Racing returns to Colorado National Speedway, where “what’s normal is not normal” – The Denver Post
Renee Waltemeyer has been around Colorado racing her entire life, but she’s never seen anything like this.
“This year is just kind of different,” she said. “What’s normal is not normal.”
Waltemeyer, who along with her husband formed Renee and Adam Waltemeyer Racing, has sponsored drivers at Colorado National Speedway for almost three decades. Though this season has been stressful, with start dates pushed back and additional safety regulations added due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Waltemeyer is just glad to be back.
“That’s like our home away from home,” Waltemeyer said. “Colorado National Speedway has always been there.”
A .375-mile paved track located in Dacono, CNS is a mecca for racing fans in Colorado. The track normally hosts 13 divisions, and its return to action four weeks ago marked the first events at the speedway since November.
“There’s a lot of us that we call family (at CNS),” Waltemeyer said. “They’re our race family and they do everything they can to make a fun family environment. COVID has just really — as a whole for everybody — put us in different situations that we’ve never experienced before. So we’re all working together to try and get through it and yet support the track just so we have that racing community.
“It’s a big part of a lot of people’s lives that we would not want to lose.”
Even if it means racing for no prize money with no fans in the stands. Or having to scramble when the season started.
Kyle Clegg, a longtime CNS veteran, didn’t know he was going to race again until just four days before the June 13 opening event. The reigning Legend Series champion at the speedway had just sold his car, anticipating there would not be a season. But after hustling to build a new one, Clegg placed second in his No. 66 Ford Coupe replica to start his title defense in front of an empty grandstand.
“Definitely different,” Clegg said. “It almost seemed like an intense practice day.”
The lack of fans isn’t the only difference at the track this year. Not having prize money is a huge adjustment for drivers, too. The amount a racer can win depends on the division they race in, and Clegg estimates he can earn about $275 per victory in the Legends Series under normal circumstances. Other drivers also get payouts, with the amount staggered depending on where they place.
For other divisions like Super Late Model, Clegg guesses the winnings can be as much as $1,500 per race. He said he knows several drivers who simply can’t participate this season without a financial incentive, especially since some teams build and pay for their own cars.
Even without the chance to win money, Waltemeyer knew her team was going to race. Every car pays a pit fee to enter, and she wanted to support the track.
“Without it, where are we going to go?” she said. “We don’t have any local speedways that are pavement, that size, that can accommodate the divisions that (CNS owners Jim and Sue Nordhougen) support.”
Clegg said the Pro Truck, Late Model, and possibly Grand American Modified divisions can only run at CNS because of complex rules involved with those events. Other divisions can travel, but every track has different weight requirements, engine specifications and other rules that would force drivers to adjust their cars.
Waltemeyer was glad CNS reopened because she was concerned the lack of revenue for the owners might result in its permanent closure. Clegg, who has been involved in racing since he was 16, , said a permanent closure of CNS would force him to retire.
For now though, CNS is open, and is allowing a small group of fans to attend (150 this past Saturday). However, the fans are only allowed to sit pit side, not in the grandstand.
“Colorado National Speedway is currently focused on providing our dedicated racers with a fun and safe environment to enjoy the competition they love,” CNS General Manager Brian Laurence said in a statement to The Denver Post. “We appreciate all of the guidance received from the Weld County Health Department, NASCAR, and want to thank the City of Dacono for their help navigating through this crisis.”
Due to the pandemic, anyone entering the track must sign a waiver. Teams try to socially distance and wear masks, and pit crews are only allowed to have a maximum of nine members. Though races are normally family events, Clegg said he didn’t bring his children to the most recent races.
“I didn’t want somebody else to be affected by our decisions,” he said. “I do those safety precautions, I do the things that they request because I don’t want to affect somebody else.”
Waltemeyer said CNS is also running double races in an attempt to catch up on the schedule. And though most fans can’t watch in-person, the speedway broadcasts races on Facebook live streams. CNS plans to host events every Saturday until Oct. 3.
Clegg’s next race is July 18. Though he appreciates being able to interact with fans through social media, he said he can’t wait for them to return and bring the family atmosphere that both he and Waltemeyer enjoy back to CNS.
“My little boy doesn’t care if I finish first or 15th,” Clegg said. “He’s just there saying, ‘Great job Dad, that was so cool, you went so fast.’ I tell all my friends that seeing the smile on their face makes the bad days good and the good days better.”
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