Grays Harbor news 2007-02-22

New promoter, Outlaw date for Grays Harbor Raceway ELMA, Wash. - Change continues to happen at a rapid pace at Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma, Wash. Two more changes took place Feb. 20: Brownfield Promotions Inc. turned over promotion of the ...

New promoter, Outlaw date for Grays Harbor Raceway

ELMA, Wash. - Change continues to happen at a rapid pace at Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma, Wash.

Two more changes took place Feb. 20: Brownfield Promotions Inc. turned over promotion of the track, and the World of Outlaws Sprint Series was added to the schedule. The Outlaws will race in Elma Aug. 27.

The Outlaws started racing in Elma in Aug. 1996 when Fred Brownfield moved his two-day Outlaw show from Skagit Speedway in Alger, Wash. to Elma. The Outlaws continued with a two-day show in Elma through 2005.

Last year, the Brownfield-started National Sprint Tour raced in Elma instead of the Outlaws.

It was also last year - June 16, to be specific - that much changed in regards to racing at Elma. That's the night Brownfield was killed while lining up cars for a Modified race on the 3/8-mile Elma track.

Over the winter the National Sprint Tour folded, and Fred's widow Debbie handed over the Northern Sprint Tour to Dick Wilskey and his daughter Shawna, a three-time Northern Sprint Tour champ. They turned the series into the Northwest Sprint Challenge Series, which makes its debut April 27- 28 in Elma.

After plenty of soul-searching, Debbie Brownfield realized it was time to let someone else promote the track. In 2003, the Brownfields signed a 10- year deal with Grays Harbor County to promote races. Those duties will now be handled by Great Northwest Promotions LLC, headed by George Wade of nearby Montesano, Wash.

"The reason behind it is I've got too much to do, and I'm not Fred," Debbie said. "Fred was an amazing coordinator of people and events. It was easy for me to work as a helper, but to be in charge of all he left is something I can't do. It takes a type A personality, an ability to relate to so many types of people. He just had a knack for that. He could relate to racers, people at tracks, people in the shop, and fans."

Wade is one of four people in the new group, but is the only local one and thus will be the one at the track located about 10 miles from his home. Others in the new group are Wade's brother Danny, as well as Kimball Wetherington and Bud Brown of Florida, who sponsor Outlaw racer Jason Sides.

George Wade started talking with Debbie last August when Sides and the other National Sprint Tour drivers raced at Elma. Wetherington and Brown had been wanting to see the track for a while.

"They came up to go fishing, and we took them to the races," Wade said. "They said they had never seen such a beautiful facility."

Debbie believes a conversation that weekend between Wade and Brown was key. "Bud said something to the effect of 'Why are you working so far away? You should be working at this place,'" Debbie recalled. "George said he didn't have the money. Bud said, 'I do.' It's like everything just sort of came together."

Debbie feels strongly everything came together the way it was supposed to. "I felt like I did a good job finding an appropriate entity to take it over," said Debbie, who noted a great deal of relief that a new entity is in charge. "I think God had it arranged. I think God definitely had a hand in it. God is looking out for me."

Shortly after the National Sprint Tour folded in November, Debbie met with top officials from DIRT MotorSports, including CEO Tom Deery.

Since the Outlaws were already scheduled to race at Skagit Speedway Aug. 24- 25, the same weekend the Outlaws used to race in Elma, a Monday show was under consideration. Debbie was hesitant about having a weekday show, but Wade and his group agreed.

"They said there are no hard feelings in regards to the split with the National Sprint Tour," Debbie said of DIRT officials. "They would like peace and harmony."

Wade, who has known Deery for many years, is excited about the return of the Outlaws.

"It's huge for everybody," Wade said. "It huge for the county, it's huge for the Elma economy, and that's one of the reasons we worked so diligently to get it."

Debbie didn't want just anyone to take over the track. Instead, she turned to Wade, whom Fred had looked at hiring to "hold down the fort" last year in Elma.

"Part of why I wanted to release it to someone else is I feel so strongly it needed to be handed to someone who cares and has a passion, someone who will move it forward nicely," she said.

Debbie will still be helping out with tickets and other duties. Both Wade and Debbie are hoping current staff stays on board. Wade plans to show he wants them to be there, and that he does as well.

"I just have to show the commitment, the hard work and the passion," Wade said. "You'll see me out there getting dirty, just like Fred."

-credit: ghr

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Series Sprint , World of Outlaws