On any given summer night memories are made at local racetracks across the nation. Whether it was watching a great pass, cheering on a favorite driver or finding joy in the smile on a Jr. Fan Club winners young face; auto racing is the most interactive spectator sport around and some tracks go the extra mile to make sure their fans leave with a smile and a great memory.
For much of my childhood Saturday nights were spent at a 3/8-mile dirt track where my heroes did battle each and every week to take home a Crystal Motor Speedway victory.
A few weeks ago I visited Crystal and as soon as we pulled down Sidney Rd. I couldn’t help but smile and feel the joy of returning. Whether I haven’t seen the track in months or weeks there’s always a feeling of belonging when it comes to CMS.
The track, located in the small town of Crystal, Michigan has a hometown feel due more to the people than my years in the grandstands. Whether you have been a lifelong fan, or have just made your first trip; the staff, drivers, and fans make you feel as though you belong.
Ron Flinn and his crew put on one of the most well orchestrated racing programs in the state and they do it week-in and week-out from mid-April to mid-September. In an economy where racers and tracks struggle, CMS is still hosting full-fields of cars and the racing is phenomenal.
Throughout the entire evening I was on the edge of my seat as there was rarely a single-file moment. Being one of only two IMCA sanctioned tracks in the state also keeps the costs down and the cars tight in the Modified and Hobby Stock divisions. Divisions that have and regularly utilize the claim rule. Consistent rules in the Late Models, Pro-Stocks, Pro-Trucks, and the crazy Flinn Stocks also help keep drivers in-budget and returning for the weekly programs.
Over the past 20-years not much has changed at Crystal. The stands are still roomy and comfortable, walking in the pits still means keeping an eye out for Ron Flinn in the water truck as to this day a quick shower still strikes him as being hilarious, and right-hand turns are simply not allowed.
The smiling faces and camaraderie remains unchanged, but the staff at CMS is always looking for new ways to improve the program and the facility. In 2010 a new scorer’s tower replaced the original perch above the top row of bleachers. The new four-story structure offers storage, an office, a VIP lounge and at the top a new home for announcer Roger Williams, head-scorer Sue Lincoln, and the woman who I see do a little bit of everything; Ron & Mary Jane’s daughter Kim.
The now unobstructed view from the tower allows for more precise scoring, accurate judgment calls, and has decreased cautions as radio communication keeps the starter informed of whether lost backstretch cars are still in motion or have successfully entered the pit area.
The races at Crystal Motor Speedway are a production, lined up to put on a great show for the fans whether it’s a racecar, a school bus, or a street-legal compact on the track.
A summer Saturday night at Crystal will always make a fond memory and I am already looking forward to my next visit.
To learn more about CMS, you can check them out on the web at www.crystalmotorspeedway.com. From that link you can also get a sneak peak via races on the web which provides a free live video feed each and every Saturday night.