RING THE BELL: ‘Steel Palace’ to ‘Clay Palace’ Transformation Helps Ring in Super DIRT Week 51

Like the ball dropping in Times Square, the first load of clay dropping onto Oswego Speedway signified a new year and new beginning for Super DIRT Week Thursday morning.

Its golden anniversary was celebrated in 2022 during the 50th running, while year 51 starts the road to its centennial.

New red and white flags line Bridge Street in Oswego, each with the name of a past Super DIRT Week champion. New radiant pylons live around the city, each featuring the 2022 Super DIRT Week champions. And the process of turning Oswego Speedway from the “Steel Palace” to the “Clay Palace” is only the first step in bringing Racing’s Biggest Party to Oswego.

“Turning Oswego Speedway into a dirt track for Super DIRT Week not only signifies the historic event’s return to Oswego, but also helps kick off weeks of preparation to welcome more than 30,000 fans to the facility,” said Jeff Hachmann, executive director of events for Super DIRT Week. “We had an exceptional celebration for the 50th running last year and now look to build toward another 50 years with enhanced experiences on and off the track.”

About 500 dump truck loads of clay cover the 5/8-mile track – eight inches thick on the straightaways and progressed to 12 inches in the corners. To perfect that, GPS technology was used to map out the entire track and then programed into the Dozers being used. As the machines pushed the clay into place, the Dozers’ plows read the GPS data and layered the clay to the exact measurement.

The technology was utilized last year but taken to a new level this year with the help from CASE Construction Equipment – which provided several machines this year, including a Dozer and Excavator. With the extra equipment and newer technology, Oswego Speedway was almost a full dirt track before the evening.

“It really speeds the process along,” said John Wight, who’s helped with the process since the first year at Oswego in 2016, and owns Brewerton Speedway and Fulton Speedway. “We’ve got three trucks running instead of two… And we’ve got the GPS running to help spread it evenly throughout the whole process.”

CASE Dozer
CASE Construction Equipment Dozer used at Oswego Speedway (Quentin Young Photo)

He added that this year’s process is the same used as last year, which led to a competitive surface throughout the week. The only difference is his team started in Turn 2 this year, rather than Turn 3, as the trees covering Turn 2 helped with the sunlight throughout their process.

Even a couple of Super DIRT Week veterans were helping throughout the day. Super DIRTcar Series star Tim Sears Jr. ran the Excavator and 2018 Billy Whittaker Cars 200 champion Larry Wight was on a Dozer.

“Growing up, going [to Super DIRT Week] every year with my uncle and [family]… it’s a big event,” Sears Jr. said. “Definitely a lot of race fans. A lot of people. A lot of cars. Just the biggest stage in the northeast.”

Once the process of putting the dirt down is complete, the work around Oswego Speedway is far from over. Ticketing booths and souvenir stands are built around the facility. Hundreds of signs color the grounds. Large tents are put in place for the media center and Island Stage – which hosts drivers meetings and live music throughout the week. And that’s only what’s visible.

Behind the scenes there are countless hours preparing events, working with the Pentagon on evacuation plans (if needed), preparing apparel, organizing promotions, developing parking plans and a plethora of items that lead to campers moving in on Sunday, Oct. 1.

“To give fans the biggest week of racing and entertainment in the northeast takes almost a year’s worth of work,” Hachmann said. “Seeing the dirt go down is a celebration of some of that work, but also a reminder that Super DIRT Week 51 is only a few weeks away.”

Fans will again see the best drivers from the northeast and beyond competing with the Super DIRTcar Series, DIRTcar 358 Modifieds, DIRTcar Sportsman and DIRTcar Pro Stocks. Throughout the week there will also be a Movie Night (Monday, Oct. 2, at 6 p.m.), Quarter Midget & Microd Mania in the infield (Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 6 p.m.), the fan-favorite Super DIRT Week City Parade (Wednesday, Oct. 4, at noon), music at the Island Tent Wednesday through Saturday, food options from local favorites and more.

Early load-in begins on Monday, Oct. 1, at 9 a.m. and is followed by a Super DIRT Week Kickoff Party at Lighthouse Lanes (in front of the speedway) at 6p.m. Then, Super DIRT Week 51 officially commences on Monday, Oct. 2, leading to the prestigious Super DIRTcar Series Billy Whittaker Cars 200 on Sunday, Oct. 8. For the full schedule of events and to get tickets, CLICK HERE.