Sunday, March 04, 2007

Texas World Speedway

TWS is my favorite track. It's for sale now, following the death of the owner, Dick Conole.
I only met him once, at an event in 2005. He loved the track, and the folks he hosted there.

I hear that his kids do not want the track. Of course, it is likely that they are facing down a huge inheritance tax hit, so selling it is the only realistic option. I hope that it's sold to an entity that keeps it as a racetrack. It may very well not be, as it's in a growth corridor for College Station. We shall see.

Part of why I write this blog is to practice writing. So, you are going to read a description of TWS.
The best time to see TWS is in the morning. You drive in along highway 6, from College Station. The highway is always under construction, so the exit that takes you to the track is always different. The landmark is a Lonestar sign, a big tall one that stands on the front of the track property.

You turn east across an overpass and notice the backside of the grandstands. It looks like a big hill, with a structure on top of it, set way back from the road. You can't see the bleachers, as they are built into the opposite side of the hill. There is a chain link fence near the base of the hill. Tall, unmown grass covers the field in front of the hill, and ignores the fence as it climbs to the top. It's a pasture without cattle. It may have been meant as a parking area, but there are not any other clues.

The sun comes up over that hill, but since it's still low when you get there at 0630, it's not yet in your eyes. You drive up a road to a small gate house that guards a break in the fence. Past the gatehouse, and only visible as you near the house, are two tunnel entrances. A sign informs you that no bulk fuel is permitted. This is the driver's entrance. The tunnels lead you into the infield. There is another entrance someplace, one that leads to the stands, but I've never been to that one. The tunnels are egg-shaped in cross section, and they are different sizes. Another sign tells you the dimensions of the tunnels. There are watermarks on them too, as the tunnels flood when it rains hard. You have to sign a waiver at the gatehouse to enter the infield. The tunnel takes you down and through the hill. When you emerge, you come up and into the sun. There's nothing to block it now.

There's a sharp left turn in the road, and now, looking back to your left, you can see the enormity of the grandstands and the size of the place. Texas Motor Speedway is larger, but this place is pretty huge. It seats many thousands of people. The stands are not especially safe now, and wasps are the only spectators on that side of the track. The structure at the top of the hill, the control tower and elite boxes, is in disrepair. To your right, you can see the large leaderboard/display system. You're now well inside the main oval racetrack, headed for the pit area. To your left is the banked front straightaway. The grandstands march down to the edge of the track, and end in a concrete wall The wall is adorned with "Texas World Speedway" and painted in a red white and blue theme. There is a checkerboard stripe at the start/finish line, under the flagstand that projects out over the track.

On the nearside of the straight is pit row. There are stands there too, covered as the grandstands are not, and in similar disrepair. These are used however, as they give an excellent vantage point for the whole of the front straight.

The track started life as an oval superspeedway; heavily banked at the narrow ends, and on the front straight and flat in the back straight. The roadcourse uses the front straight and then turns downhill inside of the end of the oval, then straight at right angles to the back straightaway, then turns to make a back lobe of track (and a fast back course) and then turns back infield to get back onto the other end of the straight. There are diagrams of the track at the website. There are also other possible layouts, but the 2.9 mile road course is by far the most common configuration these days.

Pit row is not used for track days. The cars pit in the large paddock area in the infield. There, three huge covered garages sit. There are 90 or so pits here, with long worktables to hold your gear. There's power but no wireless or network connections; this place was built before those things. There is a concession stand near the front entrance, in a building of its own. They serve surprisingly good coffee, hamburgers for lunch and breakfast tacos that we eat with hands already black from car servicing in the morning chill. An old mexican man and his wife run the stand.

The place has a sad feeling to it, faded glory. Still, the asphalt is always kept in good repair, and the surface and drainage are maintained. It's the largest track that's regularly available to amateur drivers in Texas. I think that rather than arriving at dawn, we've made it just before sundown, so we'll enjoy it while it's here.


Post a Comment

<< Home