'Play Day' event brings racing back to Pike County

Racers make their way around turn two of the three-eighths mile long track at Pike County Speedway Saturday evening. The ‘play day’ event marked the first at the track in eight years. 

The thrill of the fast-paced action, the dust in the air, the smell of race engine exhaust. All of the descriptions of a night at a dirt racing track were present once again Saturday in Pike County as for the first time in eight years, racing returned to Pike County Speedway.

“I really think that it was a lot better than I thought it was,” said track owner Brian DeRoche. “I’m pretty ecstatic with how it went. The track held up and to me, I think that it was a success for the first night, even though it was a practice.”

Saturday’s event was a “play day,” giving racers not only the chance to run their cars, but also to get a feel for the track. It also gave spectators the opportunity to experience or re-familiarize themselves with the sport.

Someone who is no stranger to the dirt track race scene is Neal Temple of Loranger, La.

He no longer races but wanted to come witness the re-birth of the track, which is right up the road for him. He is excited for the upcoming racing season at the speedway.

“It’s actually been 15 years since I have raced here,” he said. “It is my home track, it is a 45-minute drive. It is a great place, I know everyone who races here and who owns it. It is going to be great here.”

Throughout the night, spectators witnessed a variety of car classes engage in friendly competition among the racers. The classes of cars that raced were pure stock, street stock, limited modified, open-wheeled modified, crate-late and super-late models.

Louisiana natives Jimmy Waller and Grady Rushing were taking in the sights and action during the early stages of the evening. “There’s a quarter-mile track in Napoleonville (La.) and it is nothing like this. This is more exciting,” Rushing said.

Racer Stefan Oakes of Slidell, La. said he was thrilled to see the track make a comeback, adding that it is much more convenient for him as far as travel.

“We are really happy just to get out of the house,” he said. “It is really nice to come just up the road. Last weekend we had to go all the way to Alabama just to run a race.”

Another racer who is thankful to be back is Shane Bond of Napoleonville, La. He said the adrenaline and the thrill of racing is addicting.

“The adrenaline rush is like a drug, to be quite honest,” he said. “To not be able to race for three or four months is something. We had a few people travel to Florida to be able to race.”

DeRoche said that ever since the event Saturday night, he has received plenty of praise for re-opening the track. And all of this comes at a time when the area, like much of the world, is still dealing with the pandemic.

“A lot of people came up to me and said y’all really did a good job with the facility,” he said. “I think also this pandemic issue helped out. A lot of people wanted to get out of the house. I couldn’t believe how many people came for a play day.”

The racing season is slated to begin Saturday evening. The time has yet to be announced. DeRoche adds that he will monitor the weather.

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