When Red River Co-op Speedway finally waves the green flag on its 40th season of racing, you can bet there will be an Imrie or two in attendance.
The track had planned to open for the season tonight, but poor track conditions due to rain has forced a postponement until next Thursday.
"Everybody involved in racing likes to say that it's the most expensive drug in the world," said Ward Imrie, a 29-year-old from River Heights who's been in and around a race car since he was seven. "Once you get into racing you can't get out. I've been trying to get out lots of times, but I can't leave it.
"It always seems to bring us back."
Wayne Imrie, Ward's father, started racing in Manitoba at Brooklands Speedway, before the Red River Co-op Speedway (formally Winnipeg Speedway and Victory Lane) opened its gates in 1973. Now 66, Imrie is still a frequent visitor to the track, coming out nearly every Thursday to watch his son race locally and every other weekend, he'll make a trip with Ward down to the dirt tracks in Minnesota and North Dakota.
The Manitoba oval has changed over the four decades, he said, and not just in name only.
"The track is a little shorter than it was back when I raced," he said of the 4/10 mile surface. "And it's not quite as steep a bank anymore; there used to be a lot more slope to it. It wasn't a 45-degree angle, but it was steeper. You could whip around it pretty good.
"It's turned into a real safe track now."
While the oval and the surrounding amenities -- grandstands, concessions, etc. -- have changed for the better over the years, the elder Imrie says one constant remains: the question of how to maintain the track surface before the day of a race.
The dirt track instantly switches over to a mud surface when watered down to the point of saturation, a fan-friendly practice that keeps the dust to a minimum when cars and trucks scream around the banks.
Less water keeps the terrain loose and provides a slight amount of slide that most drivers like to have underneath them as they try to maintain the speed through the turns. Too much water makes the track sticky and bumpy, though, conditions which result in an uncomfortable ride and an increase in potential for damage to the vehicles.
"It's always been like that," Imrie said.
The track, located a quick five-minute drive down Highway 75 from Winnipeg, kicks off 40 years of racing when the Pro Racing Series runs through the lightning sprints, street stocks, super stocks, modifieds, late models and super truck events. The track has seen a renaissance in recent years, with stable ownership and improvements to the facility in general, Ward Imrie said, but the level of competition has also improved.
It's made for a more enjoyable experience as a driver, he said.
"In all the classes, the racing has gotten better," said Ward, who's been a full-time participant for the last four seasons. "I know in my class (modifieds), five of six guys can win any given week. That's pretty cool when it's like that.
"It's a lot more fun for everyone."
Besides the weekly Thursday night lineup, the speedway is also hosting a Pure Stock Series on Mondays this summer (starting in June), featuring four-cylinders, pure stock 8-cylinders and Midwest modified classes.
Hot laps start at 7 p.m. on race days with racing getting underway at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors.