Wednesday, Oct 24 2012 09:20 PM

New raceway blossoming

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Work on the new half-mile track at the Kern County Raceway Park on the west side of Kern County is well underway.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Work on the Kern County Raceway Park is well underway by Granite Construction workers and others.

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BY MIKE GRIFFITH Californian staff writer

The equipment is in place, test strips of pavement have been applied and by today the final paving of the racing surface at Kern River Raceway should be under way.

Work on the long-dormant facility adjacent to Interstate 5 and Enos Lane began in February when new investors took over the 480-acre property that had been foreclosed upon in 2010.

Original hopes were to be able to stage a race by late October, but the amount of work that needed to be done, starting with the clearing of thousands of tumbleweeds, proved to be more time consuming that first estimated.

There were delays in clearing a clogged drainage system, more drainage to add, delays in putting up the four-story superstructure and delays in getting new steel for the superstructure. Then there was the task of getting plans and permits and erecting an 8,000-square foot building adjacent to turn 3 in the infield. That building will house a tire shop, parts shop, technical inspection area and restrooms and was not in the original plans of the track.


Then there was more underground work -- five miles of wiring to be pulled in the infield for lighting and other needs, and an additional mile of work for more fire hydrants.

"There's more work under the ground than there is on top," James Vernon, an investor who is overseeing the construction, said on Wednesday. "Actually, it's been about as good as it gets. We've got a lot of work done in the six months since we've been here."

One project that has ramped up is landscaping, which is a massive undertaking. The parking area outside of turns 3 and 4 looked like a nursery on Wednesday with thousands of plants and trees lined up. Crews were planting vegetation on the south embankment for aesthetics as well as erosion control.

"We've got over 3,000 trees and 3,000 plants to start for now," Vernon said.

Over the months, Vernon has learned that delays come with the territory, including the current paving project.

"These guys were supposed to start (the paving project) 10 days ago but they were delayed on another job," he said. "They're telling me it will take 10 days here. We'll see."

The paving crew spent two days making sure a single layer of asphalt placed down in 2007, before construction stopped, was ready to have 5 1/2 inches of new asphalt applied on top of it.

"If bumps (on initial layer) are over 3/4 of an inch high they have to grind them off or cut it out and patch it, do whatever to make it right," Vernon said. "The bottom layer is the foundation and it has to be right so the rest of it can be right."

On Wednesday, a broken part on the paving machine further delayed the start.

Vernon said two more layers of asphalt will be applied to the half-mile racing surface before a final layer of a special blend designed for racing is laid down. After that, crews will cap off the infield with two layers of another blend of asphalt.

Then it will be on to the parking lots, continuing work on the superstructure and hundreds of other projects to bring it all together for racing in the spring of 2013.

"We plan on racing around the middle of March," Vernon said. "We want to make sure everything is right."

But long before racing commences, there wil be cars on the track.

Vernon said he's been told the racing surface needs just two weeks of curing before cars can hit the track.

"I want to see something go fast around here," he said with a glint in his eyes.

As for a racing program and schedule, Vernon said they are making the final decisions on what divisions the track will run on a regular basis and are getting ready to put together a schedule.

Vernon said the Late Model stock cars will be the top weekly series and that they plan to run Legends and Bandoleros on the smaller quarter-mile track, which uses part of the main front straightaway. He said they are working on finalizing rules packages for three other divisions.

As far as a touring series, Vernon said the racetrack has not made any agreements.

"We have to make sure we have the racetrack done before we sign anything with anybody," he said. "We want to get the track paved first."

Although there has yet be an announcement, it is expected the track will be sanctioned by NASCAR, as the old Mesa Marin Raceway was.



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