Since 1948 mid-eastern Michigan has come alive with the rumble of engines racing around the banks of Whittemore Speedway.
A ¼-mile high banked paved oval nestled in downtown Whittemore, Michigan, the track has many unique aspects. It’s perfectly manicures lawns and new aluminum bleachers are nice, but what really sets the track apart is the fact that it is a volunteer run, non-profit, community owned track. The official owners of Whittemore Speedway are the towns’ residents, and with full-stands and great on-track action it is no wonder that Whittemore holds the title of being the longest consecutively running track in the state of Michigan.
On May 28th I visited the track for their 63rd opening night. Since childhood Whittemore has been one of my favorite racetracks. Although small in overall length, the tracks wide straightaway’s and high-banked corners have made it conducive to fast 3-4 wide racing action. The mini-stocks bring added drama with their small stature allowing them to squeeze 5-wide as I saw on this particular night.
Also last Saturday the track played host to one of racings greatest, who now has ties to community. Two-time Indy 500 champion Gordon Johncock was on hand, making a few laps in the Camaro SS pace-car and answering questions about racing past and present. Johncock now makes nearby South Branch, Michigan his home as he has taken over ownership of Quigley Lumber. The local wood products company is evidence of Johncock’s efforts to keep the Michigan economy on track while supporting the local short track racing that got his career started. For 2011 Quigley Lumber is prominently displayed as a main sponsor on the blue and silver No.6 Factory Stock, driven by Joe Coleman.
Whittemore is a speedway with great racing, and great heart. Former driver turned Association President Andy Hess and his staff do a great job with community fundraisers and will also be playing host to the Michigan Auto Racing Fan Club with free admission to MARFC members on July 16th.
The track has always been known for its family friendly atmosphere, and 63-years after its gates first opened that principle is evident every week, from kids bike races around the high banks, to kids tours on the speedway’s fun bus.
If you have never made the trip to Whittemore Speedway, it is definitely worth the detour. A small town just east of West Branch on M-65, Whittemore is a nice quiet village with an exciting way to spend a summer Saturday night.