Shawano Speedway ready for green light

Jam-packed schedule lined up
By: 
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

The Shawano Speedway racing season is preparing to kick off its 2023 season and hopes to do so within the month.

The speedway’s opening night is set for April 15, but with snow still melting and the track needing to dry out a bit more, speedway and fairgrounds marketing and promotions manager Brad Luepke says they won’t rush things.

“We’re not going to force a show in,” said Luepke during an interview on April 3. “When the track is ready, we’ll race, that’s the bottom line.”

Luepke added that he hopes to get a few practices in before opening night.

Luepke is back in his position after stepping back from the role in February 2022. He was back in the position by the time the Shawano County Fair happened and now is focused on moving forward.

“We have an opportunity to move forward and we have. We got an aggressive schedule, probably more aggressive than we’ve had special wise since I’ve been here,” said Luepke. “New victory lanes going in, new concrete slab for that, new victory lane sign.

“Everything is moving forward, that has been the theme and the goal since I came back and the team we have in place is very good and very dedicated.”

The Dirt Kings are back at the speedway for two dates this season (opening night and July 29). There’s a $500 to win Mighty 4 Division special on May 20.

Racing for a Reason is back for a 13th season and has raised over $224,000 for cancer in the first 12 years. That night is scheduled for June 17. That night, there’s also a $4,000 to win IMCA Stock Car special.

The speedway will host two IMCA Modified specials this year. A $1,000 to win special is set for June 24 and a $3,000 to win special is marked for July 22.

Fan appreciation night is Aug. 19, with a $3,000 to win special for the IMCA Sport Mods.

Luepke is also excited for the debut of retro night, which is set for Aug. 12. The night will pay homage to the speedway’s rich tradition.

“The goal is to always have something going on every Saturday night,” said Luepke. “If it’s not a race special, it’s a promotion.”

A full list of speedway specials can be found at www.shawanospeedway.net/shawano-speedway-race-schedule.

“It’s going to be a different environment here,” said Luepke. “My first nine years here was good and we grew but I believe that this year, the envorionment will be even different than what it’s been in the past. I’m really excited about it.”

Luepke anticipates 40 or so drivers for the specials, which should make great racing for fans to watch. The specials were coordinated with other track’s schedules in mind, which should bring some of the area’s top talents to Shawano those weeks.

“People really want to see the best of the best race against each other, and this gives them an opportunity to see that,” said Luepke.

In terms of drivers lined up to race in Shawano, Luepke said there was over 100 on the pit board, which is a good sign of how many usually show up every week.

Many, if not all of the speedway’s divisions — Late Models, IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Mods, IMCA Stock Cars and Mighty 4 — will include some new faces from past years.

In 2022, Ron Berna (Late Models), Jordan Bartz (IMCA Modified), Jeffery Teske (IMCA Sport Mod), Trent Nolan (IMCA Stock Car) and Tanner Westphal (Mighty 4) won track titles.

Bob Schmidt is the speedway’s new race director and is a familiar face after serving a number of different roles in Shawano over the years.

“Very dedicated to the sport, very dedicated to this track, so that should be a huge bonus for us,” said Luepke of Schmidt.

There’s also some new workers around the track, but they also come to Shawano with experience on their side, which should make for a smooth transition, even early in the season.

The workers had what Luepke described as a “productive meeting” and discussed protocol for all kinds of situations that might pop up on race day. “Getting that in line will help a lot, you’ll see a lot better flow.”

There’s also a second Jaws of Life on the safety truck, and although Luepke hopes they never have to use it, it’s a great addition for safety.

Even if the speedway cannot open on April 15, the fan fest event that got canceled March 25 in Clintonville is now set for April 15 in Shawano.

For more information on the fan fest event, and all other things speedway-related, visit www.shawanospeedway.net. The speedway also releases news and other notes on its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/shawanospeedway.

sports@newmedia-wi.com