CASA GRANDE, Ariz. -- The Central Arizona Raceway at the Pinal County Fairgrounds is back in business.
The speedway that closed in June 2008 re-opened this weekend by hosting races featuring IMCA modifieds, super stock cars and factory stock cars.
Because the season typically ends in late November, no more races are planned until January.
The Casa Grande Dispatch reports that business partners Benji Lyons and Arthur Lacy had operated the raceway since 2005, running races every week in front of a loyal fan base. Then the economy started going downhill and there was a change in the county's operation of the fairgrounds.
But recently, the county appointed an active fairgrounds board, which entered into a lease agreement with Central Arizona Fair Association, a Casa Grande-based nonprofit organization.
With the agreement in place, the two friends who first worked together when Lyons owned the car Lacy was driving in 2002, were given the green light to begin the reopening process.
``The last four years, it got vandalized pretty heavy,'' Lyons said of the track.
Lyons and Lacy estimate that they have put about $100,000 into replacing the sound and electrical systems, installing new seats in the grandstand, applying clay in an effort to get the track running right and doing other maintenance work.
The two agree that they made a good investment, both financially as they continue their search for sponsors, and with what they are doing to help the youth in a community where there are fewer activities to keep them occupied.
``We definitely want to start a kids program, something we can take to the schools,'' Lyons said. ``We need to get some race cars in there. Those are things that we want to bring into the community.''
Part of what drives Lyons and Lacy to get kids involved and to work so hard to reopen the track, are their memories of spending their childhoods at the track, watching their heroes sprint to the checkered flag. The track first opened in 1972.
``I started coming out here when I was 6 years old, and started racing when I was 16,'' Lacy said. ``There are a lot of good memories here, a lot of good races. This is a family deal. I can look in the stands and still see my grandparents there.''
The partners expressed their commitment to involving youths involved in racing, from sponsoring young people in a race to bringing the experience into the schools.
``What else are they gonna do around here?'' Lacy said. ``When I was a kid, we used to hang out at Marty's Roller Rink (in Coolidge). Well, that's not here anymore. So we're thankful that the county gave us the opportunity to get the racetrack back and try to get the young people to do something else besides play video games and get in trouble at school.''
Information from: Casa Grande Dispatch.