Popular Salem, Ind. racetrack to reopen despite flood
A well-known racetrack will welcome fans this summer after closing. People in the community say the century old attraction means more than just hearing the rev of the engine.
SALEM, Ind. (WDRB) -- A well-known racetrack will welcome fans again this summer after closing for a season. People in the community say the century-old attraction means more than just hearing the rev of the engine.
"When you fire one of those race cars up, almost everybody in town knows what's going to happen next. We're going to have a race," Tony Nolan, President of the Washington County Fair said.
The first memories of Thunder Valley Raceway were in black and white. Spectators are said to have watched the first race in 1916.
"This is home, this is family," Steve Leonard said. "It just broke my heart when it was closed."
The racetrack is tucked behind the fairgrounds. Last season was the first in decades that fans going to the fair missed one summer tradition.
"We need that rumble here again. This town needs that rumble again," Misty Leonard said.
The raceway needed several updates. Steve Leonard, who made racing a family affair early on when he brought his daughter to the track, was working there one day.
"He happened to ask them, 'well, what's it going to take to get this track back open, when's it going to open?' They said, 'well, do you want to do it?' And it just snowballed from there," Misty Leonard said.
The gates are open and that cloud of dust that fans know and love is back. The Leonards expanded, painted, added new poles, fencing and lighting.
"They have brought the track up to today's standards and that was what it was needing, but it was an expensive project," Nolan said.
REMC and Duke Energy also volunteered their time.
"People coming together to make sure this track goes has made it possible," Leonard said.
People call it, 'putting the thunder back on the bottom of the hill.'
"You see these stands? I want them full. One of my first questions to the fair board is who's buying the next set of stands?" Steve Leonard said.
"It's like it's a part of us. You don't discard a family member when they get a broken leg. You fix them and go back to using them again, you make them healthy and make them well again. So, that's what this race track had, a broken leg and now we're going to run again," Nolan said.
Friday's storm brought flooding to Salem and to the racetrack, which destroyed the pit concession stand, pay out booth and the rest of the lights.
There is a testing and tuning practice run planned on the first weekend of June.
The first official race is scheduled for July 22.
The Leonards said they'll need help to reopen in time. To help, call Misty Leonard at (812) 844-0558 or donate at any First Savings Bank location to the Thunder Valley Raceway Salem, Indiana account.
The Leonards said while a normal season offers around 15 races, this year will have only a handful as they get the track up and running.
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