MOUNT VERNON — It was a watershed day for local racing as Pacemakers Dragway Park experienced their most successful day in recent times. Saturday’s “Red, White and Vroom” attracted plenty of drivers and even more fans.
“We had a total entry of 265,” said Pacemakers’ operator Mike Fouts. “Eighty of those were junior dragsters. The balance were our big cars. We had juniors from Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pennsylvania and Indiana. One family, I talked to, said that it took them three hours to get here.”
With the other tracks taking the day off from their regularly scheduled racing, Pacemakers was thrown directly into the spotlight. Add to that the special events and some juicy cash prizes and Pacemakers became drag racing’s regional center on Saturday.
“We had three special classes, the juniors in particular,” said Fouts. “There was actually $1,000 to win for the junior dragsters. That’s what brought a lot of them in. With our big cars, it was a regular points weekend, but we also had a Quick 32, which they had to qualify for. That was actually sponsored by Sharx Designs, owned by Rod Zolman in Mount Vernon. We had a great response to that. We had 34 door cars, trying to qualify for 16 spots. We also had 30 dragsters trying to qualify for 16 spots on that side of the race. The low qualifier in the open wheel had a 4.31 so it was a real quick, Quick 32.”
What a day it turned out to be for the historic track as attendance records were set for drivers and fans. Not bad, when you consider that Saturday was one of the few days that Pacemakers charged admission to the fans.
“It worked out to be a perfect weekend and we set a ‘world’ record for us for attendance at the track,” said Fouts, who is currently in his fourth season of operating the track. “In drivers and cars, there were 265 total entries. We probably had close to 800 spectators. All the feedback was fantastic from all the junior racers and their parents. They loved the facility and a lot of them were from out of town and weren’t our regular customers. They like the way we maintain our facility and keep it clean and everything. The big cars, too. They loved the way we run the program and the friendliness of the staff and their professionalism to keep the program running.”
With all those cars to accommodate on Saturday, Fouts knows that his decision (some months ago) to complete the section of the Heart of Ohio Trail, which runs by Pacemakers, was a wise choice. It also gave Pacemakers a larger role in the community.
“We were able to take advantage of what we did there to maintain our pit spots that we had a chance of losing without our deal with the township commissioners,” said Fouts. “We paid for all the grading and the fence. To do all of the Heart of Ohio Trail from Henry Road to the end of the dragstrip property.”
They raced from early morning until far into the night, only halting action in compliance with local township regulations.
“With my township agreement, I am actually allowed to extend my midnight curfew to 12:30 a.m.,” said Fouts. “(Saturday) was the first time that I got into the situation, which I did that. I stopped at 12:30 and we had three cars left in our Super Pro Class. When I stopped to adhere to my curfew, we actually had two rounds of racing to complete. We stopped and those three cars split the purse.”
Randy Orsborn of Fredericktown was the lone local winner on Saturday, beating Keith Hall of Carroll in the Pro Class. Other winners included: James Ring of Sandusky (Sportsman Class), Rob Bianco of Shreve (Quick 32) and in Junior Dragsters, Dylan Spring of Newark (Minor — 8- and 9-year-old) Jaden Durst of Fostoria (Intermediate — 10- to 12-year-old) and Shawn Pitts of London (Major — 13- to 17-year-old). Logan Perkins of Heath won the Junior Dragster All-Run Class, and Mike Morris of Dayton beat out Michael Willi of Westlake in the Junior Dragster Quick 16 Class, which was run on a .5 Pro Tree with a finish line at the 330-foot mark.
It’s days like Saturday that help with sponsorship and media coverage.
“This shows that (Pacemakers) offers really good value for their advertising dollars,” said Fouts. “We had several local sponsors as well as statewide sponsors for both the junior race and the Quick 32 race. It makes it easier for me to engage with the local community businesses and shows them that we have a value at the track for their advertising dollars. I think we put on a very good show for the spectators as well. They really enjoyed the program with the quicker cars and got their money’s worth out there.”