IRWINDALE - 3/21/11 - Whether you're a die-hard racing enthusiast or are just curious about cars driving counter-clockwise in a circle for hours on end, the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale is about to start its 2011 season with something to please just about everyone.
Known as the "premier short track in the country," this half-mile course runs NASCAR-sanctioned races every Saturday night, starting April 2 through Oct. 29, which is seven months or more than 30 weekends, said Tommy Mason, marketing event co-director at the track.
So, what does it mean to be NASCAR-sanctioned?
"That means we run under their set of rules," said Mason, who added that makes the racing really first class. "We're under their tent. They're giving us a broad set of rules for the track and we work within their framework."
And what's so "premier" about this place?
"You can go to 50 other tracks and none look like this," Mason said. "This place is absolutely top notch. Hard core fans who go to other tracks get spoiled her because of the modernization and the cleanliness."
The track opened in 1999. Mason added you can't beat the entertainment value for your money at the speedway.
"You can go to the movie theater for $20 for a 90-minute movie," he said. "You can have a fancy dinner. But you can come here for $15 a person - and we always have deals here - and see more than four hours live entertainment of NASCAR racing. There's more than four hour if you get here early enough for the qualifying time trials."
There's plenty more to the track than just racing, Mason said, especially if you get hungry.
"We've got great food and lots of varieties, such as Mexican food, funnel cakes, baked potatoes, the whole gamut and the regular stand concession that have hot dogs, hamburgers and fries."
But Mason said there's more.
"We have live bands playing rock, country, rhythm and blues - they're all local bands," he said. "We got lots of stuff for the kids, such as face painting, jumpers and a remote control car racing track."
There's even more for the NASCAR fan, he said.
"We even have an autograph session with the drivers on the track before the races, which is a rarity in this sport or any sport," Mason said.
Mason admitted Jimmy Johnson might not be racing, but that's no reason not to come on out.
"You're going to see the NASCAR stars of tomorrow today here at Toyota Speedway of Irwindale," he said. "We have a lot of variety of racing. Most are the NASCAR-style oval races. There's different types of cars that race here, such as late models, super trucks, mini stocks and legends."
Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $5 for kids. For more information or for tickets, call (626) 358-1100 or log onto www.toyotaspeedwayatirwindale.com.