SHAKOPEE, Minn. (WCCO) – Sunday night marked the final lap for a big part of race car history in Minnesota.
Raceway Park in Shakopee has been the home track to Twin Cities’ race car drivers for 57 years.
Some of the best in the business have raced there, including Dale Ernhardt and Matt Kenseth. On the final night, dozens of drivers showed up to take part in the final day of racing.
Hours before his car takes the track, Aaron Hopkins is preparing for a win.
“A lot of things rattling and I want the rattling to stop,” Hopkins said, as he worked on his car.
Aaron wants his car at its best because victory at Raceway Park has never been so important.
“Tonight is the last race of Raceway, baby,” he said.
For decades, amateur drivers have taken laps on the quarter-mile track. Some have gone on to bigger things, but for the majority, Raceway is a weekly outing and the backdrop for a Sunday family gathering.
Dave Adams grew up fixing race cars in the back lot of raceway.
“My dad raced out here. My dad’s dad raced out here, and now my brother races out here,” Adams said.
He now works in a pit crew, and has noticed the smaller crowds in recent years.
“That’s who we do it for is, you know, the crowd, to put on a show. And when there’s no one here it kind of defeats the purpose,” he said.
Faced with a nearly 50-percent drop in attendance and fewer drivers registering to race, the track’s owners couldn’t pass on an offer to sell to Recovery Technology Systems, a shingle and asphalt company.
Kevin Busse, an announcer at Raceway, has no hard feelings toward management.
“I have no fault at all with the owner. I think if I was in the same shoes, I’d be doing the exact same thing,” Busse said.
On the final night of racing, letting go of a decades-old tradition is never easy, as the checked flag falls on racing history.
“Now we’re starting to talk about it, I don’t want to get teared up. I’ve already cried this morning, already,” Hopkins said.
Employees say there are about 45 people, both part-time and full-time, who work at Raceway.
The hope is that the owner can rebuild the track in another area of Shakopee, but those plans haven’t been finalized. Both sides are still waiting to close on the deal.