UAF student speeds through summers at Mitchell Raceway
By Manon Grimault
Sun Star Reporter
Patrick Wold Jr. has been a student at UAF since spring 2014, but during his spare time in the summer, he does stock-car racing at the Mitchell Raceway. Wold started in 2010, after watching his friend’s dad race.
“It was just a dream at first,” Wold said, “but then I found out I only had to be 14 with parent’s consent.”
“I was 14 with no money,” Wold said. “Luckily I had a group of people who were willing to help me.” One of his friends gave him an old 1986 Chevrolet Celebrity station wagon that he could use for racing. His friend’s dad, who was a racer, helped him build the car to respect the safety measures of the Mitchell Raceway.
“It took me a couple of weeks to build the car,” Wold added. Wold is not the only one stockcar racing. It is a popular sport in Fairbanks, with a dedicated association. Each week about 150 people come to the Mitchell Raceway to watch the races. The Greater Fairbanks Racing Association operates the Mitchell Raceway and organizes each racing season. There are between 16 to 20 events per summer, mostly depending on the weather. The Greater Fairbanks Racing Association is a non-profit organization.
“Everything we make we give it back to the track or racers,” Melissa Coghill, secretary of the association, said. The members of the board are volunteers, but they hire around 20 people to work each night The members of the board are volunteers, but they hire around 20 people to work each night. Competition is a big part of racing. There is a point system to show the class rankings. At the end of the season the drivers are recognized by trophies or certificates and point payouts. Last year top payouts were between $465 and $499. The mini-stock winner makes the most money among the other classes. The amount depends on how many racer participate in each class.
Wold has great memory with his first car. “My favorite memory was during my second night of racing in the Chevy Celebrity,” Wold said. “I had my family from out of town watching and I won the main event.” The main event is the last race of the night, the most intense race, because the racers gain more points. There are also special events throughout the summer, some important for racers to make more points and some important for the community. This season there will be the Dirt Shoot Out, a statewide invitational with the first half in Fairbanks. Racers will come up from Capital Speedway, Willow and Twin City Raceway and Kenai.
Also, there will be a cancer awareness night, military appreciation night and canned food night for the Food Bank. “My favorite part of racing is the adrenaline,” Wold said. “You can go out there every night and you won’t ‘get used’ to it. When you’re on the final pass before the green flag drops, you get that nervous feeling in your stomach. When the flag finally drops, you don’t think about anything else except that moment, and the race.” Wold’s latest car is a ‘94 Mazda Protege, numbered 88, purple and black.
“If I would ever roll over, the number would be the same upside down,” Wold said. There are five classes of cars: the mini-stock, dollar-stock, sportsman, modified and sprint. Last year, 70 people were registered to race but there were between 40 and 50 people each week. This year they expect between 50 and 60 regular drivers. “I raced all four years in the ministock class,” Wold said. “It was the class Modified class, I could afford it. It was the cheapest.”
Racing can become expensive, Wold usually spends around $100 per night, if nothing breaks. Edward Burger, President of the Greater Fairbanks Racing Association and modified racer, spent $15,000 to build his new car and will average a couple hundred dollars each night. The 2015 race season opening weekend will be May 22 and 23 at 7 p.m. at the Mitchell Raceway, 4075 Peger Rd. Unfortunately, last year was the last racing year as a driver for Wold. He gave his car to his little brother, Jeremy Miller, who turned 14 in July. “I’ve decided to focus on college,” Wold said. “I’m going to take some summer classes. I will be helping my brother, though. I’ll be in the pits fixing whatever he breaks.”
“The advice I have is to become friends with a racer who has experience,” Wold said. People wanting to race are also welcome to go to the meeting to meet other racers and learn more about the rules. Each year before the season starts, every driver and his or her car must pass the safety inspection. According to Burger, the rules are being adjusted every year and are available on their website http://www.fairbanksracing. org/. There is also a “test & tune” night on May 15, to try any race car out on the track and make sure the car respects the safety rules. It allows the driver to make any modifications before the season starts.
After the opening weekend, races will be every Friday night at 7 p.m. The general admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students and military, free for seniors and children up to 10 years old and $5 for children from 11 to 17 years old. Outside the racing, there are booths with food and drinks, as well as The Shirt Shack selling Mitchell Raceway t-shirts and hoodies. There are also bike give aways for children and 50/50 tickets for adults. Last year they gave away $1,600 worth of bikes. “It is an affordable, fun night,” Coghill said.