Thirteen years after it shut down, drivers went racing again Friday night at I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Missouri.
For the grand opening, World of Outlaws Nos Energy Drink sprint car series, billed as “The Greatest Show on Dirt,” returned for the first time in 35 years.
Chris Payne, the speedway’s new owner, battled the Lafayette County Planning Commission in 2019 and then a pandemic in 2020, but he was finally able to open the track Friday. I-70 Speedway, part of what’s now known as I-70 Motorsports Park, has undergone a major transformation, but still has a lot of history.
Dale McCarty, 89, was at I-70 Speedway when it first opened in 1969.
“It was dangerous. The walls was built wrong to the track. You touch the wall and over you went,” McCarty said.
And as he battled toward the finish line and another driver got into him, McCarty ended up with a bar from the race car and 159 stitches in his leg.
The track would become a staple of American racing both as a dirt oval, then pavement for nearly 40 years until it shut down and fell into disrepair.
“Over where the bleachers are now, there were trees growing up in there and they were cutting the trees out. I can’t imagine how much different it looks now. They really really put a lot of work into this thing,” Bill Miller said of the .45-mile dirt oval.
World of Outlaws driver Brian Brown travels 40,000 miles a year to races. This weekend he’s just 15 minutes from his Grain Valley home.
“People throughout the country or who are from this area always say, ‘Gosh sure do wish I-70 was still open.’ Here we are today, and it’s open,” Brown said.
The track opened two years behind schedule mainly because of county concerns about noise and traffic, then the coronavirus. However, there are no outdoor COVID-19 restrictions on masks or capacity at the track allowing for a near sellout crowd of 8,000 racing fans.
“It’s huge. It’s going to help Higginsville. It’s going to help Odessa. It’s going to help Blue Springs. It’s going to help all the surrounding areas,” Brown said.
“Just look at how much money they’ve brought in here. These people have got to stay somewhere. They’ve got to eat they’ve got to buy fuel for these big trucks. They are going to spend some money,” Miller said.
“It means a lot to Kansas City, it means a lot to the fans,” McCarty said.
General admission tickets for Saturday’s races are $40. Reserved seats are $45. Children 12 and under free.