*** February 20, 2013 UPDATE: Asphalt racing action will return to the Old Pueblo on 6 April 2013!! TUCSON SPEEDWAY (Formally known as Tucson Raceway Park) has been remodeled and major repairs to the racing surface have been completed. For more details on tech and practice dates and images of the new facility click on this link . ***
*** July 2012 UPDATE *** Short Track Auto Racing Team (S.T.A.R.T.) Tucson is currently in negotiations with the Pima County Fairgrounds to take over the TRP lease and restore Tucson Raceway Park back to it’s former glory. They should be hearing final approval sometime this month (July 2012).
***July 25th 2012 Update***
On behalf of START TUCSON, I am pleased to announce that the Southwest Fair Commission Proposal Review Committee has selected our proposal to be recommended for approval to the Southwest Fair Board. We are honored to be selected and extremely excited and anxious to begin.
What is next?
We will further negotiate and adjust the proposal with the Executive Director of the SWFC to provide a document that will be in an accepted form to be presented to the Board of County Supervisors for approval. From what we have been told, this next phase of the process may take 45-60 days. Once the formal and official paperwork is completed, we will begin work at the track the next day. Based upon our coordinated schedule with contractors, the unknown monsoon weather and volunteer involvement, we estimate 90-120 days to complete repairs and remodeling. Once the racing surface is completed, test and tune dates will begin. For ongoing updates, follow us on the TRP Facebook and on our website: STARTTUCSON.COM
For START Tucson’s mission statement and business plans, please visit their site ….. www.starttucson.com
December 8, 2011
It’s sad to think that Tucson Raceway Park is now closed, especially considering what this track has meant to me since I was a kid. In 1968, the clay oval race track was built on land owned by the Pima County Fairgrounds and was originally named Tucson International Raceway, soon after the name was changed to Corona Speedway a half mile dirt track with a ¼ mile track in the middle. Years since, the track was redesigned to a 3/8 mile and renamed to Raven Speedway, NASCAR or other wise known as International Speedway Corporation bought the lease to the track in 1982 before paving the track in 1993 renamed it to Tucson Raceway Park (TRP).
Growing up in both Arizona and Wisconsin, as a kid I got to see two great racetracks virtually every weekend and as an adult would race my own car at La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway and TRP. I’ll never forget many drivers from my Tucson childhood, Carl Trimmer, Bill Cheeseburg, Ivan Russell, George and Paul Banghardt and my all time favorite local racer…. The red, white and blue hot rod of Hoot Gibson! In my head, I can still hear the announcer call out the names like Pat Osborne, Jim Brasfield, Junior Cass, Bob Baker, Bobo Blackburn, Steve McGuire, Fred Trenadue and Marion Smiley while I was stuffing my face with popcorn and soda. I’d “boo” the guy I didn’t like and “cheer” for the ones I did like and after the races ask for the same autographs every weekend, man I wish I kept those programs and cheap checkered flags.
I still get a knot in my throat when I think about my Dad, John Butterfield’s name being called over the loud speaker or think about him racing. While he may not have had the success same level of success as some of the other driver-standouts, he was my Dad, he will always be my hero. His racecar spent off track time in our backyard and my friends and I would crawl all over that thing. Yep, I was a kid and I wasn’t just hooked on racing it was in my blood.
A few years before my Dad suddenly passed, he and I were at TRP, which was where you could find us any weekend night, I met someone who would change my life, become the mother of my kids and my wife, Maria. She was there that night after winning tickets from a radio show contest, little did she know at the time she too would be infected by the racing zombie virus and would have her very own racecar parked in the backyard. She never got to see me race in Wisconsin but took a very active role in my TRP car, she had no problem jumping in to help.
Back in the fall of 2006, I came home for a short 3-month break from overseas and Maria and I second shot the racing action at the Tucson Kart Club and TRP for Daron Shade. It was the tail end of TRP’s season but it gave us a chance to get out and shoot some events, get a little exposure and tune up for the business we were about to launch in Feb 2007. We started a little web site called outsidepole.net (OSP) as a gallery and forum to host our images until we launched the business mainframe, branding and web site identity with www.butterfieldphotos.com
Maria was just starting so we figured perching her on the turn one wall with racecars coming at her at 100 mph would get her mind off being nervous with the camera. Must have been good practice because she has blossomed into one heck of a wedding photographer. For myself, I was renewing my hobby and getting back to basics learning from Daron, who is an established Pro Photographer out of Tucson. We stayed pretty busy with the rest of 2006, shooting TRP until the end of the season in November, the Tucson Kart Club and the big NASCAR weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
In 2006, the car count at TRP had dwindled down to next to nothing for numerous reasons and the outlook for 2007 looked worse for teams, drivers and vendors. We opted not to pursue the chance of coming back as photographers but supported racers with sponsorship from 2006 all the way through 2009 when we were co-sponsors of the 2009 Pro 4 division Champion, David Bosley.
NASCAR (ISC) originally signed a 99 year lease with the Pima County Fairgrounds but only operated the track for 20 years, 1982-2002. They provided stability and opportunity for teams owners, drivers and more importantly the fans. In 1995, NASCAR hosted the second ever race in what was then an upstart national touring division then called the Craftsman Truck Series, now called the Camping World Truck Series. In the 1994-95 seasons and again in 1998-99, NASCAR launched the highly successful Winter Heat series, bridging the gap of the NASCAR off-season. Winter Heat is credited with launching the careers of Kevin Harvick, Ron Hornaday, Mike Skinner, Greg Biffle, Matt Crafton, and Kurt Busch among others. A lot of local Arizona racers along with the California, Nevada and New Mexico drivers got to shine along with stars, showcase their talents and give their sponsors exposure that a weekend show simply could not provide when you consider the coverage ESPN2 could provide. It was a win-win for everyone and was very successful in NASCAR’s plan to open a west coast market.
In 2002, NASCAR (ISC) sold the lease to Deery Sports West, in 2006 the lease was sub-leased to Dan Ruth and in 2008 the lease changed hands for the last time when Mark Ebert took over and changed the sanction from NASCAR to the American Speed Association (ASA). He made plans to rip up the deteriorating asphalt, arguably unsafe and unfit for competition, and return to clay oval, a very popular decision among many drivers and fans. After publicly announcing his plans, the news was picked up by several online media sources only to find that permits allowing this was not approved from the Pima County Zoning Officials and the plans were abruptly halted thus making 2011 the last season.
There was and still is a lot of finger pointing as to who is to blame over the years, quite frankly I think everyone is right to some degree. Egos, greed, unwillingness to change and incisiveness are all to blame; who to blame at this point is irrelevant. Each one thinks they are right but collectively all are wrong. The incumbent track Manager/Promoter would blame the last one, drivers and team owners blamed irreconcilable differences with track Management/Promoter. Track Management/Promoter blamed the drivers and teams for not being willing to change the cars or divisions. Sponsors left in droves when things became unstable and started to unravel. Fans stopped coming when the car counts fell to frightening levels and were often unsatisfied with trying to follow 7 divisions running at the track and followed racers to more stable and successful racing facilities such as the Tucson dirt track, United Sports Arizona and the Southwestern International Raceway drag strip. The fact the track is closed is troubling to me personally, that place is rich with its own history and still could be a great facility if people could only move on and put the past behind them.
The Pima County Fairgrounds still owns the track but unless someone comes in with much needed money to bring the facility back to safe racing conditions, the track will remain closed.
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