By Debra Hasbrouck
If you’re looking for an affordable, family-friendly night of excitement, check out the Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico.  The quarter-mile, clay track has a long history of high quality motor sports.  Friday night races usually start sometime in March, running throughout summer and finishing up in the fall.  During the Silver Dollar Fair there are three days of racing on Memorial Day weekend.  There are also races and fireworks on Fourth of July.  People come from all over the world for The Gold Cup, which will be held September 9th through 12th.  The event includes the “World of Outlaws” and will celebrate the 62nd Anniversary of the “Race of Champions.”  This year the season will end with the “Fall Nationals” on October 2 and 3.
Racing_Full GrandstandPhoto by RCM DesignsAccording to Troy Hennig, announcer, the speedway has eight divisions which include Sprint Cars, Dirt Modified, Limited Late Models and Stock Cars.  He stated that the 410 Winged Sprints are the most popular.  The feisty, little cars have a 410 cubic inch engine with approximately 900 horse power, yet only weigh about 1,500 pounds.
“They’re like warriors of the Roman Coliseum days, battling it out for the fans,” Troy said.  “They go over a hundred miles per hour in the straight-aways, with an average of eighty to ninety around the track.  A typical event is twenty-five to thirty laps of loud, fast action.”
Racing_HASBROUCKSpeedway pitsHe explained that the professionals of dirt track, sprint car racing are called the “World of Outlaws” and they visit the Silver Dollar Speedway a few times a year.  He added that most local teams are “weekend warriors” who participate throughout the season.
One such team is Bumgarner Racing of Chico, started by Roy Bumgarner, who has been involved in racing since 1981.  Roy’s sons Steve and Jerry raced in the past and his grandson, Brad Bumgarner, is their current driver.  It truly is a family affair for the team.
“My wife is an avid supporter and makes it to almost every race.  And all four of my grandsons are involved in some way,” Roy said.
Racing_HASBROUCKpushing sprint carRoy, Brad and Robert Bumgarner went over some of the details that make the little cars unique.  Due to their tremendous power to weight ratio, they don’t have much stability at high speeds.  To make the car easier to control, they add aluminum wings which create a down-force or negative lift.
“Kind of like reversing an airplane wing,” Robert said.
I was surprised to learn that the cars don’t have a transmission or a battery.  They must be pushed onto the track and “jump started.”
“They’re either in gear or out of gear.  There is a lever to take it out of gear, but you can’t put it back in while running,” Brad explained.  “If there’s a yellow flag, you can slow down to an idle speed, but if you stop, the engine will die and you’ll need a push to get started again.”
The Bumgarners’ spend a lot of time at their home shop preparing for race night.
Brad said, “If we have a two-day meet, we race the first night then the next day four people spend about two and a half hours, working together to prep the car for that night.”
“The engines last about five-hundred laps, or twenty races, before we have to Racing_Brad Bumgarner #88photobyRCM Designssend them off to be gone through,” Roy added.
There is a lot of prep work at the speedway too.  The track is worked on throughout the week and then wetted down on race night.  Before the races, the cars do a “wheel pack” around the track to work the water in.  Then the cars do a practice session or “hot lap” to get a feel for the track.
The speedway uses electronic scoring to determine a car’s lap time and position in the field.  Every car is equipped with a transponder which sends a signal to receivers imbedded in the track.
Safety is critically important in all motor sports and the officials at Silver Dollar Speedway take their responsibility seriously.  All cars are subject to a safety inspection and the drivers are carefully monitored.
The flagman also plays a fundamental role by communicating with the drivers.  A green flag is used to start the race and a white flag indicates that there is one lap left to go.  The black and white checkered flag is waved at the end of an event.  There are also yellow flags used when there is a minor accident to slow the cars down.  For serious accidents, such as a rollover or fire, a red flag is waved and all cars must stop.  Black flags send drivers to the work area for mechanical or safety reasons.
Racing_HASBROUCKbumgarner shopWhen the races are over for the night, Silver Dollar Speedway opens the pit area to the public.  Team members love to meet the fans, and children can sit in the cars and take pictures.  Many of the teams have “hero cards” which can be autographed for souvenirs.
During the season, races are most Friday nights.  The schedule is listed at  Gates open at 6:00, qualifying starts at 6:30 and racing starts at 7:00.
Admission is currently $13 for adults, $11 for seniors and juniors, $6 for children and free for kids five and under.
The main grandstands were shaded by evening and there was no dust on the hot, dry night that I went.  The crowd was friendly and enthusiastic, with many children present.  It was loud at times, so if you have sensitive ears you may want to bring earplugs.
The speedway has a Facebook page and results are posted on their website at
Visit Bumgarner Racing on their Facebook page.