Racing kicks off at Grays Harbor Raceway in late April

Dirt, clay and dust are on the menu when the Grays Harbor Raceway gates are opened up for the 2017 season later this month.

Racing has already begun for the Summer Thunder Sprint Series and the Washington Modified Tour in Yakima, but the best sprint car, modifieds, street stocks and midget drivers from Western and Southwest Washington won’t get a turn on the three-eights of a mile clay oval in Elma until April 22.

Opening night at Grays Harbor Raceway is April 29 at 6 p.m. with all four main raceway classes represented — 360 sprint cars, modifieds, street stocks and Northwest Focus midgets. Other tours, like the sportsman sprint cars, PHRA dwarfs and the Northwest Non-Winged Sprints, will be at the track as well.

“It should be a pretty good year,” GHR promoter Steve Beitler said. “We will have three different firework shows. We are just expanding on what we’ve done last year. We had a pretty good turnout in Yakima for the sprints and the modifieds — 36 modifieds and 22 sprints. For the modified tour event, we had drivers from Canada, as well as from five states there in Yakima. There is a lot of excitement for racing.”

Twenty rounds will be contested to determine the track champions, finishing on Sept. 30 with the season championship night.

Snohomish’s Reece Goetz won the 2016 360 sprint car track championship, with Cosmopolis’ Tom Sweatman winning the modified track championship, Hoquiam’s Jack Parshall claiming the street stock track title and Marysville’s Nick Evans winning the Northwest Focus Midgets track title.

“There is every indication that the classes will be bigger than last year,” Beitler said. “Our preseason ticket sales have been pretty good, so I know the fans are ready for some racing.”

The raceway’s three main special events are on the schedule, starting with the Fred Brownfield Classic on June 30-July 1. The ASCS National Sprint Car Series will compete in the Classic, along with the Summer Thunder Sprint Series and track regular drivers. The Northwest Focus midgets will be the supporting class on the weekend.

The Classic will also be televised on MAV TV, a motorsports satellite/cable channel owned by Lucas Oil, the main sponsor for the ASCS National Tour. MAV TV is available on DirecTV and online.

The Summer Thunder Sprint Series will have two dedicated stops in Elma, starting on June 3 and on Sept. 3, the day before the return of the World of Outlaws tour on Monday, Sept. 4.

Between the Classic and the Outlaws, the 18th annual Shipwreck Beads Modified Nationals will be contested on July 28-29. The nationals have brought together many of the best modified drivers on the West Coast and the Race of Champions on the first night has been a highlight of the weekend’s racing. The Washington Modified Tour will be the main hosting series of the Classic this year.

The track will again host a Grays Harbor County Fair racing program, highlighted by the Street Stock Iron Man Challenge, the Rolling Thunder Big Rigs and the Monster Slam. The Monster Slam series will be for two days on Sept. 16-17 and will be returing to the track after a one-year hiatus away from Elma.

On April 22, all of the track classifications will be out tuning up on the only sanctioned play day of the season.

“We’ve been pretty busy throughout the winter; there is a lot of work to be done,” Beitler said. “There has been a tremendous amount of work done just to get the track open for opening day. Everyone is excited to get going. If we get a break from the weather, I believe we will be in for a heck of a year.”

For more information, including ticket prices for the weekly shows and the special events, visit www.graysharborraceway.com.