Posted by admin on April 9, 2017
Stock car racing is set to return to the Sault Ste. Marie Ontario area during the summer of 2017. The former Laird International Raceway is being reopened as Superior International Motorplex. The track is being changed from a 1/3 mile D shaped oval, into a 1/4 mile clay/dirt track with a paper clip shape. Since it contains a lot of local race history, this existing Laird Raceway website will be kept alive but will no longer be updated. Local race fans are invited to visit the website for the new track at http://www.superiormotorplex.ca to get more information about the new track. Fans that would like to be kept up to date on upcoming news are also invited to sign up to the Superior International Motorplex mailing list. The mail list sign up form is also found on the Superior International Motorplex website at the bottom of the page. Drivers and teams interested in racing at the new track are also requested/required to register on the new website at https://www.superiormotorplex.ca/drivers Registration is free and will allow track management to keep you updated with news and information about upcoming meetings.
Many fans might wonder why are these changes being made? Laird Raceway originally opened in 1999 and ran for 17 seasons until the fall of 2015. The track was slated to open in the 2016 season with a reduced schedule, but with the poor local economy and an expected low car count management decided that it would be best to keep the gates closed for the season. During the fall of 2016, it was decided that the racing surface should be changed to dirt/clay, and new management was sought to take over the operation. The track has been rebranded and is expected to open in the 2017 season as Superior International Motorplex.
Why dirt? There are a few reasons for the change from asphalt to dirt. Many small tracks in the U.S. have changed to dirt and have found that it is more of a favorite with fans. Dirt racing is more challenging for drivers. Races can be more fun to watch for fans too, with cars having multiple 'grooves' to run on a track and a track that changes conditions with weather.
Another advantage to dirt racing is that it is less of a concern for weather. Fans of Laird Raceway were frustrated many times with cancellations due to poor weather (rain). A dirt surface means that races can be held even if a rain has fallen earlier in the day, or if light rain falls during a race evening. The result is that there will likely be less cancellations due to rain. Of course there may still be cancellations if heavy rain or thunderstorms are expected.
Another reason for switching to dirt is to reduce costs for drivers. Specifically tire costs. With an asphalt surface, drivers in the upper level classes needed to buy a new set of tires almost every week in order to stay competitive. The cost of a full set of tires was in the order of about $800. This is a lot of money for most race teams to absorb, especially with the difficulties in finding sponsors in a faltering economy like we've had in the Sault for the past couple years. Tires are still important for dirt racing, but they don't wear the same way, and are not as prone to punctures and flats like the racing slicks that were being used on the asphalt. It is expected that a race team should be able to get through an entire season on a couple sets of tires.
Many of the drivers at Laird have been there racing for years. They know the setups for their cars, and they know how to drive the track. With the switch to dirt, all these drivers will find new challenges. It will make it more interesting for them. The switch to dirt will level the playing field with drivers all having similar skills during the first year or two as they get accustomed to racing the new surface/shape. The consequence will be more competitive racing that is much more fun for fans to watch.
Another challenge for drivers will be with the setup of their cars. Track conditions on dirt can change from evening to evening, or even hour to hour. This requires a change in the setup of the cars for each race. The end result will likely be that fans will see different drivers taking the checkered flag from race to race and evening to evening. We won't likely see the situation where one driver/cars wins night after night.
Do you have some questions or comments? Feel free to contact the new track operation by using the contact form at https://www.superiormotorplex.ca/contact