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Speedway addresses changes in response to grand jury report

By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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The Placer County Fair Association has made parking and sound improvements and continues to study ways to reduce noise during races at All American Speedway, according to a fact sheet now being distributed.

A Placer County Grand Jury report, released Feb. 1, claimed improvements made at the racetrack in 2007 were never approved by the county and alleged the modifications were made so it could qualify for NASCAR-sanctioned events under the guise of “safety and maintenance improvements.”

The fair association, which prepared the fact sheet, said it was never contacted by the grand jury during the fact-finding process or to obtain a response.

“As a result, the Grand Jury Report does not include all the important information which readers need to understand the speedway operations and the improvements being made or planned,” the fact sheet says.

Parking on nights with heavy crowds has spilled into neighborhoods surrounding the speedway. Now, “Resident Parking Only” signs are planted in front of houses on Stanford, Lawton, Niles and Los Vegas avenues, south of the track and near Woodbridge Elementary School, and other nearby streets.

Also, the old track speakers were replaced and redirected toward the grandstands. Joan Bartosik, CEO of the Placer County Fair & Events Center, said the association has gone into the community “to hear for ourselves, and we have observed a tremendous improvement.”

“We are thrilled with them,” she said. “It took us a couple of Saturday nights to get it right, because they’re way more powerful, so we had to turn them way down. You can barely hear them when you get outside the grandstand. It’s been worth every penny.”

Bartosik also said the fair association expects a new study by a sound consultant to happen by the end of this month.

Area resident Andrew Clark said the mind can “drown out” the noise, but the sudden sound of collisions is disruptive.

“It has my son wondering what that is,” Clark said.

Katharina Head said she purchased her home, about a block from the speedway, 11 years ago.

“I can sit in my home on a Saturday night with my windows open, watch TV, and the noise has never, ever, ever bothered me,” she said. “And I hear people blocks away complaining about it. To me, it’s just off in the distance.”

The track is trying to conclude its Saturday night programs by 10 p.m., though the current contract allows racing until 11. That included cutting the debut of a Late Model traveling series main event from 75 laps to 62 on April 23. Fans weren’t pleased.

The grand jury report recommended the fair association sign a new operating agreement, which Bartosik said is in the process of being drafted by Placer County. The language includes limits on noise and curfew.

“We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve,” Bartosik said. “We’re going to aim to close at 10 (p.m.), the track activity. It’s very hard. It’s a real balancing act. At the same time, we have to pay attention to our neighborhood.”

The grand jury report states that, “After lengthening the track by 70 feet on one end and widening it by 30 feet on the other end, as well as increasing banking on two turns, it qualified the Speedway to hold NASCAR-approved races.”

Bartosik said the changes were made solely for safety reasons. Also, the speedway had NASCAR sanctioning in previous years but was dropped by the old fairgrounds board. All American Speedway regained a NASCAR sanction in late 2006, after Stockton 99 Speedway closed. Stockton 99, a smaller track, reopened in 2009 and is sanctioned by NASCAR.

“We had cars speeding off the ramp and going through the fence and onto Corporation Yard Road. It happened once too many times,” Bartosik said. “Something had to be changed. We decided to do a separate on and off ramp. We had to provide almost like a merging lane, which equated into a higher bank.”