Most people that drive Mount Baker Highway don’t see Deming Speedway and many probably don’t even know it exists. The road is after all named at what’s at the end of it.
But halfway up Highway 542 is the 1/6-mile oval, home to the only microsprint car racing in Washington state. The small track isn’t visible from the main road, but tucked behind the trees and across the railroad track there is a unique community — about as small as the laps are long — that extends beyond just the racing surface.
It’s clear once you pull into Deming’s lot this is a respite from the rest of the world and on summer’s Friday nights, something to do for the small town of Deming, when the Friday night lights of Mountaineers’ football is still months away.
But this racing family is much larger than just Deming residents.
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For Clay Cup Nationals, Deming Speedway’s cornerstone event that wrapped up Saturday, July 18, drivers from California and southern Oregon even made the trek to the track.
From British Columbia to Seattle, regular drivers extend far and wide and are about as diverse in age as they are in hometown.
The eldest driver, Galen Turner, is 60 years old. At the other end, there are grade schoolers competing in the junior sprints and restricted races. Fifteen-year-old Tanner Holm, who competes in the 600 open class, is the youngest regular in one of the top classifications.
Despite the age difference, it’s one big community.
“Everyone helps everyone out,” Holm said in a phone interview before the start of Clay Cup.
And much of that stems from the family ties at the track. Deming Speedway truly is a family affair, as fathers get their sons, and in more recent years, their daughters into racing.
Decorated driver Brock Lemley fathers Tyson Lemley, who competes in the 600 restricted class, while racing in the upper classes himself. Galen Turner plays parent to Katie Turner, who won the second night of the 600 restricted class, passing her father in a heat race in the dying laps to get into the main event.
“I felt kind of bad, but I needed to show him I can do it too,” Katie said after the race.
And the list goes on of family names with more than one car in the pits on a regular basis — Joe and Spencer Constance, Keith and Reese Wickard, Tanner and Kaden Holm to name a few.
Every driver has some story of how they got into racing. Tanner Holm remembers his distinctly — a conversation with his dad over the dinner table. Robbie Price, now a fulltimer at Skagit Speedway, went and bought a car with his dad while his mom was away.
While a full-time sprint car at Skagit Speedway in Alger can be quite costly, a microsprint car, which doesn’t burn as much fuel or tires, can be an affordable bonding experience and a whole lot of fun for young drivers, many of which aspire to eventually drive the more powerful sprint car.
PA announcers Kaleb Hart and Randy Pratt, who seem to know every detail about every driver and most fans, estimate it costs $50 a night for a restricted car up to $200 a night for an open car or 1,200 car.
Despite many drivers’ aspirations to compete at a higher level, it’s clear based on the crowds of several hundred people that appear at Clay Cup, this is no minor league for Skagit Speedway, it’s a main event.
As Clay Cup came to a close for the 32nd time and winners took home their checks of $1,500 (restricted) to $7,500 (600), it was obvious this small little world isn’t coming to an end anytime soon.