biggest I have seen in a very long time at all 3 weekly shows I have been to this season. I love that ‘WIR’ has still found a way through the years to keep going to the races “cool” for that younger demographic as soon they will be my age and bringing their little ones to the track repeating that cycle again and again. In a world dominated by technology and entertainment choices that have gone from few and far between to every night there’s something going on, if you want a little of that “back in the good old days” charm, you can get it every Thursday night at ‘WIR’.
Keeping with the “old school” theme the facilities look exactly the same as I remember them from my first trip some 15+ years ago. To be honest, some of you may say it looked that way 40 years ago and it would not surprise me one bit. The grandstands are setup around the dogleg frontstretch and concessions are spaced out across the latter portion. They have multiple stations set up for the varying types of food that is offered, including a brat stand, hamburger stand, treat stand, donut cart, multiple beer stands, as well as a few souvenir trailers. Our unofficial ‘URFWI’ racetrack food critic tells us time and time again how great the food is. Lines moved fairly smoothly for the high attendance on fireworks night and the younger staff members seemed more seasoned than inexperienced making our trip to get dinner an easy one. In front of the Talladega style finish line just before entering turn one, concrete grandstands with wood seat benching go from top to bottom. If you go a little left or right of there we go back in time once again as wood bench seats line a gravel hill. Yes there are a few benches that need replacing and in turn 1 removing the bottom 10 rows would prove beneficial for picture taking, but for $10 to get in it is easy to look past. The Dick Trickle pavilion in turns 1 and 2 is one of the more iconic buildings at any short track in Wisconsin and is still used almost every week and for bigger events today. The red white and blue theme of the track tower and concessions stands keep with the retro theme and their yearly “Red White and Blue” Series is one of the few remaining Super Late Model races or series that has not had a nameplate change. Inside the half mile is a stand alone ¼ mile and a Figure 8 track giving the kids a chance to get out of their seats and run around a bit by the catch fence. Frisbees, balls, and other activities keep the kids entertained in between races and are not a distraction to the 1/4 mile.
THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
One of the best parts of ‘WIR’ is the frontstretch. Sitting towards turn 1 near the finish line, as the cars come off turn 4 they scream down the frontstretch with a high rate of speed almost directly pointed at you. Halfway and the dogleg takes effect as the cars must make a slight left before they get to turn 1. At that point the horsepower is evident and it is very easy to hear who is staying in it the throttle longest and set up correctly for that next turn. Turns 1 and 2 are very tight and typically used to set up for the pass in 3 and 4 in my amateur viewpoint. Coming out of turn 4 it’s common to see cars getting very loose as they try and get their nose pointed forward before the dogleg dipping underneath the car in front of them in many cases. With pits located inside the ½ mile and left of the ¼ mile inner track views of turn 3 are somewhat obstructed when sitting lower, however, a quick walk from turn 1 and you can see the action in the pits from under the other iconic fixture at ‘WIR’, a tall tree that sticks out of the side of a hill. If you are a golf fan, the tree reminds me of hole 18 on pebble beach as it does not make much sense why someone would leave a tree in that location. Finally, the hand painted sponsors that line the inside and outside wall around almost the entire track once again brings that unique “old school” feel to the track and whenever looking at pictures it is a very familiar setting.
Wisconsin International Raceway offers a unique experience as the ‘D’ Shaped oval offers a one of a kind layout and a consistent group of cars week in and week out. Typical Wisconsin style inverts make for exciting races for both Super and Limited Late Model races each week. Unlike NASCAR the fastest start in the middle of the pack contributing to the excitement in every race where passing is seen all over the track lap after lap. The speeds down the front and backstretch are one of the fastest in the state, and seeing side by side battles for multiple laps at a time is not uncommon. The early 6:45 start time puts the main event right at 9 o’clock most nights. That gets us home before midnight and sometimes allows for a lap around the pits after the races. Unlike many tracks in years past, the quality of each race in every division does not suffer due to cars out for a Sunday drive as competition from top to bottom gives it their all each week. The ½ mile Super and Limited Late Model features are always entertaining and rarely do you see a winner from the front row. All divisions including the inside ¼ mile have a minimum of 2 heats per division showcases the highly competitive car counts each night. Every heat is action packed on the standalone ¼ mile as drivers battle it out side by side lap after lap. The ¼ mile track inside the track is one of the few in the country that get it right and prone to “old school” beating and banging lap after lap. With 6 divisions weekly, four of which are on the ¼ mile, the show feels complete and you leave feeling you got your monies worth and then some. Every trip to ‘WIR’ we leave in anticipation and discussions for that next trip back to the track.
Calling all members! Calling all future members! Calling all friends! Time to put your butt where your mouth is! A week from today, Tuesday August 4th, the biggest Super Late Model race in the state to date returns as the Arca Midwest Tour is bringing back the Dixieland 250. If you have seen the flyers the Midwest Tour is bringing it back “old school” with a super extended Super Late Model race on a Tuesday night! A perfect fit for a little “back in the good ole days” racing fun and adventure! Come join us next Tuesday and watch names like Sauter, Kenseth, Bickle, Pollard, and Majeski battle it out for 250 laps in what will surely be a trip back to 1985! We’ll see you #atthetrack.
Rich Zimpel has been attending local race tracks for the past 30 years.