On the right track

March 2022

The late Richard Schutte, a former dirt track racer and local entrepreneur, had a vision to bring dirt track racing back to Thunder Bay.

After purchasing 32 acres of land on Highway 130 he worked over a 10 year period to bring this dream to reality.

This past September, the track was given the green light to open thanks to the commitment of Norm and Louis Nadin. And big plans are underway for Wednesday night racing to make its return this spring.

“We’ve been learning as we go”, admits Louis Nadin. “We had to think about advertising, food concessions and everyday logistics”.

To help manage the site, the Nadin’s recruited Rick Simpson, someone with deep roots in local racing to manage the track. Simpson’s father was involved with racing at Riverview Raceway, the track that was the center of local racing up until 1994 and Rick managed racing at Mosquito Speedway in Nolalu for 7 years prior to accepting this new position.

“It’s been 30 years since there was Wednesday night racing, and we’re excited to bring it back. The September Dirt Track Nationals that ushered in the new track brought out close to 10,000 spectators over three days and demonstrated that there is a pent up demand for racing in the city”, says Simpson.

For Norm Nadin, a former Bomber Class racer back in the day at Riverview, seeing racing come back to life was moving. “There is so much young blood interested in the sport right now. You could see some of the older guys like myself with tears in their eyes seeing younger family members get involved. You can feel the race community coming back to life, everyone is excited for the future of the sport”.

Completing the work started by Schutte took thousands of hours of work by countless volunteers. The Nadin’s along with the employees of their construction business Nadin Contracting, worked above and beyond to complete the track.

“A lot of us would work all day and then go out to the track and work until dark 7 days a week, it’s definitely been a labour of love”, says Louis.

Not only is there a buzz around the return of racing but so is the eagerness for sponsorships. “We’ve been really pleased with the support from the business community which has gotten behind us. They’ve supported everything from track signage, to the sponsoring of special race nights at the track. One surprise was the appetite for VIP boxes. We’re currently in the process of retrofitting 15 shipping containers to be used as VIP boxes for a more intimate experience at the track. All 15 are spoken for, but we hope to find space for a few more before the season starts”, says Louis.

But beyond the physical appearance and condition of the site, Track Manager Rick Simpson is focused on bringing a great experience to the spectators. “I’ll be working to keep the racers moving and on schedule, and being part of the Wissota Points System will help us attract racers from the U.S.. We’ve had just over 100 registered drivers so far and expect about 30 more from out of town, but
you never know until race day how big this thing is going to get. There’s definitely a rekindling of interest as drivers get their cars ready for summer”, says Simpson.

The first open practice is scheduled on May 4th, with the Grand Opening set for June 2nd.

For more information on Thunder City Speedway, go to their facebook page or call 633-7705.

Bill Wrightsell is a marketing consultant and regular contributor to Bayview Magazine. Email him at wrightselladto@rogers.com

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