Feature Article, Stock Cars, Washington — November 25, 2004 at 4:47 pm

Evergreen Speedway 50th Anniversary (issue 62)


By Steve Heeb

On a sunny afternoon in November, Evergreen Speedway promoter Mickey Beadle reflects on the track’s 2004 season. The year has seen a few more rainouts than usual and he, of course, hopes the weather will fare better as Evergreen embarks on its second half century of racing next spring.

But a single rainy season can’t dampen the rich heritage of what NASCAR racing legend David Pearson called “The Superspeedway of the West.” Through the hard work and foresight in large part by the Beadle family since the late ’70s, Evergreen’s tradition has stood the test of time for 50 years.

Originally a horse race track, the 5/8-mile circuit was converted to auto racing by racing fanatic Jim Collier in 1954. Paved in the early ’60s, the facility has become an integral part of the Evergreen State Fairgrounds, combining five paved racing venues in front of the massive covered grandstands.

Nestled within the impressive 5/8-mile banked oval, race fans can watch action unfold on the 3/8-mile inner oval, 1/5-mile loop, figure eight crossing or road course. There’s even 1/8-mile drag racing at the track.

And to help keep the grandstands as full as possible on a regular basis, much of the racing is scheduled regardless of the weather.

“Rain or shine is critical,” Mickey says. “People come out whether it’s raining or not.”

For many of the classes, race fans can attend in the covered seating and count on the races taking place while they watch from a dry vantage point. A far cry from the rickety wooden bleachers and dirt track.

Dick Norton was the track’s first official promoter through much of the ’60s, then Bill Amick and Ted Pollock took the reins into the mid-’70s. Sparky Taft ran the show for a year before the Beadle Family acquired Evergreen in 1978 as International Promotions.

Mickey’s father, Bob Beadle, says the track is at the different end of the spectrum from those humble beginnings in 1954.

“It’s the major track of the Northwest,” he declares. “There’s no question about it.”

Race fans at the track today may be surprised to learn that for more than half of the track’s existence there were no walls lining the oval.

“We added the walls in the late ’80s,” Bob says. “Before that, you just ran out into the trees.”

“NASCAR leads in safety and advancements,” Mickey says of the changes that have come since aligning with NASCAR in the mid-’80s. “The sport is always dangerous. Safety is always a concern.”

“I’ve won some races there,” Bob says with a laugh. He raced Modifieds on Evergreen’s 5/8 and 1/5-mile circuits before taking on the role of track owner in 1978.

Bob also owned the Winston West race car driven by Roy Smith to three championships.

Mickey recalls how his father started the International Driver Challenge Series with Reg Midgley in 1970. The first year was only for open wheel racing, then stock cars were included in the program.

 “I’m a little partial to the figure eights,” Mickey admits, having braved the crossing himself when he raced figure eight in the ’80s. “It has been a mainstay for Evergreen for many years.”

In 1980, the figure-eight class was moved out to the 3/8-mile oval, an upgrade that Mickey credits with developing a base for good drivers to step up to bigger racing.

Mickey says another pivotal moment for Evergreen, and racing in the region as a whole, was when the Beadles, Brian France and dennis Huth established the Northwest Tour in 1985. Evergreen also   started running the NASCAR Weekly Racing  Series that year.

Bob also worked with Brian France and Ken Clapp to create “The Motorcraft 500” Winston West race the following July.

“It was the first 500-lap race in the Northwest,” Mickey explains of the gala that has attracted such notable drivers as Bill Elliott, Geoff Bodine, Sterling Marlin, Harry Gant, Ken Schrader, Derrike Cope, and the late Davey Allison. “It will always be the first NASCAR 500-lap race in the area.”

In addition to starting the Bomber class that year, Bob and Mickey worked with France to establish the Northwest Tour that has become a highlight on any area track’s calendar.

The sleek NASCAR touring machines are a stark contrast to the car clubs that have come to Evergreen. Mickey recalls more than 100 Volkswagen Beetles taking to the track.

“There’s been a huge change in the type of cars,” Mickey says. “I don’t see the muscle cars in the high schools anymore. We need to get imports to the track.”

He sees the need to keep the younger crowd interested in racing at the track, especially the next generation following in their parent’s racing tradition.

“Chuck Evans got my dad involved,” Mickey explains. “Then there was Mike, and now a grandson Nick.”

He rattles off a short list of the many notable drivers that fit the multi-generation role. Drivers like Ralph Lewis and son Gary; Gordy Stewart and son Gaylon; Vern Dietz and son Rick.

“It is critical to a short track that generations continue to race,” Mickey stresses. “They keep it going.”

He offers thanks to all the drivers that have rolled through Monroe during Evergreen’s 50 years.

“All the racers year in, year out,” he says with admiration. “There’s some dedicated people out there. No doubt.”

He also is quick to mention the working crew that keeps Evergreen going each season.

“It’s not easy to give up your Saturday night,” he says of the 50-60 people that man the facility each weekend.

The track maintains a crew of 22 full-time staff during the season, and Mickey acknowledges their contribution.

“Steve Dunn sets up the track for all the shows,” Mickey says, using the Evergreen’s race director as an example. “He always has to take the abuse, but he keeps it all together.”

Mickey says that they’re always looking to improve the facility, and the shows they offer.

“I was a banquet talking to the guy managing Colorado,” Mickey recalls. “He mentioned bus racing. We started doing it. It turns out he was just thinking about doing it.”

The busses are very popular, but Mickey still looks for good ideas where he can.

“We have to find something new to wreck,” he repeats. “It’s critical.”

Mickey appreciates the annual conventions and workshops where promoters can gather to share ideas. This year Mickey will attend the new Short Track convention in Las Vegas after Gary Cressey and Scott Ellsworth attend the long-running RPM promoters workshops in Reno.

“I always get good ideas from the conventions,” Mickey says with the WARPA meetings just weeks away.

These conventions have helped standardize racing throughout the region, as well as nationally. Solutions to concerns at one track can lead to all tracks offering the latest ideas – seemingly trivial advancements that can go a long way to enhance the driver’s experience, or that of the race fan.

Bob recalls what a boost it was when Evergreen added lights all around the 5/8-mile oval.

Seems like a simple addition, but the lights weren’t always there. A lot has been done in the last 50 years to shape Evergreen Speedway into what it is today.

This year, a list of 50 drivers significant to Evergreen was compiled. Celebrations were held, awards were given and fireworks exploded. Mickey, wife Lyn and their children Rex, Brad, Corie and Lacie can be proud of carrying on the family tradition like Bob before.

But even before the dust settles on the 2004 campaign, Mickey has more in store for the track starting in the fast-approaching 2005 season.

Look for the “500-lap Weekend” to dominate the region next July. A series of NASCAR races – 250-lap Grand National, 100-lap Elite Series and 100 laps of Weekly Racing Series action – are scheduled July 31.

This will join the Evergreen’s annual Fourth of July demo derby and fireworks extravaganza.

“Every year there’s the Fourth of July,” Mickey says as a highlight of this past wet season. “The demo derby always does good for us.”

Now, if he can just find something new to wreck for the next 50 years.

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