New NASCAR Oval Track in Palmer

Contributed by Alaska Raceway Park

Alaska Raceway Park is one of three tracks in the country to join NASCAR in 2016! Now a Home Track in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the 1/3-mile asphalt oval was the site of a wildly successful June 4 debut, sponsored by Tesoro. There will be an additional nine oval race days in the 2016 season throughout the summer, with spectator capacity over 1500.

The new track greatly expands racing opportunities for youth and adults in Alaska, and racers with nowhere else to race after a local grandfathered oval closed in 2012 are ecstatic to once again have a racing venue they are calling “amazing!” They love how smooth and fast it is proving to be. There is plenty of room to maneuver the racecar, with good speeds for the size.  It’s a perfectly sized track for community weekly series racing, to accommodate all sorts of cars. ARP is working hard to make racing affordable for local racers and attract as many participants as possible.

Kevin Nevalainen, the Director of Weekly Racing Operations at NASCAR, flew up from Daytona, Florida, this past winter to discuss with ARP owners their vision and plans.  A day-long discussion and contract-signing resulted in a successful ARP sanction announcement at Daytona Speedweeks. Kevin also joined us for the weekend of the June 4th debut race, talking in-depth with local reporters and offering advice.

None other than NASCAR’s famous Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth, 2012 Daytona 500 winner, recorded a shout-out video, welcoming Alaska Raceway Park as a NASCAR Home Track – which thrilled and impressed local fans when it was splashed across social media.

Architected by Earl Lackey and Dana Pruhs of Pruhs Construction, active construction on the oval track began in 2014 and the project took 18 months.  Activities included land clearing, land leveling, track sculpting, processing material, installing the foundation, pouring concrete footings, pouring concrete walls, back-filling, electrical grid design, and laying and compacting a leveling course.

The freeze/thaw cycle over the winter allowed the 2015 work to settle. Over the winter Earl, facility manager, Pete Mattison, and crew got the track grandstands up and built a ticket booth, concession stands, spotters’ tower, race director’s tower, and tech inspection building.

As soon as the ground was thawed, next phases included fencing and – with funding for emulsion from Tesoro – the all-important paving, then painting, erecting the scoreboard, and installing the lap counter system. Straight stretches of the oval are 3%; corners are progressive from 4, 8, to 11%. 11% is about as steep of banking as we can get in Alaska without special paving gear.

The track owners, the Lackey family, have put everything on the line for this exciting expansion and construction has been a family and racing community effort. Lackey sons, John and Jim, have pitched in during the construction process, and Pete, the facility manager, has been an indispensable and tireless coordinator. The scoreboard and leaderboard came from Daktronics and were installed by DG Signs. Facility EMT, John Akers, worked under Pete’s guidance from November 2015, when the bleachers arrived from Florida on three semi-trailers.

Technology implemented in support of the new oval includes a state-of-the-art LED electronic timing system, the transponders to activate the timing system, and the raceceiver system which the drivers will be able to hear race director instructions. A new Matanuska Telephone Association fiber optic internet and phone feed helps the facility upgrade to incorporate technologies previously unavailable to the drag strip due to old electrical infrastructure.

Our recent promotions by press release and on social media have gained the attention of southcentral Alaska TV stations and newspapers, statewide racers and race fans who knew us only for drags, as well as caught the imagination of country-wide NASCAR followers on Twitter and Facebook. In Dana Pruhs’s words, “Alaska Raceway Park is a venue worthy of the greatest state in the Union!”

In-kind donors and sponsors include Tesoro Refining and Marketing, Pruhs Construction, Diversified Tire, Matanuska Telephone Association, Soper's Concrete, Valley Block and Concrete, Carson Construction, Cruz Construction, Yukon Equipment, National Response Corporation, Carlisle Transportation, CMI Equipment, Granite Construction, Airport Equipment Rental, E-Terra, Acutek Geomatics, New Horizons Telecom, J.D. Steel Co., Emerald Fuels, and AAA Fence.

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