After two very successful drag race events at the Campbell Hill airstrip in 2019, Thunder in the Valley Raceway is planning three weekends of drag race action in 2020, as well as a Test Tune in May that will allow racers to get their vehicles track-worthy in time for the first races of the season, taking place over the Graffiti Days weekend (June 12 to 14).
Last year drag race enthusiast Dwight Toews and a dedicated group of volunteers worked on the airstrip to turn it into a one-eighth mile dragstrip, and brought drag racing back to the area for the first time since the Eagle Motorplex closed in spring 2016. The enthusiastic reception — from racers and the public — has encouraged the planning of more events this year, starting with the Test Tune on May 16.
“It’s for people who’ve had their car sitting in their shop, or who don’t have a working car, to bring it out, set it up, and take it out on the track to see what it can do in advance of the races,” explains Toews.
“It helps racers and their cars, and it keeps things safe, because people are on a track, not on a back road somewhere. And for new drivers it’s a chance to see if [drag racing] is something they’d like to do further down the road.”
There is an open invitation to drag racers and pit crews not take advantage of the Test Tune, with anyone interested in taking part encouraged to show up on the day anytime after 9 a.m. Toews says that because it’s not an organized race event, there will be no spectators, but drivers will be able to test out their vehicle and play with it at the start line.
Next up will be the Graffiti Days races, which Toews is hoping will be a huge event.
“Mike Hall [Rust Valley Restorers] and his film crew are coming, and they’re putting together a truck for the truck challenge. We’re also trying to get another film crew up, but not on the same day.”
The truck challenge event is for service trucks that have street tires and are driveable on the street. “It’s for any truck that you’d use for work, whether it’s for moving branches or moving mechanical equipment.” The challenge is scheduled to take place on June 13.
The plan is for the Graffiti Days event to tie-in with the weekend’s theme as much as possible. “The Graffiti Days committee is trying to make it like a 1950s/1960s weekend, and we’ll do everything in our power to enhance that as much as we can. We’re trying to bring in pre-1960s racers for that weekend, and are also hoping to do a parade that goes from the track to downtown Cache Creek and the Show and Shine.
“We’re also doing a memorial drive for Wayne Larrimore, who raced at our track on both weekends last year and passed away in late 2019. He drove a school bus, and we’re presenting a plaque to his family, who will be racing the bus down the track that weekend.”
Toews say that the Graffiti Days races have generated even more interest this year than last year, and there are so many phone calls coming in from racers that registrations might have to be capped.
“We could end up with as many as 400 cars, which would be a little overwhelming because of the area we have. We’ll be setting up pre-registration for that weekend for sure. People can go to our Facebook page and put their name in to get registered.”
The focus will remain on getting people to the Cache Creek and Ashcroft area. “We want people to see what we’re about, get people to come here and see the beautiful country. Being at the track really enhances that because of the view. We get people here for the races and get them to come back for other things.”
Toews says that there is a lot of excitement from locals about the return of drag racing to the area.
“This has really woken people up, the fact that it’s really happening again. People wondered if [the races] would go, and they have. We have great people on the committee and help from council.
“It’s great to see spectators out to watch the races. People are excited, and it’s good to see. We’ve also seen what it does for the town and what it can do for the area, the restaurants and hotels.”
Toews is quick to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the volunteers on the race committee, but admits that they could always use more help.
“We have a great volunteer group but people have lives and things they need to do, and people volunteer for lots of different events so they’re busy, and we end up short-staffed. Lots of volunteers come from outside sources, from Abbotsford, Kelowna, 108 Mile, but when they come they have to be here for the entire weekend. It’s nice when we can get local people who want to step up and help out.”
Toews has met with members of Cache Creek council about one area of track they want to see repaired, and is working with companies who can repair a rough spot in the asphalt. Volunteers are also going to working to get the tower mobile, so it can be pulled away from the strip when not in use, and Toews is making a scrubber: a unit that is pulled behind a tractor to rough up the track near the start line to provide better traction for the racers.
If hands-on track work doesn’t appeal, Toews says that they can always use people at the gate or to park cars, or to work security. “That would be ideal, and a great enhancement to keep an eye on things, make sure things don’t get out of hand.”
They are also looking for caterers for the race weekends, to provide more food options. “People want more of a selection of foods, so caterers in the area should get in touch regarding [the Graffiti Days] weekend, which will be our biggest weekend,” says Toews. “The other weekends will be large, but this one is the largest.”
Coming up after Graffiti Days will be the Gasser Reunion on July 18-19, which Toews says is an old-school racing event that’s huge in parts of the United States. “It’s open to all cars as well as motorcycles, but we’d love to see some old nostalgic cars out for that weekend as well. We’d like to see it grow. In the States they have massive [Gasser Reunion] weekend races, so we’re trying to bring it here, but it’s baby steps.”
The final race weekend planned for 2020 at the moment is on August 15-16. “We might throw in one more race in mid-September, but that’s a big ‘if’.”
Toews says he hopes to see a lot of people out to watch the races. “I hope they come out and have a great time, and bring friends and family. I have friends from Alberta coming out, and I’m hoping for the best weather ever for the Graffiti Days weekend.
“We enhance that weekend, and they enhance the racetrack. We want people to feel they’ve stepped back in time.”
For more information about this year’s drag race schedule and events at Campbell Hill, visit the Thunder in the Valley Raceway Cache Creek BC Facebook page.