June 15th, 2024

Med Hat Speedway celebrating 40th season

By JAMES TUBB on May 21, 2024.

PHOTO COURTESY ALF HEIB This photo from the 1990 racing season illustrates how far the Medicine Hat Speedway has grown over it's 40 seasons, an anniversary that will be celebrated Saturday at the track.


A lot of rubber has been burned and even more left turns have been made at the Medicine Hat Speedway over the last 39 seasons.

As they approach their 40th season, which gets underway Saturday night, the locally run speedway has stood the test of time. Whether it be pandemic shutdowns or an ever-growing availability of family entertainment, Saturday night’s in the summers supplied fast cars and the need for speed at Southern Alberta’s only paved oval race track.

It’s a test of time that Ross Statham, who raced in the Speedway’s opening season in 1984 and has been a mainstay at the track, says would not have been possible without local support.

“The sponsors around town that are willing to help out and when they can and also the club members that step up to the plate for presidency and all the other stuff that has to be done on a regular basis,” Statham said. “That’s where all the credit goes to, are those kinds of people. I did it years and years ago when it first started, I was a vice president, but I don’t do a lot anymore. But I think that’s the biggest thing, it’s because it’s club run, to keep it going the way it is going. It’s quite surprising.”

The Speedway is going all out for their anniversary season opener. The spectator gates open at 4 p.m. with the first 250 people through the gates getting cupcakes at the autograph session at 5:30 p.m. Just before then is the qualifying runs at 4:30 p.m. with the green flag dropping at 6 p.m. to kick-off the historic season.

They will be having bouncy castles, face painting and Kuzco the Llama in attendance for attendees to take photos with. Kids 12 and under get in free and all of the activities are free but they are accepting donations for the Medicine Hat News Santa Claus Fund.

Speedway president Curtis Bigelow is looking forward to the day as both a club member and a racer. He says they have put in a lot of work to improve and enhance the experience and he is hoping more and more people can get bit by the racing bug.

“When you drive up to the start line either up to the track entrance, it’s always the same, I don’t care who you are, you get nervous,” Bigelow said. “As soon as you drive up there, your adrenaline starts going.

“I’m just looking forward to a good year racing. We’ve been working hard on advertising and getting more people out, so hopefully our efforts work.”

The speedway has not only served as an outlet for speed and entertainment in Medicine Hat but a place where families have grown and shared the same passion for the sport of racing.

Statham is one of a few opening season racers who still are involved with the Speedway and have passed the racing genes to family members. Both him and Alf Heib still get behind the wheel, Merle Fitzpatrick has long raced and has family members who continue to race.

Looking back on the opening season, Heib says he never would have imagined the track would still be running 40 years later but he’s enjoyed every second of what it’s offered himself, his family and the City.

“It brings in some tourism, it does bring people to town, we have some out of town racers and we always have had,” Heib said.

The family aspect of racing is something not loss on Ross Statham, who watched his dad Brian race for years and got behind the wheel himself for the first time last season, sharing the honour with his son Rylan. He says racing is something that’s passed on through blood.

“Usually the races, Alf and the Fitzpatrick’s and us, we’re not finishing at the bottom of the pack, usually, we’re doing fairly decent when we’re actually on the track,” Brian said.

He finished third in his first season of racing and he’s entering the season looking to find a little more juice to be able to pass his dad in a race, get by him on the outside just one time. As he gets ready for the 40th season, Brian says whether it’s him getting to celebrate or another racer, he’s looking forward to that shared moment of glory that only comes when the checkered flag flies.

“To see the guys get out of the car and put their hands in the air, they’ve won the trophy and are excited, the fans go nuts, that’s the cool part,” Brian said. “When the fans go nuts and the guys get out of the cars and they have that gratitude-or somebody does a burn out at the finish line because they won the race, stuff like that is good for the fans and it’s good for the guys get excited about.”

It’s a shared excitement of the loud and fast cars, the atmosphere that surrounds the track and breaths held around every left turn that will forever make Saturday nights at the Speedway a moment to remember. It’s all part of the experience Ross says, during the race and meeting with fans, that makes the sport of racing at the Med Hat Speedway what it is.

“We meet a lot of friends and longtime friends doing what we’re doing,” Ross said. “The fans they come in, they ask questions and the kids come in and I’m more than willing, even in autograph session, to get the kids to sit in the car if they want to get pictures taken. That’s all for me. Someday they might be future racers, right? So hopefully they remember that kind of stuff.”

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