70th season of live racing at Aztec Speedway opening soon
AZTEC — The future is indeed bright at Aztec Speedway.
As the calendar turns to opening day of the 70th season of live auto racing at Aztec Speedway coming up on Friday, April 15, a new generation of younger drivers are about to take center stage.
Drivers from across the region, all with varying levels of skill and experience will hit the dirt track running when Aztec Speedway, the oldest continually operated dirt stock car track in the state, hosts non-wing sprint cars as well as IMCA Modifieds and more for the opening weekend program.
In all, Aztec Speedway will host nearly a half-dozen nights of sprint car racing, with more than a dozen race dates set up for Utility Task Vehicle and Go Kart racing. The live season of racing is scheduled to run through Oct. 8.
"We're getting some new blood into the sport and that's very exciting," said Aztec Speedway general manager Mike Tenski. "The go-kart class always feeds into our roster and these kids are coming from all across the region."
One of those young drivers who may have an impact this season is 13-year-old Maleigha Estrada, who's already earned a pair of victories this year in the Mini Dwarf Masters division at Cocopah Speedway in Yuma, Arizona.
"You get started somewhere and it's a progression and you can go as far as you want," Tenski said. "It's a passion for the sport."
16-year-old Jackson Harpole, who won races last year at both Aztec Speedway and at the Fairgrounds Speedway in Cortez, Colorado, also will be back driving IMCA Northern SportModifieds this season.
After getting back to the business of racing in 2021 coming off a pandemic which forced the closure of the facility in 2020, the upcoming season is seen as a welcome relief for fans, drivers and all involved in the day-to-day operation of Aztec Speedway.
"I think it's going to be a real positive season," Tenski said. "As far as spectator counts and not worrying about masks and things like that, I think it's finally our return to normal."
There may well be an influx of drivers and fans this season coming in from Colorado, with the Cortez track, located on the fairgrounds, forced to close down for the time being while it seeks new management after a contract dispute with the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners.
"Now that we're limited to just one track in the area, it means if you want to race here, you're going to race here," Tenski said. "Participation will go up a little bit but our fan count will benefit from both the lesser restrictions and having a wide variety of races to choose from."
Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.