Stock car races heat up Goliad (w/video)
July 16, 2014 at 2:16 a.m.
GOLIAD - Ever take in the smell of brake dust and burning rubber?
Or the feel of the rumble of cars as they charge past you lap after lap after lap?
Ever wondered what different colored flags mean as the flagman waves them while standing high above the start/finish line?
Those are the makings of a good racetrack.
At Shady Oaks Speedway in Goliad, once every two weekends from March to October, race drivers and their crew turn up with their cars - normal cars that used to be legal but are modified and built as racing cars - along with fans and spectators, and they take in the sights, sounds and feel of stock car racing.
"It's very affordable and fun entertainment for the family," said Rosemary Stacy, who co-owns the dirt track along with husband, Bobby, and son, Keith.
The track was built in 1986 and remained open for 10 years before closing its doors in 1996. It's been opened and closed several times until it reopened again in 2009 under owner Jim Scribellito.
Just four months after opening, Scribellito participated in a race at the track when his car flipped, leaving him paralyzed.
The Stacy family helped run the track with the owner until they purchased it from Scribellito in late 2011, Stacy said. Scribellito passed away in 2013.
"We do love it," she said. "It's a lot of work, but we do love it."
Saturday, the South Texas Street Stock Shootout held its race car series at the 1/3-mile oval, high-banked track, and it drew about 350 people. About 40 drivers competed.
On regular race weekends, an average of 350 people show up. Bigger races draw a bigger crowd, Stacy said.
"It's a great track," said Stephan Danielsen, the race director for STXSSS and the inaugural series champion in 2010. "Other tracks don't have this atmosphere and hospitality."
The series has eight races this season, and it will visit Shady Oaks twice this year.
Shady Oaks was one of the original racetracks to host the STXSSS since the series was established in 2010.
Drivers race for points and purse money; some of them collect sponsorships. In the series, points are tallied up after each race, and a champion is crowned at the end of the season, said Danielsen, who has also participated as a race car driver.
Different classifications raced at Shady Oaks. Along with the street stock cars, heats in the limited modified, modified and pure stock raced for a number of laps.
"You can't drive them on the street," said Stacy. "They're extremely modified to give them more speed and more handle."
A street stock car must have a factory recognizable appearance but more modifications are allowed.
The chassis in pure stocks must be an American-made passenger car, and minor modifications are allowed.
The limited modifieds are allowed an altered body, and the modifieds have much more motor.
Other classes in the regular races are dwarf/modlite and go-karts.
Shady Oaks also hosts the American Sprint Car Series Gulf South Region, the Southern Texas Late Model Series and the Texas Minirod Tractor Pull.
Both Shady Oaks and STXSSS draw competitors from all over Texas.
"Most of our racers come from Beeville, Cuero, Edna, Goliad, Victoria," Stacy said. "Some of them come from Louise, Corpus Christi. They come from all over but mostly from Texas."
Victoria's Chris Shafer, 51, drives No. 77, a red street stock car from the mid-1980s. He's been racing locally for 20 years.
"I like the competitiveness of (racing), and (I do it) for fun," said Shafer, who is also a truck mechanic.
He said patience is a virtue in car racing.
"One of the main things is having patience - as hard as that is to do," he said. "You've got 20 laps to try to win a race, and the only lap that really matters is the last one. You just have to be patient."
For other drivers like Bo Beckner, 29, of Victoria, it's about the thrill of the sport.
"I like the competition," said Beckner, who has been driving since 2009. He drives No. 175, a limited modified. "And it's for love of the sport. You have to have fun and have the driving ability to win races."
Beckner currently has five sponsors. Two of his relatives, Trice Hermes (No. 173) and Mickey Helms (No. 174), both of Victoria, raced in limited modifieds.
The series' three-time defending champion, Wade Jones, also competed in his No. 41 street stock.
The Jourdanton native has been racing for six years and likes the track at Shady Oaks.
"They're great people here," said Jones. "I like the long straightaways. I like racing on clay."
As with any other racetrack, crashes can't be avoided.
At the main event Saturday, Johnny Brown's No. 4 limited modified flipped over after a car hit him from behind.
Ambulance emergency medical technicians, who are always at the ready on race day, were at the scene, but Brown escaped uninjured.
"Stuff like that happens quite often," said Stacy. "We do do a safety check on our cars. We make sure they have good seatbelts, good seats and head restraints. Safety is inspected very closely at the track."
Safety is a must at Shady Oaks, but for 23-year-old Victoria native Shannon Maurer, who drives No. 02 - a bright yellow and black Monte Carlo - it's the adrenaline rush that matters.
"Not knowing what will happen next," he said, "that's what I like. As long as you're having fun, you're always winning."