KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Lakeside Speedway welcomed back thousands of fans Friday after the venue spent much of the last five months under water thanks to three separate floods this year.
The dirt track in Kansas City, Kansas, which is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year, was scheduled to have its opening night back in April.
Heavy flooding in March left the main track and several rows of seats swamped.
More flooding overwhelmed the track in May and June, pushing back its opening and threatening to cancel the entire season.
According to general manager Pete Howey, even the pit stands and concession areas were underwater.
“Flood No. 3 was the worst with all the debris and river mud,” he said.
But a Midwest tradition finally made its return Friday night with long lines of fans gathering in the parking lot hours before gates opened.
By the time the lights came on, engines were roaring, crowds were cheering and the racing action was in full swing.
“It’s like hitting the lottery right now,” racing fan Roxy Dearing said. “I’m home. I’m seeing my own racetrack.”
Dearing showed up three hours before gates opened Friday and wore a T-shirt for her favorite driver, Patrick “P Money” Royalty.
“It’s like having my life back,” she said. “It’s like waiting until your first child or grandchild. This is what I’ve been waiting for all year.”
The excitement also was palpable in the pit area, where dozens of drivers and teams couldn't waited for the green flag to wave.
“This is probably one of the most historic places to race in the Midwest,” Royalty said. “To be held out for so long and we’re finally back is just ecstatic. It’s a beautiful sight.”
While fans and drivers celebrated the return, Howey may have felt the greatest sense of relief.
“To get it open for all these guys and all the racers means the world to me,” he said. “It’s been painstakingly tedious but totally worth it.”
Howey worked nearly around the clock at times. Even on the days water returned several feet high, he never forgot his promise to bring racing back this year.
“You come out and you’re in mud and you’re in muck but you’re thinking about these people,” he said. “You’re thinking, ‘I’m going to make thousands of people happy.’”
With the delays caused by flooding, Howey told 41 Action News that the track will remain open until early October to get in a few more races.
Above all else, fans were happy to have racing back on Friday.
“It’s a godsend we’re open tonight,” Dearing said before taking her longtime seat in section B to watch summer dirt-track racing.