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New Owner Hopes to Revive Warrick County Dirt Track

Drag racing and circle track fans get excited. The green flag has dropped on a new season out at Chandler Motor Speedway.

The dirt track is featured in this weekend’s edition of Tri-state Treasures.

Local race fans have been on the edge of their seats in recent years, fearing the loss of popular tri-state dirt track. With lawsuits and legal issues now in the rear-view mirror, the green flag has officially dropped on a new season.

For auto racing purists, one tri-state property has been flinging dirt since the mid 60s. But recent change in ownership — and an uncertain future — has taken its toll on the track the past few years.

Local racer Mark Cole shares what makes Chandler Motor Speedway so special and what attracted him to the track more than four decades ago.

“It’s good local racers,” said Cole. “That’s what made this track and that’s what’s going to keep this track going, is local racers.

“We need cars up here to come. Guys that just ain’t gotta lot of money, but you can come up here to race. Chandler just needs a good face lift and it would be a real good little race track up here.”

And just like racers running on a tight budget, Chandler Motor Speedway faces its own hardships. Cole says it’s hard for Chandler to keep pace with other local venues, for instance, Tri-state Speedway.

“Tommy’s got all the equipment up there,” said Cole. “He’s got the farm equipment. Ed’s always had the farm equipment up there. They’ve been able to take and work their race track and maintain it. This race track, it’s a bit tougher to take care of.

“It’s a little bit bigger. We go a little bit faster here, but the race track is a little harder to take care of when you get them that big.”

The track is now in its first season with new owner and Chandler native Reno Fontana, who’s already facing challenges. A big part of any sports spectator experience is the concession stand, which is something Cole says, is one of the biggest obstacles the new ownership faces off the track.

“The health department came up here and raised a couple little issues, but we’ve got things lined up where he’s up here cooking burgers,” said Cole. “There’s a group up here donating their time and material and I’ve given him a little bit of money for coming up here.”
Cole says he hopes to see more green flags waving at the Warrick County property.

“It’s something I want to see keep going,” Cole said. “Don’t care who opens it. Don’t care who runs it. I’m gonna donate time whatever I can, effort, to try and keep this race track open. It’s close to home. It’s close for racing.”

But Cole says, his passion and the passion of fans for the track, keeps the racing alive despite recent setbacks, delays and legal issues.

“It’s had a lot of promoters up here and they’ve all worked the same way with not much money to try and make the race track better,” said Cole., “and they’ve just not got the job done.

“There are a group of people in Evansville, some people that don’t like the deal that’s been going on up here. The legalities and all that other stuff, which I don’t get involved in that and I don’t care about that.

“All I care about is my race track. I wanna run here. I need those people to leave people alone so we can get this track going.”

And going is the goal, with plans to revive the 131 acre property’s drag strip too, with classic style drop competitions later this summer.

As for the 3/8th of a mile dirt track, racing resumed this spring with Friday night features scheduled through October, meaning many more left turns at this Tri-State Treasure.

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