Dirt racing returns; Empire Mine Speedway welcomes the dwarf class, Outlaw Karts

Racing fans cheer on their favorite dwarf-class kart competitors Friday at Empire Mine Speedway at Nevada County Fairgrounds Arena.
Photo: Elias Funez

Stadium lights shone, the crowd cheered and checkered flags flew as track racing returned to Empire Mine Speedway at Nevada County Fairgrounds Arena Friday night.

After making a brief return in 2019 with Vintage Duels races at the fairgrounds, the event returned for 2022 and also paved the way for Outlaw Kart races, which will return to the circuit on July 22 as well as Wednesday evening during the next Nevada County Fair. .

“The crowd was definitely on their feet and on the edge of their seats. It really seemed like people were having fun and happy to be there,” said race organizer Patrick Weger.

Thomas Moss in his 38v Dwarf Class kart, gets a quick wall spin as he is flagged for his final lap during a round of the Vintage Duels race Friday at Nevada County Fairgrounds.
Photo: Elias Funez

“The race started a bit slow, but then they really started bumping into each other and running really hard.”

Husband and wife duo Patrick and Kathryn Weger paid homage to Nevada County’s racing history with the establishment of Empire Mine Speedway, a tribute to the former Glenbrooke Raceway from the mid-1800s, and the Ernie Purssell Raceway, which operated as a fairground arena until the mid-1990s, including those who dedicated their lives to it.

The Wegers envision a new era of racing and inspiration in the sport and hope the seasonal track with multiple races scheduled will help keep motorsport racing alive in Nevada County.

“It definitely forces people to work hard for what they want, it takes a lot of effort and it’s good for kids to focus on it,” Weger said.

Driver Tyler Quilty lifts his midget class kart Friday between rounds at Empire Mine Speedway on Friday.
Photo: Elias Funez

Outlaw Karts and Dwarf Class Karts race at Empire Mine Speedway, and both provide a challenge for their drivers that can help propel them to excellence if they stick with it.

“With their wheelbase and tire size, they’re pretty squirrelly,” Weger said. “More on the difficult side of driver difficulty.”

With a wing on top and similar to larger Sprint cars—aside from suspension and overall power—many drivers who come out of the open 500cc Outlaw Kart class will go out and win their first race in a Sprint car, according to Weger.

Vintage Duels competitors race around Empire Mine Speedway during Friday’s competition.
Photo: Elias Funez

The 1000cc street bike engines of the midget karts use inline-four engines with custom exhausts and transmissions that provide an unbalanced power-to-weight ratio that can be difficult for racers to master.

However, the unique two-on-two duel racing style the Wegers used at Empire Mine Speedway allows new or less experienced racers to hone their skills quickly.

Elimination races of eight laps or 10 minutes, are followed by Main(s) B 15 laps or 10 minutes, then Main(s) A 20 laps or 20 minutes.

“It’s unique to drive two cars,” Weger said. “Kind of like a (mixed martial arts) and a track race at the same time.”

After a runner is beaten by their opponent, they leave the track and then line up to attempt to challenge the best remaining runner in the arena.

Racing fans cheer on racer Dan Geil as he prepares to head back to Empire Mine Speedway for his race in Friday’s Vintage Duels.
Photo: Elias Funez

“And the guys who were there earlier are getting more and more experience and finding new lines,” Weger said.

Mike Reeder in the 72n car and Dillon Shrum in the 31n car shared the championship spot for the evening by both eliminating each other once, with “Spanky” Mike Grenert in the 12n car rounding out the evening’s top three drivers .

“It looks like the two events we’ve put on have been entertaining for the crowd,” Weger said.

“Hopefully it’s something that sticks around and can expand outside of the county. The format is easy to follow for those who are not racing fans.

To contact multimedia journalist Elias Funez, email [email protected] or call 530-477-4230.

Kristen T. Prall