Late in 2015, a track that appeared to have a bleak future came back into the news much to the faithful in the community’s satisfaction. Evergreen Raceway, which has operated under numerous names and management teams in recent decades, was given another new and promising life after sitting idle since the summer of 2014.
The face that can be seen all over the 1/3-mile facility on race day managing operations is someone that had been a competitor for a dozen years dating back to 2000, Jason Makarewicz. After selling his racing equipment and then selling a different business in which he ran, the former Late Model racer is committed to making Evergreen shine again.
“I can hear this track from my backyard,” Makarewicz told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Once that other group of guys, when it didn’t go well for them and the track sat empty for a year, it was in my passion. I just jumped in with both feet.”
2016 got off to a huge start with two Enduro races that attracted upwards of more than 100 drivers to the little town of St. Johns, outside of Hazleton, Pennsylvania.
“The Enduros were absolutely awesome,” Makarewicz commented. “That’s what is going to make the track really take off.”
From there, the regular weekly season began in mid-April with a modest turnout of cars. The track’s largest count was for its Tour-Type Modified special this past Sunday, the first of seven of these scheduled special events, displaying a wide assortment of 19 racers spanning four different states.
Makarewicz knows that with the uncertainty about the track’s future in past years that it will take some time to establish a foundation of competitors in an effort to steadily boost car counts.
“With the rest of the classes, we’re just going to keep working with them,” Makarewicz said. “We’re trying to work with other tracks around the area to fit in with the rules so we can get the cars here and so they don’t have to make a ton of changes. That’s one of the major things is trying to get the cars here again. The track has been up a hill, down a hill, back up a hill so there are a lot of obstacles to get over.”
In addition, the track staff has already been working on a number of tasks to make it a destination to travel to, part of it based on their decision to race on Sunday afternoons throughout the entire year instead of competing against neighboring tracks.
“Just trying to make improvements, doing some asphalt work, fixing up what needs to be fixed up,” Makarewicz indicated. “Talking to drivers and sponsors for the track, a lot of them still have that ‘are you going to make it to July and shut down like what happened two years ago?’ This year’s going to be a major obstacle to try and get over that. We’re just going to keep making improvements each week so the drivers and fans can see there are new improvements every week.”
Despite a 50-lap headlining event that resulted in multiple yellow flags, the drivers commended the effort so far, including race winner Matt Hirschman.
“Hopefully everybody keeps supporting the track so we can keep both of our eastern Pennsylvania tracks going so we have the option to race both (Evergreen and Mahoning),” Hirschman said.
Although Mahoning Valley Speedway is a little closer to Hirschman’s residence in Northampton, Pennsylvania, Evergreen Raceway is where the launch to Modified racing stardom all began.
“It’s always going to be my home track anytime I get to come back here so I always like coming here,” Hirschman mentioned. “I think this track really prepared me well to go on to all the different tracks we’ve raced at and won at. This track here is where it started for me.”
Despite winning up and down the east coast, “Big Money” Matt always finds a way to come back to his roots, and now he has the opportunity to do that once again.
“You’re always going to have your home track and one that no matter how long you are away it’s like riding a bike when you come back. That’s what this place has always been to me.”
Highlights from Sunday’s Tour-Type Modified race at Evergreen Raceway will soon be available on the Speed51 Network.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Daryl Canfield