Jeff's call: Racing under the lights gets blood running

Posted: Friday, September 17, 2010

The Twin Cities Raceway - Circle Track Division will hold its annual racing under the lights today and Saturday at Twin Cities Raceway.

It's hard to truly have an appreciation for every sport that I have to cover, but I like to try and at least get a taste of why fans go bonkers for a particular activity.

Growing up, I was never that exposed to auto racing. I went to a couple of races at area tracks, and once in high school I even got to attend some open-wheel racing at Road America in Wisconsin, but I never really "got" why people loved racing so much.

That all changed in late 2003 when Twin Cities Raceway held its first night races -- believed to be the first races under lights in Alaska's history. The event is just plain cool.

There's something about the ambience of the cars under the lights that makes the racing that much more special.

"It was everything I thought it would be and more," said Jackie McGahan after that first event. "I wish we could run in the dark every night.

"I've raced down south in the World of Outlaws, and so has (Anchorage sprint car driver) John McDonald. The atmosphere tonight, both on the track and in the pits, was just like a World of Outlaws race. It's awesome we were able to do that in Alaska."

The night racing is so unique that it had the benefit of drawing cars from other places in the state. The more cars, the better the racing.

That night, there was a huge field of 14 sprint cars, the winged demons that slingshot their way around the track at amazing speeds due to the downforce created by the wings. Nine of those sprint cars were on the track for the 360 sprints. The track is only three-eighths of a mile and is the fastest dirt track in the state.

When that many sprints get sliding around that small of a track, it's an incredible adrenaline rush to watch. It's a good thing the drivers are so skilled, because the action is so fast and frantic that it almost borders on being out-of-control. I felt real pity for the lap counters that had to not only count the laps, but get the yellow flag quickly up when a sprint car rolls over.

One might say the light went on not only in my head, but over my head, after that evening of racing was over. As spectators filtered out to the parking lot, they were greeted by, as I put it then, an "aurora borealis that whimsically lashed and fluttered its way across the autumn sky."

McGahan said a big field of stock cars and sprint cars are expected for the racing tonight and Saturday. For those that have always wanted to check out a racing event at the local track, this is the event to check out.

The pits and gates open at 4 p.m., time trials are at 6 p.m. and racing starts at 7 p.m.

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