Late-models coming back to Speedway after long absence
It has been a very long time since late-model cars have competed at the 3/8th-mile Emo Speedway.
But that lengthy hiatus will come to an end this summer when the Northern Late Model Racing Association (NLRA) touring series makes a special appearance there on Sunday, June 30.
“The big deal with the NLRA is that it’s tough for them to do an eastern swing if there is just one race,” he explained.
“But we were able to work things out with Hibbing, and they will run there first on the Saturday before coming here on the Sunday.
“Having the Monday long weekend on the Canadian side is a benefit to us, especially since it will allow guys to come down and not worry about coming in the next day, and we also have a rain date if we need it on Canada Day,” Leek added.
“I think this is a very rare opportunity to have the late models come here,” he said. “I’m 28 years old and I was around 10 years old the last time I saw them run here.”
The NLRA tour consists of drivers from North Dakota and southern Manitoba that run 10-15 different events during the season for a points championship.
They compete in some of the fastest cars in dirt-track racing.
“When you see a late model on a race track, they look like race cars,” Leek noted. “But when you actually see them at a closer view, you find they look like boats with wheels.
“That is not indicative of their speed and their agility, but in terms of their sheer size as they are very wide,” he remarked.
“They are like a modified in a lot of ways, but with more control and a lot more horsepower.
“The track here should be conducive for some good side-by-side racing for the late models, and it should be a great show with our other classes,” Leek enthused.
While it’s too early to know how many drivers will compete at the Emo Speedway, at least 10 drivers have expressed interest in running, with area drivers Kyle Gavel and Greg Ferris possibly taking to their home track for the show.
“You won’t just see drivers who run on the tour, as well,” Leek noted. “Those will be the majority of the drivers, with many of them being near the top of the WISSOTA weekly standings.
“But there is a possibility that some of the top guys in Minnesota might come up, as well.
“But we will know more closer to the show itself,” he added.
The late-model special, which will start an hour earlier compared to a regular race night, is the major highlight of the 2013 racing season, which officially gets underway on Saturday, May 18 at 7 p.m.
“I think we’re all pretty excited for this season and we are all gearing up for it,” Leek said.
“You never want to assume the amount of cars that might come out for the start of the year as there is always a lot of talk in the off-season,” he conceded.
“But if things come to fruition, we should have some good car counts this year.
“We’ve been holding on our own when it comes to car counts,” Leek noted. “We have 10 Modifieds running in our Modified class while some tracks that used to have 20-25 every week are down to just five.
“When you think of all the closures for race tracks in the area over the last few years, such as Dryden and Thunder Bay, we’re very fortunate to have the support that we have here,” he stressed.
When it comes to pre-season preparations, the biggest one will be completion of the new lighting tower on the frontstretch, which got underway following the 2012 season.
“Randy McNally and his crew have been amazing in putting in the underground wiring, the transformers, and all that goes with it,” Leek explained.
“What we have to do now, once the weather co-operates, is to take out the old lighting, the old poles, and the old wiring before we put the new lights up at top of the new towers.
“Other than that, we will do the usual maintenance, as well, when it comes to fixing up the race track,” Leek continued.
“But we don’t really know what to fully expect until the snow is gone.”