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Track Profile

Taking a Look back to 2010

Photo by Kenton Brooks

Photo by Kenton Brooks

MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Promoter Stanley Slader, far left, holds the Thunderbird Speedway banner at the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Muskogee Fairgrounds track on Monday. Also pictured are Cherry Crater (with scissors), Slader's mother, Jim Ritchey (Second from right)Mayor John Hammons

The opening of the Thunderbird Speedway took another step forward Monday.

With a ribbon cutting ceremony at the dirt track located at the Muskogee Fairgrounds, Stanley Slader talked enthusiastically about the first play day, or practice session, scheduled to start at noon Saturday. Opening night is set for March 26.

“All you need for a play day are cars, people and good weather,” said Slader, who is leasing the dirt oval for three years and with a three-year option from owner Charlie Fulton. “We’re supposed to have all of that.”

The track first opened as a horse track in 1903 and auto racing began in 1955. The track closed in 2003 because of condemned grandstands.

“The track’s been here forever and there are so many people want it built back up and so many sponsors that want it to open,” Slader said, adding the track has “about 50 sponsors” listed on its website, thunderbirdspeedwaymuskogee.com.

If Thunderbird opens, it will give this area two race tracks. Outlaw Motor Speedway begins its season on March 13, according to OMS owner Danny Womack.

“It’s yet to be seen if the old Thunderbird Speedway is going to open,” Womack said in a statement. “We still have a premiere facility. We’re continuing to strive to be the No. 1 dirt track in America. We have NASCAR (sanctioning) on board this year and we’ve been contacted by a reality show that we’re working on. We have the greatest racers and fans in Oklahoma. We’re looking forward to getting our season started.”

Slader said Thunderbird is not competing with Outlaw.

“We’re entirely two different tracks,” he said.

Slader admits there’s “a long way to go” with work at Thunderbird. He’s putting in lighting at the track and stands for “4,000 people.”

“Everything’s coming from Texas,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Restroom facilities, including those built for the handicapped, and concession stands are also part of the ongoing work at Thunderbird.

The grandstands will not be used — for now.

“We’ll let them sit there until we decide we can work on them,” he said.

In the meantime, four divisions of cars will compete at Thunderbird, including Modified, Street Stock, Super Stock and a new class, Sport Modified.

“The Sport Modified is a cheaper version of the Modified division,” Slader said. “There are a lot of them around. They had a race in Fort Worth this weekend and there were 140 drivers in that. There’s 600 of those kind of cars in Oklahoma.”

Slader is eager to get racing started at Thunderbird.

“We’re going to open this race track, that’s the bottom line,” he said.

Horse Track to Dirt Car Racing