38 Thinking of racing in Alaska? Chances are the Iditarod, a sled-dog race that runs a thousand miles from Settler’s Bay to Nome, comes to mind – maybe even 2017 champion musher Mitch Seavey, but Drag Racing? Not so much. Facts, though, are facts, and the 2017 season opened Saturday, May 13 at International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) member track, Alaska Raceway Park in Palmer, Alaska - population 5,937. Among the popular things to do in Palmer are fishing and wildlife tours including one of a Reindeer Farm. But when the long winter nights become long summer days, that Saturday-night roar heard on Mother’s Day weekend probably came from a race car - not a polar bear. Alaska Raceway Park was out of hibernation. “While we have never had to shovel snow to begin racing on Mother’s Day, we have come close, and we once cancelled a May race due to a freaky snowstorm that melted overnight; weather is definitely a factor,” Alaska Raceway Park co-owner and CFO Karen Lackey said. “Our cold mornings make it difficult to get the track up to temperature for good traction. We are located in a valley where weather comes over the mountains from Valdez; that weather pattern often brings us rain when it is not raining elsewhere. Of course, it can bring sunshine when everywhere else is raining as well. “Besides the weather, we are challenged by the occasional moose in the shut-down area and the spectacular view of Pioneer Peak at the end of the track which can make it difficult to focus on racing” The racing season runs from Mother’s Day in May through Labor Day in September, and in the summer, Palmer enjoys nearly 16 hours of daylight. The track is located some 41 miles northeast of downtown Anchorage where 6,398- foot Pioneer Peak overlooks the finish line creating one of the most scenic racing venues in the world. Despite its proximity to Pioneer Peak, Alaska Raceway Park, owned by Karen and Earl Lackey and Michelle Lackey Maynor, sits just 63 feet above sea level providing excellent air for high-horsepower engines. The track has had several different names over the years including Thunder Valley Raceway, Valley Raceway, Big Valley Raceway and Polar Raceway. The complex boasts a quarter-mile drag strip that opened in 1964. In 2000, the racing surface was completely rebuilt; the process included grinding the old surface, laying a new bed using laser- controlled machinery, constructing a 300-foot concrete launch pad followed by 4,100 feet of asphalt. As the only track in the state, Alaska Raceway Park hosts the IHRA Summit Super Series which is great for the Anchorage-area racers. However, others travel to compete from distant locales such as Fairbanks (350 miles, right past the base of Denali, highest mountain in North America), Kenai and Soldatna (187 miles and over two mountain passes.) “Weather is not nearly as much a factor in participating in the Summit Super Series as is distance,” Lackey added. “Having to drive to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to compete in the Summit Team Finals in order to advance to the Summit World Finals in Memphis was a challenge; it was difficult driving 1,939 miles to Edmonton over two-lane paved roads ALASKA RACEWAY PARK DRAGWAY SPOTLIGHT IN A PART OF THE WORLD WITH SOME EXTREME WEATHER, DRAG RACING SEASON BEGINS by Rob Goodman