The Taylor Speedway has been a fixture on the outskirts of Taylor for more than 25 years, tucked in behind the ball diamonds and community hall, tempting drivers to drop by and catch a race. However, just 30 years ago, there was nothing there but a vacant field.
This weekend, the Fort St. John Stock Car Club will be celebrating the Speedway’s 25th anniversary, at the 2021 IMCA Modified Invitational, July 30 to August 1.
This is technically the 26th season of racing at the track, but the club was unable to properly mark the ocassion last year due to the pandemic.
The first event at Taylor Speedway, held on May 21, 1995, was a demolition derby, something the club put on lots in the early days.
The Alaska Highway News said the event was “a bang-up time” and the “action was fast and furious.” Dart Wooden and co-driver Dallas Wooden, both from Dawson Creek, finished first and took home the $1,000 prize. The first race took place a month later in June.
However, the ground was laid, or in this case broke, much earlier. Chris Babcock said the Fort St. John Stock Car Club began looking for a permanent place to call home in the late 1980’s. Races were held at Riley Crossing Road near the Dawson Creek Sportsman’s Club, and had previously ran at the Fort St. John gravel pit.
“We didn’t have a proper racing track for a long time, and were looking for a place to build one. We couldn’t find any property around Fort St. John, but Taylor was interested in giving us some land,” said Babcock, who joked that he was the one who “conned” his father Doug Babcock into building a track.
Babcock credits then-Taylor mayor Fred Jarvis with pushing for the project and selling the club the property. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in the spring of 1991, with construction beginning that same day.
The building of the track was done on the backs of volunteers and donations, entirely for free. Babcock said in addition to Doug Babcock, many local contractors, including Surerus, Ed Moore, and others, leant their time and equipment to bring the project to completion.
“We had to take 18 feet of dirt from the North end of the track and move it to the South to make it level. The North end is still 10 feet higher on the North side but we ran into sand so we couldn’t dig deeper,” Babcock said.
Since 1995, not a summer has gone by without races at Taylor Speedway. Even during the pandemic, the club was able to hold a full season. There were no fans in attendance, and it took its toll on the club financially, but they persevered thanks to the hard work and commitment that made the track possible in the first place.
“It’s been an awesome place to race this whole time,” said club president Kelly Hildebrand, who has been involved with the track since 2005.
“Our volunteers have been awesome and are responsible for all the work that’s been put in — from the sound barriers and the boards around the track, to (most recently, in 2019) the lights and power source, allowing us to hold night races,” Hildebrand said.
Each race weekend, drivers and club executive members are out early watering down the track and making sure it’s ready for racing. The drivers’ families cheer faithfully in the stands, and the drivers’ kids often make up the next generation of racers.
With the introduction of the Hit to Pass in 2018, the racing is as exciting as ever, and sure to stay that way for years to come.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org