By: Eric Huenefeld
On a warm yet perfect Saturday night, fans and drivers gathered at the corner of State Road 173 and Forest Hills Road to do what they have done since May of 1948.
It’s become part of people’s weekly routines. Fascinations have started here. Friendships have began here. Careers began here.
For over 70 years, Rockford Speedway has been that place. It’s withstood all of which time has thrown at it. Sometimes things haven’t been easy. But through it all, Rockford Speedway has persevered.
Businesses and industry have come and gone. Sports franchises have came to town and left just as quickly. But since 1948, Rockford Speedway has carried on.
Saturday night was a celebration of 70 years. A celebration of speed, of entertainment and of family.
When speaking of Rockford Speedway and of family, one must look no further than the Deery family and matriarch Jody. The 92 year old still is sharp as ever and an ever-present figure at each Rockford Speedway event. It was her, along with her late husband Hugh, who helped put Rockford Speedway on the map starting in the late in 1960’s. From National Short Track Championships to ‘Rockford Rules” Late Models, to Trailer Races and Spectacular Drags, the Deery legacy not only lives on at Rockford Speedway, but at short tracks across America.
Further evidence of family playing a huge role at Rockford Speedway can be found in the results of the 70th Anniversary Feature races. The Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Model Feature was an example of that, with names like Reynolds and Bilderback battling for the win. When the checkered flag flew, it was Jon Reynolds Jr narrowly holding off Michael Bilderback for the victory. Reynolds called his win “the second biggest of my career,” trailing only his 2015 National Short Track Championship triumph. In the Bargain Hunter Sportsman feature, Trevor Robinson bested Johnny Robinson II for the win, making it a 1-2 sweep for the Robinson family, a very familiar name at Rockford Speedway. The Robinsons have been long associated with Rockford Speedway, the color purple and the number 99. Meanwhile, Miller Lite American Short Tracker winner Zach Rodriguez bagged his division leading fourth feature win Saturday night in a division he has become one of the top dogs in. That’s fitting, because Zach’s father Andy was one of the originals in the Short Tracker class back in the 1980’s.
In the name of excitement, look towards the Kickstart Roadrunner main event. 20 straight laps of green flag racing, with Adam Cartwright outdistancing point leader Josh Thiering and hard-charging Chad Lounsbury for the win. The three cars raced in tight formation all race, with Cartwright barely beating Thiering to the line at the end. Despite sporting one of the smallest starting fields in Roadrunner history, the race was a fitting 70th Anniversary tribute to the class known for thrilling, side-by-side racing. And during the 20 laps, not one of the fans was consumed with the quantity of cars, but were thrilled by the quality of the racing.
Excitement also came in the form of free food giveaways, an appearance by the DOC Drift Racers, who wowed the enthusiastic crowd with their daring deeds during intermission. The grand climax to the night, an outstanding 70th Anniversary Fireworks show, was a fitting close to a special night.
It was said years ago by Hugh Deery himself that while “Daytona and Indianapolis are in the racing business, we are in the entertainment business.” This fact was on display Saturday night at the facility he helped make famous.
Over the next few weeks, a variety of racing and fun sweep into Rockford Speedway as the 70th Anniversary season heads into its homestretch. This Saturday July 29 features the ‘Worlds Fastest Short Track Show’ as the Must See Racing Sprint Cars take to the high banks with their unmatched speed. On Saturday August 5 it’s ‘the wildest show on wheels’ with Kar Korner’s World Famous Figure 8 Trailer Race. Then on Saturday August 12, it’s Cintas Kids Night featuring FREE admission for Kids 11 and under plus Kids Bike Races and the Great Bike Giveaway.
Racing continues at Rockford Speedway until late October. Make sure and find some time to visit the track and bring your family and friends. For more information