For many grassroots tracks, once the month of August rolls around, it often means the end of the racing season isn’t too far away.
But for Lakeside Speedway in Wolcott, Kansas – just outside Kansas City – its 2019 season is just beginning Friday, 3 ½ months late.
The .4-mile semi-banked dirt track was supposed to open its season April 19. Instead, it has endured much adversity. It was flooded three times when the adjacent Missouri River overflowed its banks and inundated the track and surrounding area.
And there also was a tornado in the mix as part of the second flood.
“It’s been frustrating with flood number one in March, flood number two in May, flood number three in early June,” Lakeside Speedway general manager Pete Howey told NBC affiliate KSHB-TV. “You go forward, you go backwards, you get forward. Now the light is at the end of the tunnel and opening day is (just one day) away.”
As if the first two floods weren’t bad enough, the third flood was perhaps the most devastating, as several thousand fish pored in from the river and took residence on and around the track. Many eventually died, but track workers tried to get as many living fish back in the river as possible.
“Here comes the third flood and with the third flood came all of the spring spawning,” Howey told KSHB. “It was like going to a fish hatchery. The guys up in Alaska doing the fishing boats have nothing on us here.”
The track has flooded five times in the last eight years, also having been inundated with water in 2011 and 2013, as well as earlier in 1993. But this is the first time it flooded multiple times in the same year.
That the track will be doing any racing this year is close to a miracle. It might have been easier to just forego the 2019 season and wait for 2020. But this is also a milestone 65th anniversary for the Speedway, and Howey – bolstered by dozens of friends and volunteers – has worked countless hours to get the track, grandstands, concession stands and seating areas ship-shape.
“It makes you feel that people do care,” Howey told KSHB. “To have fans and even my sponsors call me and say, ‘We want to come out. What can we do to help? Can I come out and do this? Can I do that?’ It makes you feel very, very love.”
If you look at videos of the track today, you’d be hard-pressed to think there had been any flooding.
“You can never let the devastation overcome you and take you, because you just roll backwards into the fetal position and you would never bounce out of it,” Howey told KSHB.
Lakeside Speedway has long been known as NASCAR Cup driver Clint Bowyer’s home track.
While Bowyer will be in Watkins Glen this weekend, his heart will be back at Lakeside.
“It’s a great feeling to come back,” longtime fan Debbie Bergman told KSHB.
Click on this link where Bowyer talks about Lakeside Speedway (about 2:20 in).