Raceway caters to Kitsap speed freaks

Port Orchard and its surrounding areas are an amalgamation of historical relics and modern-aged amenities.

The Bremerton Raceway has some of both. A race might feature a high-powered classic muscle car against a modern sedan. The Raceway, which once was an airport runway, has been owned and operated by the Handlers’ Racing Association since 1959 and offers several activities throughout the summer for competitive racers and amateurs.

The Raceway, which typically is open two or three weeks per month from April to the first week of October, holds events beginning at 4 p.m. on Fridays and 9 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Friday events generally consist of Street Legals, which are geared toward younger drivers.

“We started the Friday night Street Legals to get the kids off the streets and street racing,” said Barbara Howell, secretary and treasurer for the Raceway. “It hasn’t accomplished what we wanted to and got them off the street, but it’s helped.”

Both Barbara Howell and her husband, Raceway president Gordon Howell, who estimates 10 to 15 females regularly race, hope the Street Legals and Mother’s Day race generate more interest from women.

“We used to have it as any lady racer,” Barbara said. “Then we weren’t getting as many novice girls because they used to race the girls who were here all the time and it’s not really fair. Maybe they just race the Mother’s Day races or maybe they race just occasionally and that’s the gals we let race in (those events).”

Gordon said Friday also is an opportunity for inexperience drivers to gain experience. He said the entry fee for Street Legals is $25 and drives have made as many as 50 runs in a day.

“People, if they never race, they shouldn’t be intimidated,” he said. “That’s why we have Friday nights. You can come out here and it’s low-key and you’re racing other people that don’t have the experience of the guys racing on Saturdays and Sundays. You can get as many runs as you want and ... we can work with you and show you how to do it.”

Saturdays feature events such as the Junior Dragster Series, which is open to 8 to 18-year-olds and has 18 competitors, car shows, Northwest Pro Street Association and National Hot Rod Association Racing. Sundays also have some of the same events and shows. Those events cost $35 to $40 to participate in.

There are several classifications for the more competitive car and truck drivers, such as Super Professional and Professional brackets. Port Orchard’s Ray Lamoureux, who leads the Professional standings with 441 points through seven of the 13 events, said the difference between the two is Super Professionals are allowed to use electronics. The amateur classification for cars and trucks is Sportsman. There also is a classification for motorcycles.

“The big things that will make you successful out at the track are being able to cut a good light, good reaction time, and if your vehicle is consistent,” Lamoureux said. “You can have the most consistent vehicle out at the track and if you’re not able to have a good reaction time, you’re still never going to be able to win a race and vice versa.”

For those who just want to watch, admission is $10 for adults and $8 for senior citizens and active military members. Anyone 12 years old and younger with adult supervision is admitted free. Barbara said the Nostalgia Drags & Car Show on Aug. 3, now in its 13th year, usually draws a large crowd.

“Our big one is the Nostalgia race where we bring in the old-timers, as we call them, and have them as our celebrities,” she said, adding that the drivers sign autographs and drive the cars at night so people can see the exhaust flames.

Gordon said it’s one of the Raceway’s traditions he expects to continue.

“Every year you here it’s the same old story that that it’s the last year it’s going to be here,” he said. “They just renewed the contract ... for five more years. There’s things that could affect us, but I would say for the next 10 years, or at least the next five years this place is perfectly safe.”

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