There's Something Special Happening in Lisbon
I arrived at Sheyenne Speedway around 5:15 p.m. on Monday for their Memorial Day racing program. There were a record 122 cars on hand. And truth is, if not for the Covid-19 restrictions on number of people in the crowd, the stands would have been packed.
I went to Sheyenne for the first time in 2017. I learned the track was all volunteer run and has been for years. And these volunteers who work at the track, many of whom have been at the track for several years, take a lot of pride in putting on racing there.
Fast forward to 2020. There have been a lot of upgrades to the facility over the past three years, which is located on the Ransom County Fairgrounds in Lisbon. In many ways, some parts aren’t recognizable.
With all the upgrades, and with the record car count, it got me thinking: they’ve got something special going on in Lisbon right now.
The facility changes have transformed the place in many ways. This past offseason alone, the wall was extended into turn one; a new wall and fencing was put up on the pit backstretch, with two sets of bleachers for drivers and crews to sit ; more dirt, I should say better dirt, was added last fall and worked in to give drivers a better racing surface. New bleachers were added in turn four for fans, particularly a help when you need to spread people out during the Covid-19 pandemic. The new pit wall and bleachers on the backstretch looks fantastic -- and a massive upgrade from the guard rail and openings there previously.
The improvements built upon upgrades that have taken place in recent years, which included adding to the turn four wall, a lot of repainting, more sponsor billboards were added. They’ve had good years in terms of crowd counts, and this has allowed the track to invest in some upgrades financially. For example, new track prep equipment, such as a new water truck.
Co-promoters Benji Froemke and Hunter Carter deserve a lot of credit for the growth of this place. Both from Lisbon — Hunter was a former street stock racer — they too over prior to 2018 and cared a great deal about keeping racing thriving in their hometown. And no, neither gets paid for their work — they are volunteers themselves. They also had a vision and a good idea of where they wanted things to go in terms of the track and growing the racing program. And you can see the results of it now.
Sheyenne’s social media promoting is terrific, and I hear many drivers and fans comment and how good it is. It keeps fans and drivers informed, promotes not only special events but the weekly shows, and really focuses on the experience for the drivers and fans. Again, you see the results of those efforts.
The MANY volunteers at Sheyenne deserve a lot of credit too. They are too numerous to mention and I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out. Not only for the work they do on their race day, but also the work that has gone into the track in the offseason. Putting up a new wall and fencing on the backstretch is hard work and a time consuming process. So is adding on to the wall in turn four. Or working in the new dirt. It’s a ton of manpower-hours that have gone into making Sheyenne. And several people have stepped up to help. We Back the Track is another group that has stepped up to help.
For example, Sheyenne had people walking around with hand sanitizer for fans. Xs were painted to mark six feet for ticket and concession lines. The ticket booth was moved to avoid congestion coming into the stands. And the concession workers -- which includes Benji's wife Bobbianne -- busted their tail yesterday, wearing masks and making sure fans got their food (by the way best racetrack hot dogs around are at Lisbon).
There is a ton of pride in racing at Lisbon.
The 122 cars is unofficially a record. And keep in mind this was just in five classes. Now, there are other reasons for the turnout — Casino Speedway had rained out on Sunday as a few South Dakota cars came to race, Madison Speedway in Minnesota hasn’t opened (like almost other track aside from Jackson) and usually runs a popular Memorial Day show as well. So that provided a boost.
But there is a reason Cody and Haley Lee, from the Starbuck, Minn., area, drive nearly three hours one way on several Sundays to race at Lisbon. They like the place and like how they are treated. Eric Riley and Myles Tomlinson have made long trips to race there weekly too in the past, and neither has a short trip to and from the track.
Sheyenne Speedway isn’t perfect and has faults like any other track. No track is perfect, not even the big name dirt tracks in the country.
But as a fan and driver you’ve got to like the momentum Sheyenne has built. And will continue to build. It’s not done yet.