Shawano Speedway season just around the corner

Raceway’s opening night now April 23
By: 
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

Shawano Speedway is gearing up for its 2022 season, with plenty of returning fan favorite promotions, a few new ones lined up and plenty of entertaining races to come.

Due to wet, snowy and cold conditions in late March and early April, the speedway’s opening night has been rescheduled, moving from April 16 to April 23.

The Dirt Kings special that was set for April 16 also had a rain date of April 23, so as long as the season starts that night, fans won’t miss out on any of the racing on the original season schedule.

The speedway’s practice night of April 15 also got moved back a week to April 22. It will run from 3-8:30 p.m. and admission is free, with food and drink stands open.

When the season gets underway, there will be plenty of specials and events for fans to check out, along with the racing on the track.

Karly Curtin, the new marketing and promotions manager for the speedway and fairgrounds, says she is “more fan focused” then past workers in her position, but she also knows the drivers and racing are what drives the speedway.

While Brad Luepke, the one who previously held Curtin’s position, was more driver, racing and pit crew oriented and could often be found inside the racetrack or in the pit area, Curtin said she’ll likely be found in the grandstands.

“Talking to the fans, talking to our sponsors is a huge thing for me,” said Curtin.

“I’ve said this in previous interviews, but my main goal is to stand at the end of the ramp (to the grandstands), and say, ‘Hello, welcome to Shawano Speedway,’ so you can put my face with a name. And then after every race, I’ll be standing in the same spot and thanking people for coming, because I just think that is a very personal thing to do.”

She added she’d work her way into the pit area at times to talk with drivers but do her best to not get in the way during their busy times.

Curtin said the speedway is going to improve its digital access to fans, allowing them to more easily look up results, the schedule, promotions and more. She added that the speedway website is going to get “a whole new look this year, because I know that hasn’t been very functionable in the past.”

One of the speedway’s most well-liked specials over the past two years was the Mid-Summer Classic, but that has been been cut from the 2022 schedule.

“The reason that we cut the Mid-Summer Classic is because we worked with the Seymour fair, and now Seymour is racing that weekend — which in the past they haven’t, so that’s why we had that special,” said Curtin. “So instead of doing the Mid-Summer Classic, there is specials for each division on (the schedule).”

The first special is for the IMCA Modifieds on May 14, with a rain date of May 21. The IMCA Stock Car special is set for June 18, with a rain date of July 2.

There are two Late Model specials on the schedule — July 9 and July 30 — with a rain date of Aug. 27.

The IMCA Modifieds will have another special on July 23, with the IMCA Sport Mod special set for Aug. 6 and the Mighty 4’s special on Aug. 13. Aug. 20 will serve as a rain date for the Mighty 4’s and Sport Mods.

The IMCA Stock Car division will also race for some extra cash on July 23. Dirt Kings specials are scheduled for April 23 and June 25.

The Spectator Eliminators have been cut off the speedway’s schedule this year out of safety and liability concerns, according to Curtin.

In terms of promotional nights, trophy night, where the speedway recognizes its 2021 champions and rookies of the year, is set for April 30. The rookies of the year were Adam Jacobson (IMCA Modified), Gunner Frank (Late Model), AJ Springborn (IMCA Sport Mod), Ryan Westphal (IMCA Stock Car) and Bailey Tate (Mighty 4’s), while the champions were Kyle Raddant (Late Model), Marcus Yarie (IMCA Modified), Travis Van Straten (IMCA Stock Car), Jayden Schmidt (IMCA Sport Mod) and Tanner Westphal (Mighty 4’s).

May 14 will also serve as fan appreciation night at the speedway. Curtin said it will look a bit different this year but will feature food and drink specials. All of the speedway’s sponsors were invited to set up a booth/marketing space from 4 p.m. until intermission that night and encouraged to participate in raffles and giveaways, where they can engage with fans.

“If everyone comes early, they can take advantage of that,” said Curtin.

The kid’s coin drop event returns to the speedway on May 21 before a tribute to first responders makes its first appearance on June 4. All first responders will get in half price that evening.

The following week includes a tribute to go-kart racers before Hall of Fame night on June 18. There’s a tribute to veterans — where all veterans get in free — planned for July 2 before Halloween night on July 16.

Racing for a Reason returns on July 30, but with a slight twist from past years.

Luepke started up Racing for a Reason when his son Reed was hospitalized battling leukemia over a decade ago. The event passed the $200,000 mark last summer, with those proceeds going toward childhood cancer awareness.

This year, the same event will happen with a silent auction and bucket raffles, but a committee filled with racing fans, people from the public and members of the speedway’s board will determine where the proceeds go, with all of it being dispersed within Shawano County or a nearby county. There will be a nomination process, and then the committee will vote on which individuals or families will receive the funds.

Back to school night replaces backpack night on Aug. 6. It’s the same concept and donation process as in the past, but will ensure supplies are more evenly distributed among kids. All school and faculty members can get in for half price that night.

Aug. 13 will serve as the speedway’s corn roast night, and also include a new tribute to farmers. Championship night is set for Sept. 3.

There is a new leaderboard on display at the speedway and a different fire safety company is in place. The kid’s zone is also getting a mini race car and swings, but those won’t be in place the first couple race nights.

Admission prices are the same as past years and can be found at www.shawanospeedway.net/shawano-speedway.

“That’s one thing that our board has been pretty strict about not doing is raising prices, because where else can you go where admission is $10 for a full night of entertainment? You can’t even go to the movies for two hours for that,” said Curtin. “We want to keep prices affordable and make sure that everyone can come here.”

Curtin encouraged fans to become more familiar with the MyRacePass app for quicker access to results and more. The Shawano Speedway page can be found at www.myracepass.com/tracks/1874.

sports@newmedia-wi.com