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The Drill: Speedway promoters working to make drivers, fans happy

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Hobby Ssock cars work the wet track in hot laps before the start of Nobles County Speedway racing action. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- There’s a certain kind of sports fan who doesn’t mind seeing a favorite athlete kicking up a little mud. These are the fans who like to feel the open air on a summer evening. They like the smell of gasoline and grease.

There is a place in Worthington that brings the fans in on hot nights. The Nobles County Speedway on the fairgrounds is the place to be to make some noise, and watch race cars make more than a little noise as they speed around the oval in anticipation of a checkered flag. Glen Van Eck, of Woodstock, and Adam Ecker, of Comfrey, have resuscitated Worthington’s on-again, off-again Saturday racing night. And race fans couldn’t be happier.

“We do everything from track preparation to getting more cars to come all the time, to making sure everything’s running smoothly every week -- just a lot of different jobs that are involved with being one of the promoters at the raceway,” said Van Eck.

“I tend to lean a little more with the mechanics, as far as keeping the water trucks going, sound systems, electrical, scales,” said Ecker. “We took over the Speedway here in January 2017. The reason we took this over was, I’ve raced for 20-some years. I wouldn’t say I had enough of it, but I just wanted a change of something. And me and Glen were talking, and we used to be on the board in Slayton at Murray County. And it was kind of a joke to begin with, and when it came down to it, either we gotta do something or forget about it. So we did it.”

The two-man co-promoting team is careful to honor every side of racing, from the drivers to the cars, to the correctness of the track itself, to the refreshment stand. The overall scheme is to provide a successful race night for the drivers and pit crews, and ultimately, for the many fans who arrive expecting a professional show.

The Globe interviewed Van Eck and Ecker recently for an installment of The Drill to get the straight-on story from a couple of guys who love dirt-track racing and are determined to make a go of it in Nobles County. You can see the video online at www.dglobe.com. Here is a sample of the interview portion:

QUESTION: What are some of your ideas to make motor racing a fun event here in Worthington for driver and fan alike?

ANSWER: “Yes, we’re going to continue to make improvements on it. We put new dirt on it last fall, in 2017. I think that was a big asset for the corners. We’ll just continue to do improvements and continue to get people coming here. We’ve got a great bunch of drivers here right now, and we want to get more.” (Van Eck)

Q: What is your relationship with the drivers and crews?

A: “The racing people are special. We need ‘em. I mean, you can get all the fans in the stands, but if you ain’t got no racers, what fun is that to watch? If you like food, this is the place to come. If you like the smell of fuel, this is also the place to come.” (Van Eck)

Q: What’s it like to be in the crowd?

A: “The excitement, with all the adrenaline for these drivers and their fans, this is really a family program here. We try to keep it family-oriented. A lot of these drivers have got 30 or 40 people in their family, their brothers, their sisters, their friends, who come and watch ‘em. And they get really excited about this.” (Ecker)

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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