Top-level event sign that Hayden Speedway is gaining speed |

Top-level event sign that Hayden Speedway is gaining speed

John F. Russell
Sprint car driver Austin Mclean, of Greeley, kicks up some dust as he races around the quarter-mile, dirt-banked track at the Hayden Speedway during the Rumble in the Rockies last weekend. The event drew nearly 1,000 people to the track making it one of the biggest events in years.
John F. Russell

— It’s Saturday night at the Hayden Speedway, and the column of cars waiting to pay and find parking spots is already starting to line up, despite the fact the first race of the night is still more than an hour away.

“It’s a good, quarter-mile banked track,” driver John Lathrop said. “It’s got good clay, and it’s just a fun place with a good atmosphere.”

Lathrop, who lives in Craig and grew up in the area, said his family has always been drawn to the track by the roar of the engines. He remembers coming to the track with his dad and his friends, and these days, he’s hoping to pass his love of racing on to his own children. He left the sport in 2010 but recently purchased a new car and has made all but one of the races this season.

“Corey (Hunter) has done a good thing getting it back up and running,” Lathrop said. ”They bust their butts to make it for us every weekend, and I thank them for that.”

For Corey Hunter, who runs the Hayden Speedway along with Lee Wolford and an army of volunteers, Saturday night’s Rumble in the Rockies — which drew close to 1,000 spectators for a night of racing — could not have been much better.

The event isn’t new to Hayden, but it’s been a few years since the sprint cars have competed on the oval dirt of the raceway. This is the first time the group had been back since the track closed for three years in 2010.

Saturday’s huge crowd welcomed the sprint cars back in style.

“We brought it back, because it had been here for 35 years,” Hunter said. “This track is part of Hayden’s history and our heritage, and you can see by the people tonight that there are a whole lot of people who agree with us.”

Hunter said the track closed down in 2010, but a group of people in Hayden have worked hard to get the city-owned track back open. In 2013, the Hayden Motorsports Association was formed, and in the spring of 2014, the track was reopened with just 11 cars competing in the first race.

Since then, the number of cars participating has continued to grow, with 35 taking part in last weekend’s races. More importantly, the track has also been able to draw big events like the Rumble in the Rockies back to Hayden.

“It’s just fun to watch racing,” Hunter said. “I’m a gear head. I love things that are loud, obnoxious and go fast, and this whole racing system is great.”

Hunter said the track hosts seven races per season, with the final event slated for Sept. 12. Last weekend’s race was a sprint car feature with drivers coming from five our six states.

“It takes a lot of clout and a bit of cash to get it going,” Hunter said. “These cars are very expensive, and when they crash and break, it’s expensive to fix. This is a higher car count than a lot of tracks have on the Front Range. So for Hayden, as small as we are as far as town size, to draw this many cars, especially high-end cars, is pretty spectacular.”

Hunter said the track is already planning for next year, which he expects to be even bigger with a massive dwarf car show, Rocky Mountain lightning sprints and some modified car shows.

Hunter said the track’s comeback could not have happened without support from Hayden and the surrounding area.

“Everyone has helped out here,” Hunter said. “Everyone is a volunteer … I’ve had tons of help financially, equipment wise, staff — tons and tons of help. It’s been phenomenal.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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