People with a need for speed gathered in Albany this past weekend for an annual sand drag racing event.
The Motorsports Park’s PNW Shootout started Thursday and ran through Sunday. Racers from numerous states tuned up their ATVs and got to move as fast as 100 mph on Albany’s unique 300-foot-long track.
“It’s an acceleration rush,” said Shootout coordinator Matt McCormick on Friday. “It’s really exciting — the bikes are loud, you smell the fuel. It’s about everybody coming out here, racing, going fast and having fun.”
The biggest difference between this year’s event and most years’ is that everyone was asked to maintain a safe distance as a precaution against spreading the coronavirus.
“It’s awesome,” said racer Mike Dickens. “Obviously, you’ve got to do your social distancing, but everyone’s been pretty respectful of it.”
Dickens drives 15 hours to Oregon twice a year from his California home to race in Albany and at Winchester Bay’s DuneFest. He said he makes the commute because some of the few tracks open are on the West Coast.
His group, SoCal Racing, broke three track and national records in the first two days of competition in Albany.
Other incentives for racers in the Shootout include trophies and money.
Fourteen-year-old Sweet Home resident Kallie Maas had already lined her pockets in the early going and was hoping to earn more. On Thursday, she won $260 in the Pro Gabler Class of racers.
“It’s stressful when you’re lining up to race,” she said. But, she added, the payoff “is very exciting.”
Kallie’s been racing since she was 8, and it’s become a way for her to connect with people.
“Coming out for friends is pretty much the entire reason why I come.”
“Family too,” added her dad, Greg Maas.
He said their family visits Albany Motorsports Park about once a month for various events. His two older sons have raced since they were young, too — one of them is a world record-holder.
Although Maas, like other race-goers, said he’d hoped for a bigger show this year, the park owners are happy to still have business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve definitely taken a hit by it, for sure,” said Ryan Leach, whose family owns the park. Other events like mud runs have been canceled, and fewer people have been showing up to events that are still on.
“(But) it’s nice to be able to offer a venue for people to be able to come and do what they enjoy doing,” he said.