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Ode to a Short Track
Submitted by Lady B
April 4, 2007

When people think of NASCAR racing most often they think of the Cup series with its brightest stars….Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, etc.  But if you ask the drivers they will tell you that NASCAR means short tracks, dirt tracks and local tracks in their home town.  No matter where you live all big cities have a local track within a short driving distance.  While it may not be big time racing in the premier Nextel Cup Series to many it is more important than that.

 

Last week I learned that my local track, San Antonio Speedway, was closing its doors forever.  Built in 1977, San Antonio Speedway, with its half-mile, asphalt, 18 degree banking in the turns, ran its first race on August 22, 1977.  Since 1990 San Antonio Speedway was a NASCAR-sanctioned track, the only one in Texas other than Texas Motor Speedway.

 

San Antonio Speedway was being managed by United States Racing Association (USRA), which is run by Terry and his wife, Tammy Dickerson. Established in 2004, USRA soon turned its sights on the San Antonio Speedway.  USRA Track Management Group was formed to manage the San Antonio Speedway for the lease holder, Ted Carlson. Over a two year period the Dickersons tried to purchase the property from the current owner. But to no avail.

 

We all know that Toyota has crept into the Craftsman’s Truck Series and beginning in 2007 they are in the Nextel Cup Series.  That’s not the only place their presence is being felt.  Recently, the City of San Antonio welcomed with open arms the new Toyota Production Plant….in South San Antonio…..within viewing distance from the San Antonio Speedway.  As you can imagine (and the City of San Antonio hopes) considerable growth (commercial and residential) is expected in this area.  We have already seen a huge escalation of land values. As a result of the re-zoning that took place because of Toyota’s presence, the land that San Antonio Speedway sits on was incorporated into an Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ).  I may have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express a time or two but I’m not going to bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that the new zoning allowed the City of San Antonio to make decisions about land not just within its incorporated city limits but land outside as well.  The impact was felt immediately.  Tax increases aside, San Antonio Speedway was now required to comply with very strict city codes.  Right after the 2007 season opened the San Antonio Speedway failed five of the six inspections necessary to keep its doors open. Without a Letter of Occupancy the 2007 season would not continue.  Faced with having to pay a minimum of $80,000.00 to bring the facility up to Code, Terry Dickerson had to make a very difficult decision.

 

But fighting the ETJ was not the only battle looming on the horizon for San Antonio Speedway. Just on the other side of town is San Antonio Raceway where they run Funny Cars, Top Fuel, etc. They have been embroiled in battle for years with the surrounding neighborhoods because of the noise pollution, smell, volume of people, etc. Terry Dickerson knew the 50,000 plus residential units that would ultimately house a larger number of people surrounding the San Antonio Speedway would mean even more battles for the speedway.

 

I’m sad. No, I don’t think you really know how sad I am. San Antonio Speedway is a place where you can take your family to watch some great racing along with a great show.  My family and I have watched many races at San Antonio Speedway and we believe in the value of local tracks.  Is this what we are faced with as our ultimate destination? No more short tracks? No more places for young drivers to hone their skills? No more places for a family to gather with friends to watch racing?

 

Yeah, I’m sad. But I’m even sadder when I think about what we have lost. In 1977, retired Nextel Cup Series Champion, Terry Labonte (Texas Terry), won the first Late Model Sportsman Championship in 1977 at San Antonio Speedway.  How many other championship caliber drivers will we never know about because San Antonio Speedway has closed its doors?  I need to go find my happy place….it used to be located at 14901 State Highway 16 South (towards Poteet), just 3.5 miles outside of Loop 410, San Antonio, Texas.

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