Dirt, Drifting, Drivers: Racing at the world’s northern most dirt track

We asked drivers and race fans what is it that keeps them coming back to the track year after year.
Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 5:32 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Mitchell Raceway has been entertaining fans for decades as daring drivers drift around the dirt track, but why do they race and what keeps the fans coming back week after week, year after year?

The energy at the track is contagious. Eager drivers and excited fans mingle as they wait for different races to start, some have been participating for decades while others are finding joy in the sport for the first time. Our reporter, John Dougherty, spent the weekend at the track to see if he could find out more about racing culture in Fairbanks and what makes this community of race car drivers and fans so special.

“When I heard there was the dirt track, the furthest north dirt track, in Alaska, I was like I got to go, I got to be a part of this,” said Tilden Morgan, a spectator watching the races.

As you watch the cars go around the track you can feel the earth vibrate and the engines roar, watching the dirt fly in huge clouds as they speed around the different corners of the track. The lightning and thunder in the background making for a dramatic scene as these drivers put it all on the line for a chance at glory.

Thunder and lightning create a startling backdrop to the races.
Thunder and lightning create a startling backdrop to the races.(John Dougherty)

Braden Anders, driver of car 98, talked about his experience behind the wheel of his race car,“10 laps where you are in control of everything and anything that goes on. As fast as you want to go, as slow as you want to go.”

Anders comes from a long line of dirt track drivers, a local legacy, with both his father and his grandfather participating in racing.

“My grandfather raced out in North Pole and my dad raced out here so I grew up out here and kind of just fell into it,” said Anders.

Colby Hill is also creating a legacy of his own. He has been racing at the track since 1993 and this year he is the crew chief for his son Garrett.

“There is nothing like driving a sprint car. A sprint car is like an adrenaline rush times ten,” said Hill.

“I just feel like it’s kind of one of the purest sports of competition because I mean, it’s you, the car, the race track and the other people. At the end of the day if something goes wrong, it’s on you,” said Garrett Hill.

We asked fans what keeps them coming back year after year, what makes dirt track racing so exciting and what has spurred them to become a part of this community.

“Oh because of the excitement, because of the racing, because of the dirt,” said Morgan.

“It’s just great to watch them race, and it’s hometown, you know the guys, you know the president of the race association, so it’s good to see them put the work in and come out and race,” said Theresa Willson, a long time spectator.

According to race fan Destiny Kinsey, the family friendly atmosphere adds to the appeal. “But not only that but it is a fun thing to bring the kids to during the weekend. And it just gets you out of the house.”

Racers say, the community is a family, and having fun and being safe is what matters most.

“There is always a spirit of competition and you want to win, but at the end of the day we’re all here to put the cars on a trailer at night and live to race another day,” said Garrett Hill.

Racing president Monte Pearson said that they saw more fans than usual this season and hopes that people continue to come and learn about their passion. Last weekend’s races were the last for this season but June 2021 the magic starts all over again and dirt track lovers, new and old, will get the chance to experience this special community all over again.

Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.

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