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A gleaming new state-of-the-art short track located in northeast Louisiana has joined the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Monroe Motor Speedway, a .375-mile concrete oval banked at 12 degrees, embarks on its first full season with NASCAR sanction on March 7. The track hosted initial events late last year to prepare for 2009.
The announcement was made at Monroe City Hall Thursday morning.
"The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series represents the best in short-track racing and we're please to welcome Monroe to the NASCAR family," said George Silbermann, NASCAR Managing Director, Racing Operations. "We're looking forward to showcasing great racing to NASCAR fans in Louisiana."
Track promoter Rusty Marcus said the speedway will host weekly events on Saturdays, and include Late Models, Modifieds, SportMods, Legends, Bombers, Compacts and Bandoleros. The Late Model division will be the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series featured division.
“From the time this track was built last year, everyone wanted it to be involved with NASCAR,” Marcus said. “We want to take it to the top, and NASCAR is our path to the top. The track opened to spectacular crowds late in 2008, and in 2009 NASCAR will help us build that enthusiasm.”
The uniqueness of the facility is made emphatic by its concrete surface. It is the only “hard surface” oval in the four-state radius around the track.
The quality of the project can be summed up by the name of the architectural firm: Paxton Waters Architecture. P.C. Waters, 57, of Carmel, Ind., has become the “designer-in-chief” of the new breed of American short track. His projects include Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, as well as big tracks such as Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Pikes Peak International Raceway. Since completing Monroe, he’s moved on to designing a $130 million track in Port Erie, Ontario, Canada (near Buffalo, N.Y.) in which Jeff Gordon has an interest. He’s also working on projects around the world including Brazil, India and Germany, many with Formula 1 and IndyCar great Derek Daly.
“Building a race track is not always easy,” Waters said. “Monroe turned out to be a great track. The neat thing is they did it right and they did it on their budget.”
“We wanted a hard surface that would be economical yet durable,” said primary contractor John Schween, president of Breck Construction Company. “Most of the teams had driven only on dirt when we opened last fall. They adjusted, and a lot of them handled the transition very well. They liked it. There will be a lot of ‘converts’ to concrete this year, we think.”
Competitors at the track are now part of NASCAR’s North American network of home town speedways across the United States and Canada. At each track, the featured division participants will be eligible to compete for track and state championships, and ultimately the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national title.
State champions are determined by drivers’ highest 18 finishes at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks within a state.
Since its inception, NASCAR’s local racing series has served as a springboard in the careers of many top-tier NASCAR drivers. Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Bobby Labonte, Jamie McMurray, Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers all began their careers in the NASCAR short-track program.