Friday - September 4 - We would be cutting it close but if all fell in place we would arrive just as qualifying started. The Labor Day weekend this year would see us visiting three new tracks in West Virginia. The problem was the first was 7 and 1/2 hours away and Bruce had to work in the morning. He would be home by 11:15 and if we were on our way by 11:30 included rest area stops we would be there in time. I was at home and rushed to make sure the rental car was packed with the clothes, drinks, food, Speedway Directory, maps and blankets. At 11:15 Bruce pulled into the garage and exactly at 11:30 the rental car left 50 River View Drive. There were no construction delays, we ate in the car while driving and at 7:20 we pulled into the parking lot at Beckley Motorsports Park in Beckley, West Virginia. The weather was perfect in the low 80’s and dropping into the low 60’s.
Beckley is a high banked oval that looks like it is craved out of a mountain. The track sets down in and the stands are on banks on both sides of the track. You sit high above the track and probably one of the reasons you do not get dusty. Of course we are south of the Mason Dixon line so time trial qualifying was the order for three of the five divisions. Luckily they run group time trials where four cars time at once. Qualifying did start on time at 7:15 and we missed the beginning. Ahh! Not to worry as they were not complete in all the divisions until 8:35. Now it is time to run heats for four of their five divisions. I guess if you live in the south you get use to time trials and it is just another part of the show. Although I do not think I could ever get used to it and seeing them for special shows only back home is enough for me. The street stocks were up first with 2 heats followed by 3 heats for the 30 AMRA modifieds. There were 22 late models running 3 heats and the semi late models came in with 2 heats for their 15 contenders. The problem we had is you could not hear the announcer. The speakers were down low aimed at the bottom rows and we sat four rows from the top and could barely hear anything. The qualifying heats were completed shortly after 10:00 and now we had 2 B mains and a cash dash to run. I guess we are spoiled back home because the tracks we usually attend on a Friday night after a day at work are running the main events at 10:00 not gearing up for the final qualifying events prior to intermission. After the B mains we saw the hornets (mini stocks) run a 15 lap feature and this was the first we saw them since they ran their hot laps at 8:15. Then it was two mini wedges with kids driving them in a three lap event. Do not even ask what they are but they are so small and they almost turned over when they hit some of the ruts in the turns. You would think they might have run them earlier in the evening. Now it is intermission starting at 11:00 and by this time both Bruce and I were starting to feel the events of a long day. He was up since 5:00 in the morning and I am fighting a sinus/allergy problem and just want to cuddle up in bed and sleep. Now do not get me wrong a lot of the heat racing was very competitive and the winner was not decided until the last lap when they crossed the line side by side but we were tired. The crowd on hand did not seem to mind and I guess that is all that matters. They automatically assume they are going to be there until after midnight. The same way I automatically assume I will be out of Williams Grove on a regular night by 10:30 after watching the entire show.
The modifieds ran a special 30 lap feature first and it started at 11:20. They ran well and the only caution in the event came out on lap 23 when the second place runner spun all by himself in turn two. He was fast approaching the leader and I guess he got a little over anxious. The final running order at the checkered was Jeremy Berwanger followed by Vince Conrad and Brent Hamilton. The late models were up next and their 30 lap event started at 11:40 and was just the opposite of the modifieds. They had 7 cautions in their event. There was some good racing but it seemed as soon as they got going the yellow was waving. Jeff Burdette was battling with Billy Holbert for the lead with two to go and ran him high in turn one and two with Holbert spinning. I do not know if he actually touched but in my view it was definitely Burdette’s fault. It did not seem to phase any of the crowd and the only person who seemed to mind the incident was Holbert. Burdette held on for the win followed by Chris Meadows (crowd favorite), Harold Redman Jr. pole sitter Rick Williams and Ed Shuman. It was now after midnight, I was wrapped in a blanket feeling like my head was going to explode and Bruce was beat. We decided to forego the final two features and headed back to the hotel.
They had a good field of cars in the pits, a nice crowd on hand considering it was the opening night of high school football and they served chicken sandwiches from Chic-Fil-a. If you were management who could ask for more.