PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — At least 20 Saturday night races at the recently rechristened I-77 Speedway will be sanctioned by the American Motor Racing Association and provide drivers with points toward the group’s annual championships.
That should translate into more racers and more folks spending money at and around the Jackson County track, said Todd Jones, owner of MW Motorsports, which is leasing and promoting the dirt track. He estimated the economic impact at more than $1 million.
“If you have 21 races scheduled at a track and bringing (in) upward of 1,000 people every Saturday night, it’s a huge boost for the local economy,” Jones said Wednesday at a signing ceremony at Dave Poske’s Performance Parts on West Virginia 47 outside Parkersburg.
Poske is a member of the AMRA board. The Marietta-based group is a national sanctioning body for open-wheel modified, late model and sport modified racing at a dozen tracks in Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina.
Previously known as I-77 Raceway Park, the track at Fairplain has been on the AMRA circuit. But only two races were held this year as the previous promoters focused on flood recovery in the Elkins area, where they live.
“That’s a track that we’ve always enjoyed going to,” said Jacob Hawkins, a driver from Fairmont who is the reigning AMRA Modified national champion. “More often than not, you hear (about) tracks closing right now and not reopening.”
Mineral Wells resident Kenny Johnson, a six-time AMRA national champion, said the addition of I-77 Speedway to the circuit not only gives drivers in the region a nearby venue at which to race, it will bring racers from outside the area here.
“Signing AMRA will allow them to draw cars that they wouldn’t typically get otherwise,” he said.
If there’s a rain-out early in the day at Atomic Speedway near Chillicothe, the bad weather might not reach Jackson County and drivers could come to that track instead, Johnson said.
A significant advantage of signing with AMRA is it provides consistent rules at all of its tracks, something drivers appreciate, Jones said.
“AMRA is very consistent about having great techs at each track,” said Angie Haught, AMRA secretary. “They will go through the cars from the nose to the tail.”
The track will pay the tech, Don Mercer, and AMRA will train him. AMRA will also provide contingency prize money for individual honors at races.
The AMRA season runs April 1 to Sept. 30. Jones said the first race of 2017 at I-77 Speedway is slated for March 25, so it will not count for AMRA points, although the same rules will be used.
The speedway will be running super late model, steel block late model, modified, sport modified and mini wedge classes, Jones said.