Thundering Valley Raceway, a one-fifth of a mile asphalt go-kart track in St. Albans, has been recession- and weatherproof so far this season.
Owners Nate and Marti Anderson have lost dates to weather but have made one of them up and have plenty of time to make up the other two.
“Things have gone very well. It has been a pleasant surprise. At the beginning of the season, we had no idea how things would go with the economy. We’ve been very pleasantly surprised so far,” said Marti Anderson.
“We’ve had seven events. The numbers are holding steady. There has been a little bit of growth. The economy hasn’t hurt us with the regular racers and it has helped us with our spectators. They’re looking for family-friendly and affordable events to go to,” she added.
The track, which was built on the 37 acres owned by the Andersons 11 years ago, offers seven go-kart classes and Mini-Cup cars that race on Saturday nights with heat races beginning at 5 p.m. until they switch over to Sunday afternoons (12:30 p.m.) on Sept. 5.
They won’t race on Aug. 8 or Sept. 20.
The go-kart classes are the Kid Karts (ages 5-7); Box Stock (7-10 who are first-year racers); Junior Sportsmen (7-10 with previous experience); Sportsmen (10-13); Sprint Animal (15-adult) and the Champ Animal (13-adult).
The difference between the Champ Animal and Sprint Animal classes is the Champ Animal go-karts have a roll cage.
There is also a five-race series in which the Junior Sportsmen and Sportsmen get to race together.
Marti said one new trend is that the “majority of our new racers have been girls. That’s interesting.”
They usually get 25-35 go-karts every weekend and attendance has been in the vicinity of 125-150, she said.
They will race through the last weekend in September but could extend the season.
The Andersons have made improvements to the facility.
Bathrooms and running water have replaced porta-potties and they have added a cement slab as one of the upgrades to the concession stand.
Several Sprint Cup drivers got their starts racing go-karts as did Pro All-Stars Series Super Late Model North driver Travis Benjamin from Morrill.
Benjamin, whose nephew, Dakota Doolan, races at Thundering Valley, said go-kart racing is “crucial” to the development of racers.
“The Cup guys got started in go-karts when they were five or six years old,” said Benjamin, who didn’t get started until he was 14.
Benjamin said he used to race go-karts at Unity Raceway and Speedway 95.
“It was like racing at Daytona or Talladega. It was full throttle. There wasn’t a whole lot of braking,” said Benjamin.
“But racing on a short track like Thundering Valley requires them to learn setups and braking and that definitely helps them,” said Benjamin. “And it has two different corners so you can’t drive the same way into each corner. That’s better for [their development] than having the same corners.”
“That makes it a unique place. It’s a great little track and Nate and Marti do a nice job keeping it clean,” said Benjamin, who added that it would be a “great place” for his 2-year-old son, Kaiden, to begin his go-kart career if he decides he wants to.
The Andersons have also added a new tenant: the Central Maine Quarter-Scale Tractor Pullers.
“They came to us in the winter and said they wanted a home track,” said Marti. “So we built them a pull track and they built a drag strip.”
Marti Anderson said she and her husband didn’t spend any money building the tractor-pull track, they just rototilled the soil and removed rocks.
She explained that the tractor-pullers range in age from 6-17 and they have tractor-pulls in eight divisions.
One June tractor-pull date was rained out but they held one on July 12 and have another scheduled on Oct. 11. They aren’t held on the same day as the go-kart races.
Nate Anderson said the tractor-pullers have expressed an interest in adding an August date as well.
“They had 26 tractors on July 12. It was very well received. It was a completely different crowd [than the go-kart crowd],” said Marti Anderson, who noted that the tractor-pullers will compete at a lot of state fairs over the next two months.
The tractor-pullers also use Thundering Valley as their practice site.
Anderson said the tractor-pullers and their fans have been very nice to deal with and she anticipates the arrangement will continue next season.
PASS North, Mods in N.H.
The PASS North Super Late Models and the Mods will race tonight at Summerfest 2009 at Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H.
Racing starts at 5 p.m.
Riverside Speedway is a quarter-mile track.
PASS North SLM leader Johnny Clark of Hallowell, the defending series points champ, leads the points by 45 points over Derek Ramstrom of West Boylston, Mass. Adam Bates of Warner, N.H. is third, 49 points behind Clark.
Fourth is four-time series champ Ben Rowe of Turner, who is 74 points back.
Rowe is leading the points in the PASS SLM South tour.
Clark, who has won three PASS North points titles, won the race at Riverside Speedway last year.
He has three trips to Victory Lane in eight races this season and Rowe is the only other multiple-race winner with two.
Rowe has also won two PASS South races.
In the Mods, Andy Shaw of North Conway, N.H., had won three of the five races and is leading the points by 30 over Scott Grant of Waterboro and 32 over Steve Bennett Jr. of Buckfield. Hermon’s Greg Ellis is fifth, 51 behind Shaw.