The thrill of Saturday night racing on the dirt track at Pike County Speedway in Magnolia will make its return on Saturday for the first time in eight years.
The speedway will host what’s called a “play day,” giving not only racers a chance to run their cars but also the fans to come back out and experience the thrill of racing.
The competitive racing season will begin a week later on June 6. Saturday’s event will begin at 6 p.m. and admission will be five dollars per person. Concessions will be available at the event as well.
Track owner Brian DeRoche and promoter Jason Jackson say that reopening the track is a project two years in the making.
“I’m just glad to see it finally back out and running,” he said. “I raced out here for a long time and Jason has raced here for a long time and we just wanted to get it back racing.”
He purchased the track in 2018 and it was an idea that was sparked by DeRoche’s wife.
“I used to pass by here and I told my wife, ‘I can’t believe no one has bought the race track,’ ” he said. “After a couple of years my wife said ‘why don’t you call and see’ and I made a phone call, made an offer on the place and ended up buying it.”
Once he owned the property, the next step for DeRoche was fixing it up.
“We came in and hit it hard,” he said. “It was in bad shape and we were ripping all of the boards out and it had a lot of grounds work that had to be done.”
DeRoche, Jackson and others went to work on the facility, replacing the wood on the bleachers while improving the press box, concession stands and restrooms, among others amenities.
And when he reminisces about the amount of work that went in to fixing up the place, it makes DeRoche feel proud. “I have chills thinking about it, and when I bought the place, I told the realtor I said look,” DeRoche said as he pointed to his arm, covered in goosebumps.
DeRoche hopes to have many different classes of cars come to racetrack but he wants to start out with only a few like pure stocks, street stocks, open modifieds, limited modifieds, crate-late models and super late models.
He also hopes to soon appeal to a younger crowd as well, by jump starting a go-kart racing league for kids on a patch of dirt located on the infield of the main track.
DeRoche wanted an earlier start to the season but due to the coronavirus pandemic, he was forced to delay.
He stresses to the individuals who wish to attend the play day this Saturday to practice safe measures like social distancing.
But for DeRoche, most of all, bringing the thrill of racing back to Pike County especially at a time when the area is slowly getting back to normal, it brings him great joy.
“The old sign used to say, ‘When racing comes alive on I-55.’ That is what we are trying to do,” he said.