Nick Duggan is checking the skies.
He's taking a long look at the long-range weather forecast, hoping the sun will be shining brightly on Saturday, April 21.
Duggan is the Santa Maria Raceway’s new owner, just the second owner in the track's history, and he wants everything to be perfect when his first season of ownership begins when the Speedway season kicks off.
Duggan recently finalized the purchase of the 54-year-old track that sits on the south side of Nipomo from its original owners — the Fort family.
Doug and Nettie Fort opened the track in 1954, with Nettie Fort taking the reins after her husband Doug died in 1999.
Nettie Fort then leased the track to a succession of promoters with Duggan, an Australian native who lives in Arroyo Grande with his wife Allison and their two daughters, coming aboard last year as co-promoter along with Mike Kappmeyer.
“Mike was the promoter here for four years and was the co-promoter with Doug last year,” said Raceway General Manager David Castaneda. “After last season ended, Nick bought Mike’s interest in the lease and then bought the track.”
After Nettie Fort died last May at the age of 94, Duggan began pursuing his dream of buying the historic raceway.
Now that the transaction is complete, Duggan, who also owns Mustang Waterpark at Lopez Lake east Arroyo Grande, said “get ready for some new and exciting things to come to the Santa Maria Raceway in the future.”
“I’m also excited about the future,” said Castaneda. “We have a new owner, he’s ready to put some money into the track and facility. He’s in it for the long haul.”
The future actually began on Saturday, April 7 with a Test & Tune Day for all the big track race divisions along with a Mini Dwarf/Kart Funday.
The Raceway’s annual Indoor Racecar/Motorcycle Show was held this weekend inside Santa Maria’s Town Center Mall.
“This is everyone’s first chance to see the cars and drivers up close,” said Castaneda. “The kids can actually get into the cars and get drivers’ autographs, we’ll be handing out schedules, there’ll be a ticket giveaway and we’ll be giving out some free passes to the water park.”
The action on the track begins in earnest on Saturday, April 21, with a full lineup of racing.
There’ll be Winged Sprints, Pro Stocks, IMCA Modifieds American Stocks SM Dwarf Cars, Mini Stocks, NMRA TQs and Mini Dwarfs.
The Raceway actually has three tracks; its original 1/3-mile clay oval, a Kart track and a 1/10-mile decomposed granite flat track for motorcycle racing.
“We just got four truckloads of decomposed granite,” said Raceway General Manager David Castaneda. “The motorcycle track is basically going to be brand new.”
The bikers will get to test the new surface on Saturday, May 5, when Flat Track, Speedway and Hooligan Motorcycles return to the Raceway.
And the day isn’t limited to professionals.
“If you’re a local person — man, woman or child — with a dirt bike and you want to run at the Raceway, we’ll have several different classes of motorcycle races including a “Run What You Brung,” said Castaneda. “As long as you have a dirt bike, helmet and some safety gear, you are welcome to come on out.”
The motorcycles will make a return trip on Saturday, July 28, when the AMA Nationals Speedway Motorcycles run a championship round.
The season’s first big event — The Nationals — kicks off Friday, May 25 and runs for three days with all Nationals divisions running Friday night; Late Models, Pro Stocks, IMCA Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and American Stocks on Saturday; and Late Models, Pro Stocks, IMCA Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, American Stocks and Sports Mods on Sunday.
The annual Ron Otto Memorial will be run Saturday, June 9, and the annual Doug Fort Memorial will feature a full slate of races on Saturday, July 7.
The Simkins — the Raceway’s other big three-day weekend — kicks off Friday, August 31.
The regular season runs through Saturday, Oct. 20, when the King of California Dwarf Car Nationals Final will take center stage.
“And for the first time, people will be able to get their tickets online,” said Castaneda. “That will make things much more convenient for fans who want to skip the ticket booth.”
The season comes to a close on Saturday, Oct. 30, with the 3rd annual Halloween Smash Demolition Enduro.
“We had 105 kids in last year’s costume contest,” said Castaneda. “All the drivers will have candy and the kids can go Trick or Treating from car to car.”
There are also plans to expand the Raceway’s horizons.
Duggan is looking into adding a motocross track, bringing in concert and monster truck shows.
“Having new ownership opens up a lot of possibilities,” said Castaneda. “We’re trying to put together a very family-oriented environment. This is a great chance to bring your family out to see some great racing excitement.”
One of the big questions facing the raceway every season is the track’s condition following a typical round of spring rain.
But everything shaped up for the April 7 practice and Funday.
“The track has tried out from recent rain. We’ve been working on it,” said Castaneda. “We just have to do some touch up to the stands and we’ll be good to go.”