Racing made its return to Missouri State Fair Speedway on Sunday and a big and energetic crowd came out to see 35 ASCS Sprint Cars take the track for the first time in three years at the half-mile speedway.
Before the 25-lap feature began, one fan yelled out, “Let’s go racing.” The announcer then got the entire crowd involved with saying it as well.
The fans came out to cheer on big names like Sammy Swindell and Brian Brown, but also got to cheer on some hometown drivers, including Jonathan Cornell and Andrew Turley.
“This track is always one place I always liked coming to as a kid,” Cornell said. “So every Friday night I was out here. It always felt like a hometown track even though we only got to race here once a year.”
Cornell and Turley parked next to each other in the pits behind the track. Turley said he knew his car probably wouldn’t be able to get him in the A-Feature, but he always wanted to turn laps at his hometown speedway.
“When they had that wreck here a couple of years ago, we had our car here but we just had a bunch of motor issues and I wasn’t able to turn any laps so I was kind of like, ‘we’ll do it next year,’” Turley said. “But then after that accident happened I was like, ‘I’m never going to get to race here.’”
But Turley was able to finally race on Sedalia’s half-mile thanks to some help from his friend Cornell.
“We didn’t have a gear for this car for the half-mile because we never really run half-miles,” Turley said. “All the tracks around here are three-eighths or smaller. Jonathan just let us borrow a gear for the night. The racing community is pretty cool with if you don’t have something and somebody has it will let you borrow it.”
Turley took eighth out of eight cars in his heat race and 13th in the B-Feature, so his night ended there. But Turley said his grandparents used to work at the speedway, so it was special just to race there Sunday.
“My grandma worked at the concession stand, my grandpa, Bill Register, he helped run the officiate stand,” he said. “My dad would even drive the pace truck when I was a kid. Come up here every Friday, I was always cheering on Randy Martin, which I’ve had the pleasure of racing with him for a couple of years. … Just being able to come out here and turn some laps at this place is pretty special.”
Turley got lapped during the B-Feature and said he was counting the cars to see where Cornell was running at the time. Cornell was in seventh place and six advance to the A-Feature.
“We hang out on the weekends and stuff like that,” Turley said. “He’s taught me a lot about these cars. He’s a good guy.”
A late caution allowed Cornell to make a run for the sixth spot. He took advantage, passing Cody Baker to qualify for the $13,000-to-win A-Feature.
Cornell had to start 13th in the B-feature after breaking a spindle in his heat race, sending his right front tire flying over the guard rail in turn two. Cornell was dominating the heat race and looked to be on his way to a win and a guaranteed spot in the A-Feature.
“We knew this whole race was going to be real tough and we felt like we had all of our stuff together and just a little bad luck went our way in our heat race,” Cornell said.
Cornell started 22nd in the main event and was able to work his way up through the field to finish ninth.
“On these track conditions with these caliber of drivers, that’s a success for us,” Cornell said.
The track became dusty during the A-Feature, which made it tough for Cornell in the back of the pack. But he said the track conditions were fine considering it hadn’t been used for racing for so long and there were events at the speedway throughout the Fair.
“It’s kind of what I expected for being vacant for three years,” he said. “… They tried putting a good track for everybody in the stands. It was a little dusty, a little abrasive. Whenever you have tractor pulls and concerts every night of the week it’s really hard to maintain something like this.”
Overall, Cornell said the race was a success and hopes racing becomes a regular event at the speedway.
“Hopefully everybody saw how exciting this stuff was and all the people in the stands and we’ll start getting weekly racing back here.”
Jason Strickland can be reached at 660-530-0147 or on Twitter @J_Strick_Sports.