Evergreen Speedway, an iconic track known as the “Super Speedway of the West,” is located northeast of Seattle and has been open since 1954. The Hobbs Family took over operations of the facility in 2011. Their goal was to bring the track back to its former glory.
For many years, Evergreen hosted big events like the Motorcraft 500, Western Nationals 250, and even the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for five years. The Hobbs’ had their work cut out for them, as the economy was still rebounding, and Evergreen needed help restoring the racing program, fan base and was badly in need of facility upgrades. They made it through first year of operation and put the track back on course, but knew that they still were missing that “big event.”
For many years, Doug Hobbs had been involved with the track as a sponsor, car sponsor and fan. After taking it over, he filled it with staff, drivers and fans. But, he knew they needed that next big thing. Enter the Summer Showdown.
The idea was a race that features the best short track drivers in the country for a 200-lap race at one of the toughest and fastest tracks on the West Coast - the big 5/8-mile track - Evergreen Speedway. There were many challenges to overcome, like how to attract drivers and fans.
Hobbs knew the purse would have to be big. $20,000 to win would do the trick. To bring in the crowds necessary to turn this into a phenomenon, Hobbs turned the event into a festival atmosphere with great supporting race divisions, camping onsite at the track, vendors and affordable multi-day show pricing.
The first-year Hobbs didn’t know what to expect but once the word got out, the phone started ringing from drivers wanting to race Summer Showdown. In the inaugural year, 45 drivers from 10 different U.S. States and Canadian Provinces took part. With the drivers lined up, the fans soon followed. The camping spots around the track sold out along with local hotels.
“The first year is always the scariest because you don’t know what to expect. I think that after we saw the response from the drivers, fans, sponsors and racing community we knew we were on to something,” Hobbs said.
Since its inception, the Summer Showdown has grown every year and now has become a bucket list race for many drivers and fans. It has now become the biggest NASCAR short track event in country.
“Every year it seems we’re getting more and more response from drivers and fans across the country wanting to come to the Northwest,” Hobbs explained. “We knew the event had a lot of potential and it amazes me to see the support we’ve received over the years.”
The event has featured 110 drivers from 15 different U.S. states and Canadian provinces, along with the purse growing to over $100,000 including $25,000 to the winner.
The winners list features some of the best short track racers in the country. In 2012 it was Surry, BC driver Pete Harding grabbing the checkered flag. The first Washington driver to win was Jay Sauls in 2013 when he took home the hardware to Puyallup, WA. The second Canadian to win was Calgary, AB driver Cameron Haley, the NASCAR Cammping World Truck Series driver was able to showcase his talents at Evergreen Speedway before moving up. In 2015, the first East Coast driver to take home the trophy was Bubba Pollard from Senioa, GA. Known as one the top short track racers across the country, Pollard tipped his hat to the talent of the drivers in the Northwest. Last year it was Naches, WA young gun Tayler Riddle winning the race.
One struggle over the first few years has been the event coinciding with others throughout the country and preventing even more drivers from attending.
“Over the offseason, we worked with NASCAR and other sanctioning bodies on the West Coast. We came up with a new date in July that didn’t have a K&N Pro Series West or East race on it or any other major West Coast Super Late Model races,” Hobbs said. “We want the best drivers to have a chance to come run the Showdown and we knew we needed to make the date change to help those other drivers have the opportunity.”
The other reason for a date change was the concern of weather. Although the Summer Showdown has never been canceled, it has been affected by weather three of the first five years.
“We knew by making a move to July that it should help us with the weather and rain,” said Hobbs. “It is normally a little warmer and dryer in the region in July over June.”
The dates for the 6th Annual Summer Showdown are July 20-22, 2017. The event features practice and a kick-off party on Thursday. Qualifying day is Friday with cars trying to get locked in by qualifying or qualifying heats. Friday also features the Northwest Mini Stock tour and local Evergreen Speedway Street Stocks. The 200-lap main event happens on Saturday along with LCQ, Northwest Mini Stock Tour and Street Stocks.
For more information on the 2017 Summer Showdown or Evergreen Speedway visit www.evergreenspeedway.com
-By Jeremy Anders, Evergreen Speedway PR
-Photo credit: Speed51.com