Aztec Speedway celebrating 70th anniversary with 2 nights of racing
AZTEC − Aztec Speedway will celebrate its 70th anniversary of live auto racing Friday and Saturday night, headlined by the POWRi Desert Winged 360 Sprint Car Series, along with competitors from the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) and the National Open Wheel (NOW) 600 Series.
The two-night event, which begins at 8 p.m. Friday, will be highlighted by a number of the region's top drivers, including Albuquerque's Caleb Saiz, currently ranked second in the New Mexico Motor Racing Association standings among sprint car drivers behind Caleb Stelzig, also from Albuquerque.
This weekend's set of programs is the penultimate racing event of its kind during the 2022 season, which is scheduled to wrap up on Sept. 9 and 10. The most recently scheduled race dates at Aztec Speedway were cancelled on July 29 and 30 as a result of inclement weather and poor racetrack conditions.
Local and regional standout drivers like 14-year-old Mylee Joann will also be in action this weekend, representing the IMCA Sport Compact division.
A 12-time winner this year from 48 races this year, Joann was recently named IMCA National Rookie of the year and is preparing for the IMCA Super Nationals, which will take place in Boone, Iowa next month.
Joann leads the IMCA rookie standings with 929 points, which places her 70 points ahead of 42-year-old Justin Reetz from Dunlap, Iowa. Joann's standing as rookie of the year puts her at the head of the class in front of 220 other drivers across the country.
The 14-year-old freshman at Farmington High School has 23 wins to her credit since she got behind the wheel in 2020. She has raced primarily across the southwest portion of the country but has also competed at several racetracks in Minnesota and Iowa, where she has finished in the top 10 in her division.
Joann, who previously attended Pinon Hills Academy, has learned to juggle the demands of school and a busy driving schedule that often takes her and her family on the road.
"You don't have a lot of time on the weekends to go hang out with your friends. There's really a lot of traveling and schoolwork to keep up with," Joann said.
Joann is the leading driver in point standings for races held in the state of New Mexico in the IMCA Sport Compact division, leading by 31 points over 39-year-old Katie Barthel from Ignacio, Colorado. Joann is ranked ninth in races held in Arizona, behind 29-year-old D. J. Werkmeister. Joann is also ranked second in races held in Utah, trailing only 13-year-old Payce Herrera from Price, Utah.
Driving against competitors who vary in age from teenagers to drivers in their late 30s and early 40s has proved to be less of a distraction than it was in the beginning of her career.
"In the beginning, it was kind of nerve-wracking," Joann admitted. "And then you learn that it's kind of cool to be involved with something where I get to be around people twice as old as me."
Joann acknowledged that while many teenagers who go to school with her will work nights at part-time jobs or find ways to make money at side jobs, driving a racecar is not only a unique opportunity, but a challenging one as well.
"This is kind of like a job, but it's still something I enjoy doing and being a part of it all," Joann said. "I never really thought about doing something like this before I started, but the adrenaline factor is really exciting."
POWRi Desert Winged Series and NOW Desert Region races also coming to Aztec Speedway
In addition to the IMCA races, the weekend racing at Aztec Speedway will be represented by some familiar faces to the popular sport.
The POWRi Desert Winged 360 Series last raced at Amarillo, Texas in July at the Route 66 Motor Speedway. John Carney II and Casey Burkham, from El Paso and Combine, Texas, respectively, both took home top prizes during that two-day event.
Jesse Baker will be looking to get back in the winner's circle after most recently scoring a win Saturday night at Sandia Speedway. Baker, from Grants, New Mexico, has finished among the top 10 drivers in all but two of 12 races this year.
The Now600 Desert Region competition will likely feature some of the top drivers from across the southwest, including Pueblo, Colorado's Chase Spicola, who most recently finished second in a feature event at the I-76 Motor Speedway in Fort Morgan, Colorado earlier this month. Prior to that, Spicola was a winner at the El Paso County Raceway in Calhan, Colorado in the Winged A-Class featured event on July 22.
Racing continues throughout the weekend, with Saturday's races set to begin at 7 p.m., weather permitting. The current forecast for the weekend calls for a slight chance of showers on Friday, with a 40% chance of rain Saturday.
For more information about the weekend racing cards, check out the official Aztec Speedway page at Myracepass.com.