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Getting dirty in Banks

Sunset Speedway, a 1/3-mile dirt racetrack in Banks, offers exciting family entertainment every Saturday night in the summer and fall


If you’re a first-timer at Sunset Speedway in Banks, you’re going to find three things that spark interest: a lot of people wearing protective eyewear, a lot of people wearing ear plugs, and packed bleachers with empty front rows.

By the time you leave after the races, you’ll know why.

First opened in the 1980s, Sunset Speedway is a one-third-mile clay dirt track that is home to exciting racing every Saturday night. The track hosts races in the Late Model, Street Stock, Pure Stock, Modified, 4-Bee, Women’s, Silver Legends and Tracer divisions. Each race runs through six high-speed laps where anywhere from four to eight racers compete.

Before the evening’s events, the track is moistened and patted down with a truck, making it easier for driving. As the cars go around the track at an average of 60 miles per hour, the clay dirt that was compacted before the night starts to loosen and flies into the stands. Some of the pieces that fly into the gravel path between the bleachers and the track get to be the size of tennis balls. The regular attendees all make sure to sit in the back rows of the bleachers to keep the earthen shrapnel at a distance.

And if the dirt is not packed into big pieces, it gets flung into the stands in a cloud. Those that are new to the track who don’t bring glasses — like yours truly — will have to resort to looking the other way and squinting to keep track of the races, and to keep the dirt out of their eyes.

As the cars drive past, some of the more souped-up cars will have very loud engines that can be deafening as they accelerate past the stands. This is especially frequent at the corners when the cars are speeding up after the turns.

If you’re ever wondering what to do on a Saturday night, Sunset Speedway just might have what you’re looking for.

“It’s cars just going really fast. Going really fast,” said Ben Deatherage, head of public relations and promotions at Sunset Speedway.

“Banks has a unique track in its configuration because of its tight turns. And because of that, you know that the drivers are really good.”

The view from the track is amazing. The speedway is located right on the southern edge of Banks and the races are backdropped by the picturesque glow of the sunset over the open farmland in the distance. The races are held in summer and fall, which are often the most beautiful days in the area, so being out in the elements makes for a great time.

Tickets are $13 at the door for adults, and children aged six through 12 are $5 each.

“Really it’s an affordable way to have some entertainment. It’s really a bargain,” Deatherage said. “For the same price as a movie, you can bring the family out to the races and it’s a guaranteed good time.”

If you find that you love the racing at Sunset Speedway, adults can purchase season tickets and families can get packages at a discounted rate.

Coming up on Thursday, the speedway will be hosting the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series National Tour in an event known as Speedweek Northwest. The tour is home to the largest sprint car sanctioning body in the world. Throughout the month of July, the ASCS National Tour will be running through Oregon.

Street Stock racing and Pure Stock racing are when racers use cars that are street legal, rear wheel drive, and use street stock equipment. The difference between Street Stock and Pure Stock is that the Street Stock cars have a weight minimum 3,300 pounds.

The Tracer division is for 13-15 year olds. The cars driven in the Tracer division have to meet requirements for Street Stock or Pure Stock.

For Saturday races, the gates open at 3:30 p.m. The qualifying races start at 4 and the real racing starts at 6.




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