Northwest Colorado has a proud history of dirt track racing, and two young drivers from Craig are carrying on the tradition this summer in Hayden.
The Hayden Speedway reopened this summer after a three-year hiatus from operation. Before that, the track had hosted races since 1976. Its reopening comes at an opportune time for drivers in the area, as the Thunder Ridge Motorsports Park in Craig is not operating in 2014.
Thunder Ridge is where Casey Madsen made her mark last summer in the Bulldog Bug, a Volkswagen Beetle. This summer at Hayden, Madsen is driving a Bug, and its paint job matches the famous Herbie Beetle. Robby McKinney has taken over the Moffat County High School-themed Bulldog Bug.
The pair stick out on the dirt track, which held its first races of the summer two weeks ago and has the next set beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, but racing a Beetle is no surprise to Scott McKinney, who coaches the duo and has worked with Volkswagens his entire life.
“You go around to other parts of the country and they (stock car Beetles) exist,” Scott said. “When I was 15, a Bug was my first car, and I won my first drag race versus a V8 Vega, and I’ve stuck with them since.”
Robby McKinney is in his rookie season driving here, but Madsen spent a couple seasons racing in Hayden and grew up attending race nights at the track.
“My family always went and watched when I was a kid,” she said. “I wanted to race, and they got me a car. Then I spent two years at Hayden Speedway. Then I was friends with Robby, so that’s kind of how I got involved with the Bugs.”
Madsen was a regular near the front of races at Thunder Ridge last summer and raced well in the Outlaw class in Hayden a couple weeks ago. After her car stopped on the track midway through, she recovered and earned a fourth-place finish, weaving through the field of eight cars — the largest event she’s ever raced.
“I had to really work hard to get through all those people, but I love it with more cars,” she said. “That’s really when it’s the best.”
Scott McKinney said more cars are in the area, and he hopes they start to fill the Hayden track as the summer wears on. He also encouraged people from the entire Yampa Valley to show up and support their hometown drivers.
“People need to come support the track,” he said. “You just come out and have fun. It’s a good thing for families to do, and the American Legion serves decent food for a decent prize, so you can get yourself a snack.
“These kids are driving great out there, and I hope people take notice.”
Contact Nate Waggenspack at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspack@CraigDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CDP_Sports.