I’ve written about Spokane County Raceway before because I find the circuit alluring for its intimidating demeanor. Ominous black smudges dot the front straight’s concrete barriers where previous drivers have “kissed” it, while much of the track’s remaining boundaries are lined with berms that can seriously rearrange a racecar’s body panels. After the sun sets, the barriers flash by, reflecting carefully aimed light beams back into the driver’s periphery. On the back half, the berms loom just visible enough to remind drivers of an excursion’s dangers. To complicate matters further, the edges of the track are loose dirt, so when the car ahead drops a tire onto it, the driver is suddenly driving through a dust cloud.
“Forgiving” is not in Spokane’s vocabulary, though you might find “grueling” in its glossary. Naturally, this was the perfect setting for ChumpCar World Series’ 36-hour race earlier this month. Few teams avoided time-consuming repairs. A handful found misadventures of varying calibers during the day-and-a-half event, yet the race produced a riveting final hour wrought with drama.
Even with just 49 entries on 2.25 miles of racing surface, cars occasionally bunch up into small packs. The slightest mistake at night can create a disorienting mess, as the #8 My Little Pony Ford Mustang driver found out when the #15 NNM Motorsports (mid-engined) Dodge Neon spins into his path. The resulting crash required a lengthy fix for the Mustang, which went on to finish 19th in the race.
Contrast that with the daytime visibility for the rest of the race, as the #44 Crapst Blue Ribbon Toyota MR2 puts in a lap-and-a-half about halfway through the race, which includes a three-wide pass on the front straight while the scenery streaks by at speeds approaching triple digits. The drivers all telegraph their moves and leave plenty of space, but one can’t help but feel a bit of tension as the eventual race-winning #25 Squirrels of Fury Volkswagen Rabbit moves over to pass slower traffic.
Of course, those are just two vignettes (totaling something like 1/540 or 0.1 percent of the race’s duration) for an event that spanned almost an entire weekend, hurtling through 16 hours of darkness and two sunrises without pause.