home at a decent time."
"I'd eventually like to see that happen in the future, where there are four other classes every other weekend, so people have every other weekend off," said Baker.
To that degree, Guthrie tweaked this season's schedule. The Late Model class raced 15 or 16 times in 2010. But this year it will be just 10 times. The Legends will also be just 10 times, although the Hornets will hit the track 17 nights this season.
Front gates open at 4 p.m. today, with qualifying at 5 p.m. Racing action begins at 6 p.m.