WEST HAVEN, Vt.
At 'This Place in History', we're in West Haven with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.
"We are celebrating 'Anything for Speed'! And we're here at Devil's Bowl Speedway and we're going to talk to Justin St. Louis who is going to tell us about the history and what is going on here today," introduced Perkins.
"It's an odd history and Vermont is known for odd histories. Devil's Bowl opened in 1967. C.J. Richards and his family built the track here on literally farm land in West Haven. The track was dirt until 1970. It was paved in '71 and ran as an asphalt track until '74. Then it was dirt again in '75 through 2009, asphalt again in 2010 through last year and now we're dirt again," explained St. Louis.
"Asphalt is easier to maintain, easier for us to prepare. We really don't have to do anything do it. Dirt, the racing is more exciting, but it is a lot more work. Racing works in cycles no matter where you go across the country. Here in West Haven, they've tried it several times in different ways; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Right now dirt is trending, not only in this region but across the country. And this is kind of dirt country, anyway. It's what the fans want and what the racers want. And we're ready for a change," said St. Louis.
"In 1970, Will Cagle from Tampa, Florida came up here and he was the guy to beat. He stomped on the locals. It was getting to the point where fans were booing him, he won so much. Vince Quenneville Sr. out of Brandon, Vermont, was kind of the big dog here, track champion in '68 and '69. In 1970, they built a car to beat Cagle. By God, he did it on the first night."
"They called it the Cagle Killer and what an ugly, rattletrap looking car it was, terrible looking race car. But it was the fastest thing they'd ever seen. And it beat Cagle. That's the race 45 years later that everybody says I was there that night, I remember when Quenneville beat Cagle," said St. Louis.
"What's the future of Devil's Bowl? What's the future of racing in Vermont if you can get your crystal ball out?" asked Perkins.
"If I knew, I would tell you. Right now the future of Devil's Bowl is dirt racing. You know we had the asphalt track and we had the smaller dirt track in the infield for four years. We ran both tracks simultaneously Saturdays and Sundays every week. It was a lot of work. So we've scaled back to one big track on the dirt. It's got all of our focus, all of our attention. For the foreseeable future, that's where we're going to be," said St. Louis.
Opening weekend 2018 is Memorial Day weekend.
"We are excited, man. Sunday we open the gates and 11 A.M. to 1 P.M. is a free fan festival and car show. You can come in the pits, meet the drivers, see the cars up close. And then the dirt will fly at 5 o'clock on Sunday night. You know, knock on wood, we're thinking we're going to have more than one hundred cars in the pits and it's going to be great," concluded St. Louis.
Punching our ticket for opening weekend at Devil's Bowl Speedway...
At 'This Place in History'!
For more from our 'This Place in History' series, click here.
To view a map of Vermont's roadside historic markers, click here.
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