Drivers fill the fairgrounds at RPM Speedway on Saturday

Margaret Allen
Hays Daily News
Driver Jesse Richter, Great Bend, uses a hydraulic elevator to unload his modified car on Saturday afternoon for opening day of the RPM Speedway at the Ellis County Fair Grounds.
Driver Jack Kirchoff, Garden City, watches Saturday afternoon as his grandson, Cale Kirchoff, 10, tightens lug bolts on the elder Kirchoff's northern sport modified. They were preparing for the opening race Saturday night at RPM Speedway at the Ellis County Fair Grounds.
Driver Kyle Pfeifer, Hill City, and his team prepare his stock car Saturday afternoon for the opening race Saturday night of the RPM Speedway at the Ellis County Fair Grounds.
With opening day of the RPM Speedway on Saturday at the Ellis County Fair Grounds, Aliesha Rogers, Lincoln, makes an adjustment to the stock car of her fiancé, Travis Baird, along with her daughter Mia Rogers.
RPM Speedway race worker Kathleen Linenberger, Hays, checks in a driver on Saturday afternoon in advance of the opening race Saturday night at the Ellis County Fair Grounds.
Race cars were arriving Saturday afternoon for the first race of the season Saturday night at RPM Speedway at the Ellis County Fair Grounds.

“It ain’t the prettiest one here,” said Kyle Pfeifer, Hill City, of his stock car he brought Saturday afternoon to the opening weekend of Rolling Plains Motor Speedway.

Do the prettiest ones win?

“Sometimes,” he laughed.

On Saturday, Pfeifer, as he usually does, traveled with his dad, his girlfriend, and a big semi-tractor truck pulling the trailer holding his car.

His rig was one of dozens already parked in the pit by 4 p.m., with many other drivers and their trailers lined up waiting to register. 

RPM Speedway reported on Facebook it had 91 race teams registered for the first race of its season Saturday night, all with a new promoter this year, Chris Sutton.

Pfeifer, who started driving in 2014, says his team comes for the fun, which he said boils down to two things.

“Just racing, and seeing all our friends,” he said. “We’ve gotten to know about everybody here.”

Jack Kirchoff, Garden City, was already in the pit with his car on Saturday afternoon. Depending on school and athletics, he gets help from his 10-year-old grandson Cale Kirchoff, who was tightening lug bolts on his car Saturday afternoon.

Kirchoff brought a Northern SportMod, as did his son, Ryan Kirchoff, meaning they would race against each other.

“This is the first year. Last year I drove an AMod, which was faster,” Kirchoff said. “I’m getting too old, I moved down.”

Will his son move up next year?

“You never know,” Kirchoff said. “He wants to go faster.”

Kirchoff has been racing 22 years, Ryan for three. Back in the day, he could race in Liberal, Hugoton, Beaver, Okla., Dodge City, Colby, but now they only have Dodge, Hays and Colby in western Kansas where they go, he said.

Things have changed in those 22 years.

“Cars are faster. They’re better. They’re safer than they used to be,” Kirchoff said. “The tracks are safer too because of the presence of emergency personnel. The driver suits are better, helmets are better.”

How will it be racing against his son?

“I don’t know, I’ll let you know tonight,” he laughed. “If he beats me I won’t be too happy. I never could get to watch him before, because I’d be in the staging lane waiting to race, while he’s racing, so I thought we might as well race against each other.”

A welcome change Saturday to the track was the wind speed, at about half what it had been throughout the week in Hays. 

“It’s a perfect day, for the fans and everything,” he said. “There’s still going to be dust; it’s dirt track.”

The wind dying down was a welcome development, said driver Travis Baird, who drove out with his truck, trailer and car on Saturday.

“Getting to and from a track with this,” Baird pointed at the rig, “it’s like the wind is pushing a sail around.”

Hill City’s Pfeifer explained that his truck, like many others in the steady stream Saturday afternoon that were exiting Interstate 70 and pulling into the fairgrounds from Fairground Rd., is basically an RV inside, with a bath and sleeping quarters.

“It makes it nice if we go to Nebraska or anywhere,” he said.

A couple years ago they went up to North Dakota and into Canada for races. Last year they were down in Texas.

“We’ve been all over,” he said, drawn for several reasons: “If it’s good pay day, or it seems like it would be a good time. We’re not too particular.”