Is Putnam County Speedway Open? [Answered!]

County race tracks tend to be quite safe compared to their counterparts in the city. The reason is simple – fewer cars and more people. It’s not that there aren’t any accidents at city tracks (there certainly are), but it tends to be a lot less chaotic than at a busy road race track.

However, county racetracks are no picnic either – drivers have been seriously injured and sometimes even killed there. Just check out the history books if you’re looking for proof. One of the deadliest racetracks was the Mason Dixon Speedway in northern Pennsylvania where, in the early 20th century, hundreds of people died. It was closed in 1932 and eventually demolished.

There was also the Great Lakeside Speedway in Wisconsin, which was also plagued with accidents and fatalities. Like the Mason Dixon track, it was eventually closed down.

The list of infamous county tracks goes on and on. You get the idea. County tracks are dangerous and have a troubled history.

Then there’s Putnam County Speedway. While it doesn’t have a particularly long history (the track opened in 1947), it recently underwent a massive overhaul and is now considered one of the safest and most thrilling racetracks in the country.

What changed? Well, a lot of things. For starters, the track’s owner and president is Mike Barkison. He’s committed to keeping the track open and safe, and he’s tried hard to make that happen. Not only does he employ highly-qualified doctors, EMTs, and paramedics as part of the track’s security team, but he also has a full-time police officer patrol the entire facility. When not making sure no alcohol is served before or after the race, the officer is responsible for keeping the track safe.

Additionally, like any good businessman, Barkison is committed to being as cost-effective as possible. While some might consider a private security force overkill, Barkison sees it as a necessary evil. After all, it’s not just about the money. It’s about keeping the racing community healthy and alive.

Modernizing An Old Favorite

If you’ve been to the racing website any at all in the past few months, you probably know that Putnam County Speedway has been at the center of a lot of controversy. For years, the track has been known for its dangerous and often lethal racing, and it hasn’t always been easy for fans. After an accident-packed 2016, Barkison decided enough was enough and decided to right the wrongs of the past by investing heavily in new cars (many of which are now on display in the pits), adding more than one pit stop, and completely overhauling the track’s layout. The goal was to make the track safer and more appealing to casual fans and experienced drivers alike.

To prove his point, Barkison took the unprecedented step of releasing all of the track’s accident reports. According to the records, there were only 12 accidents on the track between 2012 and 2015. To put that in perspective, that’s fewer than one accident per year. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, keep in mind that’s a hundredfold increase from the track’s previous busiest years. The track’s president claims that the safety improvements along with the track’s complete rebranding (including a new, state-of-the-art digital marquee) have made a huge difference in attracting new fans and encouraging old ones to return. In fact, they’ve even decided to temporarily shut down a portion of the track to add more seating and enhance the fan experience. Is it just a promotional stunt? Perhaps, but it’s also the ultimate sign of faith in Barkison’s opinion that he feels safe enough to do that.

The Future Of Racing

Thanks to sites like this one, along with the tireless work of journalists like Jeremy Berg, we have a much better idea of what goes on behind the scenes of motorsports. As it turns out, Barkison is not alone in his quest to save racing. In fact, several other tracks have followed his lead and invested heavily in increased safety measures. Even the Kentucky Fried Chicken Speedway in Guthrie, Kentucky – a notoriously dangerous track – has improved its safety measures. In 2015, their track president said the following about the change: “We don’t want to continue to have these kinds of incidents. So, we’re trying to make a better environment for the drivers and the spectators.”

What does all this mean for the future of motorsports? Well, for one thing, it means drivers will be safer than ever before. This, in turn, will make for a lot more exciting racing. In fact, those who remember their childhoods during the golden era of open-wheel racing will see it as a welcome return of sorts. For older fans, it means they have somewhere to go and watch the sport they love.

Then there’s the matter of the tracks themselves. While it’s dangerous to get too invested in any one track, it’s worth wondering if there will come a point when they simply become too dangerous to sustain. The answer to that question will vary from individual to individual, but as a whole, it’s certainly an interesting possibility. Then, too, there’s always the chance that the tracks could one day be replaced by something better.

As it stands, at least for the moment, it’s difficult to understate the importance of Putnam County Speedway. Thanks to Mike Barkison and his team of professionals, we have somewhere to go and something to watch – a racing tradition that’s more than 70 years old and counting.

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