After going dark for the past two years, the 8-year-old Prescott Valley Raceway will reopen at 7 p.m. this Saturday with multiple classes of racecars competing on the dirt track next to Yavapai Downs off Highway 89A.
Admission is $12 per person for those ages 12 and older, while children 11 and under get in free.
Gary Miller, who bought the bankrupt Yavapai Downs horse racetrack and the PV Raceway property in February, told the Daily Courier in late April that he wanted auto racing to return to the site by Memorial Day weekend.
As it turns out, he was a week late. But no bother for the die-hard drivers, their crews and the scores of fans they draw.
"There's so much excitement in the public that they're really happy to hear it going back on," said Brian Hussey, who's a consultant for PV Raceway. "I've gotten probably a hundred phone calls from people saying that they're excited for it coming back to the community. They're just glad to see that we've got our home track back."
At 7 p.m. on Thursday, the raceway will conduct a test-and-tune session in which drivers offer their feedback about the track's feel. Spectators can get into the grandstands free starting between 4-5 p.m. that day, Miller said.
Then, on Saturday evening, racing will begin with the mini-sprints-open comp 360 sprints, Challenge Cup, Copper State mod-lites and dwarf cars (rather than vintage cars, as previously scheduled). Gates will open at 5:30 p.m.
For the grand reopening, PV Raceway General Manager Bugs Norbury said he anticipates 50-60 racecars and 500-600 fans in a grandstand that seats about 1,200.
"In the sprint car division alone, there's probably 10 guys, at least, coming from Phoenix just to race up here because they want to get out of the heat," Norbury said. "And that's just one class."
The following four Saturdays in June are booked as well with several different classes of racing.
PV Raceway will operate about the same as it did when it closed two years ago, with practices slated for Thursdays and racing on Saturdays.
Over the past five to six weeks, Miller said that he and his management team labored to refurbish the track and make the environment safe for drivers and fans alike while complying with town code.
Hussey said the raceway site has undergone many upgrades, including electrical rewiring, to make it nicer and cleaner for spectators, including families.
Miller added that the track was in bad shape because of an overgrowth of weeds. Support posts were re-cemented into the ground and the track's turns were re-graded under the direction of Norbury.
"I'm out there every night doing manual labor getting the track ready," Norbury said. "Whatever has to be done, we do."
Management also erected a taller 8-foot by 16-foot sound wall extending from turns one through three on the track to help buffer nearby residents' homes from some of the noise on race days.
"The biggest thing was to clean the track and do a lot of work to ascertain that we're very comfortable with safety," Miller said. "We've met with the town (of Prescott Valley) and the different people, and they're out there and they're happy with the way we put it together."
Last Saturday, the raceway conducted its first test-and-tune practice round. The grounds' managers listened to drivers' input about adjustments to the track and its banking that drivers thought were necessary heading into the reopening.
As for race-day concessions, Miller said a "food wagon" will be offered temporarily to fans, although in the long run the raceway hopes to provide its own service. Spectators will not be allowed to bring in their own food and drinks.
Miller added that he's still trying to obtain a permit from the town for a water/sewer hook-up so he can install a permanent bathroom next to the raceway. He hopes to have that bathroom ready by this weekend. If not, temporary facilities will be available.
Cement pads were recently put down at the site in anticipation of future concessions and bathrooms.
Chad Rutherford, who works in marketing and public relations for PV Raceway, estimated that the track has already received about $50,000 worth of safety improvements.
The raceway was one of the casualties when the Yavapai County Farm & Agriculture Association's board of directors abruptly shuttered the horse and car tracks at Yavapai Downs without warning in May 2011. By July 13, 2011, the board had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and car racing ended later that month.
"We've gotten great support from the community, including the local businesses," Rutherford said on Tuesday about PV Raceway reopening. "Some people are driving all the way from Cottonwood and Flagstaff to race and find out, and look at the track."