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Revival of great racing, good car counts at Colby track

COLBY --  According to Jeff Carney, each dirt track in the country needs to have its own signature.

It's either the dirt surface, the pits, the fans or the racing action.

But the promotor of Thomas County Speedway in Colby knows the 3âÑ8-mile track in northwest Kansas was having an identity crisis the past few years. But it wasn't for a lack of trying.

Now in his second year at promoting in Colby, Carney is liking what he's seeing at the track on Sunday nights.

What's making him even more pleased is the amount of action the track is providing for fans and drivers alike when heat races and features roll around.

"Each track has to have its own identity,"  Carney said. "Ours is that we're a high-banked track. Through the years, that's kind of what we've had."

The track still has those high banks that provide high-speed action for every class. But it's also seeing a growing number of drivers hauling to the track.

"Last year, we had an average of 50 to 55 cars," Carney said. "This year, the first race we had 63 cars. Every race since then we've had at least 80 cars."

The track underwent changes during the offseason. A wall used to run close to the track on the backstretch, but officials moved it a few feet off the racing surface.

The wall also was moved back along one of the turns, providing for more area for drivers.

"We had a problem, and it had been a problem for several years," Carney said. "Out of (turn) two, it wasn't very racy because the wall was too close. Originally when the track was built, we had a guard rail on the back, and cars would go through it and break it through the years. Then they set concrete in front of the guard rail. We pulled all the concrete out and the majority of where the guard rail was. It may not seem like a huge deal to gain 2 or 21âÑ2 feet, but it's a huge difference."

Carney also is pleased with the effort local drivers are putting into the track. That includes stock car drivers B.J. Wagoner and the brother duo of Jeff and Nick Tubbs -- three of several stock car drivers in the town and area.

"I have to give a lot of credit to guys like B.J. Wagoner, Jeff Tubbs, Nick Tubbs,"  he said. "They've done a phenomenal job promoting the track and getting guys to come. They don't just want to race the guys around here."

While the track has seen early success this season, no one involved is ready to sit back and see what happens next. Instead, everyone is continuing to find ways to improve the track.

"We've kind of lost the bottom the last two weeks," Jeff Tubbs said. "Me and B.J. are going to find some farm equipment to help roll in the bottom."

Through the first portion of the season, the track has averaged more than 20 stock cars per race -- one of the best numbers in northwest Kansas. The track has yet to have a repeat winner in 2013.

"I think we're pretty easily the best car count in the state in that class,"  Wagoner said.

The fan base has been supportive as well, especially for races taking place Sunday nights.

"It's getting better," Wagoner said. "We're turning it around. Jeff and I have worked hard to get the stock car guys here."

The only problem drivers have seen is increased competition with more cars running. There is no more running away and hiding from the competition -- especially in the stock car class.

"The top 10 to 12 guys, they're ... tough," Tubbs said.

NICK SCHWIEN

nschwien@dailynews.net