Thunder returns to the valley PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 02 August 2017 07:14

By Bonnie Prindle
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For more than 100 years, the beginning of every racing season in Washington County has been marked by the sounds of thunder coming up from the valley at the Washington County Fairgrounds. Since the end of the 2015 season, however, Thunder Valley Raceway has fallen silent.

Misty and Steve Leonard, the new promoters of the raceway, have been working hard to bring thunder back to the valley this racing season.

Thunder Valley Raceway has deep roots in Washington County history. According to Washington County Historian Jeremy Elliot, the original racetrack was built at the fairgrounds in the mid 1880s and was used to race everything from horses to ostriches to camels. In 1915, the automobile racing craze hit America and the track became Thunder Valley.

The track has been in continuous operation since 1915, save a period of time from 1941-1945 when the county fair was shut down during World War II. Then, at the end of the 2015 racing season, a wreck wiped out the fence on the back stretch of the track.

Due to a lack of funds, the promoters at the time were unable to fix it, so the racetrack sat quiet  in 2016. Many people, including Misty and Steve, anxiously awaited the track’s opening.

There were rumors early in the year of an out-of-state promoter who wanted to open the track, but when Steve Leonard asked around, trying to confirm the rumors, he was met with a question: “Do you want to open it?”

“He became obsessed with it, and that’s all our conversations were: racetrack, racetrack, racetrack,” said Misty. “I told him, ‘If I tell you absolutely no, will you shut up about it?’ and he said, ‘Probably not.’”

Misty decided that if they were going to open Thunder Valley again, they would do it together. In March, they began the process of fixing up the valley for racing. By May, they were almost finished.  Then the flood hit.

“After the flood, in the center of our field, we had twelve feet of water,” said Misty. “Our entire track was covered, barriers were floating; trees, light poles, paint, everything just went down the stream. Our concession stand, our payout booth, our ticket booth, all gone. It’s over. We had to start back actually before square one, before where we started in March.”

According to Misty, they’ve put in too many hours that they didn’t really have and much more money than they planned to get the track running again.

“I would hate to think of how many hours we’ve logged getting this track ready,” said Misty. “And we’re still working on it... But we’ve got a good group of people that have come in and helped. Without them, we couldn’t have done it.”

Despite the challenges, the first official race of the 2017 season took place on Saturday, July 22nd. About fifty cars showed up for the race, and more than 400 people filled the stands and the pits.

There are a few improvements to the raceway, such as an expanded concession stand and a few new classes of cars that have never raced on the track before.

For the most part, the track has stayed the way that many generations of fans and racers love and remember it.

“We have grandparents, kids, and grandkids that have all raced at that track, and they’re doing it together,” said Misty.

Although there are many racers excited to be at Thunder Valley again, cars alone can’t make the track. Thunder Valley needs to fill the stands. If you’ve never been to a race before, Misty asks that you come out one Saturday night and give Thunder Valley a chance.

The next race this season will be on August 12th. Doors open at 4:00 PM and the race begins at 7:00 PM. Grandstand admission is $7.

“Come out and support us,” said Misty. “If you’ve never been, give us one Saturday night. You might change your mind.”


Results from the

July 22nd Race:

Hornets: 1st place Derek Smith, 2nd place Jeremy Smith, 3rd place Tracey Nicholson, 4th place Brian Moore, 5th place JR Payton, 6th place Dale Grote, 7th place Frank Stevenson, 8th place Chris Wells, 9th place Steven Meek, 10th place Brandon Reeves, 11th place Aaron Newby, 12th place Eric Lewis, 13th place Kenny Highie, 14th place Dalton Burns.

Modifieds: 1st place Dustin Golden, 2nd place Lee Hobbs, 3rd place Jarod Fleetwood, 4th place Thomas Mulvaney, 5th place Jarod Deckard, 6th place Andy Carver, 7th place Lauren Fleetwood, 8th place J.T Huffman.

Pure Stocks: 1st place Jim Walter Jr., 2nd place Mike Bailey, 3rd place Randy Lee Jr., 4th place Brian Hutt, 5th place Chris Workman, 6th place Brian Ferguson, 7th place R.W Spillman, 8th place Teresa Combs, 9th place Dalton Fleenor, 10th place David Robinson, 11th place Travis Hays, 12th place Rick Purtlebaugh, 13th place Virgil Sparrow, 14th place Ray Burgess, 15th place Michael Cranmer.

Modlites: 1st place Will Bennett, 2nd place Alan Vanwhy, 3rd place Gavin Taylor, 4th place Brandon Shaw, 5th place Andy Sherley, 6th place Ross Sanders, 7th place Chris Belville, 8th place Joe Boyll, 9th place Jeff Swinford.