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Published May 26 2010

Start your engines: Revamped Red River Valley Speedway opens

Expectations for the revamped Red River Valley Speedway have been high since Danny Schatz took over the facility in March.

The public gets its first official glimpse of the West Fargo track tonight, as the flag drops on the season at 7:30 p.m.

“This first night is maybe the most important night for the whole season,” said Ivan Sailer, operations director at the track. “This is the first look that people are going to get at what we’ve done, and we want people to enjoy it.

“We feel like we’ve been on a 200-mph NASCAR ride since March 1.”

The management is hardly the only new thing at the track.

The Schatz-led Valley Racing Group took over the track in March, hit the ground running on making changes and hasn’t slowed down.

“We’ve put in a tremendous amount of time here,” Schatz said. “And there are still things we need to do.

“We’re at the point where things are operational, and it’s fun to have it at this point. It’s exciting.”

The half-mile oval has been turned into a tighter three-eighths-mile circuit, and the group brought in a new brand of clay to do it.

“It’s a new race track and a new surface, and we expect excellent side-by-side racing,” Sailer said. “We’re hoping for a good car count.

“We have already got commitments from a lot of people in Grand Forks and western North Dakota and even South Dakota.”

Schatz changed the smaller track to make things more competitive for the racers, and, in turn, more exciting for the fans.

“The thing about racing that I feel the strongest about is to try and equalize the opportunity so that everybody has a similar chance,” Schatz said.

“It’s like free throws in basketball. The best guys at free throws aren’t the biggest or the tallest or the shortest or the fastest.

“It’s a polished art. We want to see the guys that have polished the art.”

The experience for the drivers will definitely be different, but the fans can also expect a heavy dose of changes.

The Red River Valley Fair Board opened new concessions last year, and the Valley Racing Group will use both the new and old concession stands – with the old being used as express concessions.

The bar is completely remodeled, and will serve off-sale beer as well as hard liquor.

“We’ve done all of these changes to make it better for the fans – to make their experience better,” Sailer said. “What we want is to make this one of the best tracks in the Midwest.”

The sound system is also new. While that may seem like a small change, the difference is quite noticeable.

The system isn’t necessarily louder, but it is quite clearer, allowing fans to hear and understand the announcer even while the cars are running.

“It doesn’t blast you, but you can hear during the races, and that’s so important if you don’t know all the drivers,” Sailer said. “But the main thing we want is good, good racing.

“We want to get the doors open, show people what we’ve done and show them that Wednesdays just became a bunch of fun.”

If you go

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548