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Alaskans Don’t Seem to Realize How Much They Love Motorsports

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Day at the Race. Courtesy of Shepard Famly Photos. All rights reserved.
Day at the Race. Courtesy of Shepard Family Photos. All rights reserved.

Alaska thrives on competition. Whether it’s for worst dressed city, biggest state by land mass or longest sled dog race, Alaska loves to be number one.

More to the point, Alaskans love to race and participate in footraces, bicycle races, snow machine races, motorboat races, kayak and canoe races, horse racing, dog mushing and even rubber duck and cardboard boat races. Alaskans race. A lot.

Naturally, Alaskans also race cars and more so than one might think.

Alaska is home to or takes part in street, drag and stock car racing, as well as road rallies – including the Alcan 5000, a 3,000+ mile race from Washington to Alaska along the Alaska-Canada Highway held every other year.

There are racetracks in Fairbanks, North Pole, Willow, Palmer, Anchorage, Kenai, Soldotna, Tanacross and Kodiak. The tracks range from paved to dirt and from oval tracks to road courses. Short of a track fit for a Grand Prix (Alaska has too much permafrost), the Last Frontier has it all.

It is surprising then that motorsports aren’t bigger in Alaska.

The truth of the matter is: they are. Motorsports make up a silent majority of racing attractions in Alaska. While the engines may be loud, their presence is seemingly lost on the wind.

Alaska Raceway Park 1998.  Courtesy of Shepard Family Photos. All rights reserved.
Alaska Raceway Park 1998. All rights reserved.

While Alaska’s passion for car racing may be hard to measure, there is certainly a strong sense of it to be found everywhere. Every year rally races are held at both the Tanana Valley State Fair and the Alaska State Fair. There are stock and sprint car races held annually in both Fairbanks and Palmer. The Mitchell Raceway in Fairbanks will celebrate its 45th anniversary in 2014; the Alaska Raceway Park in Palmer will celebrate its 50th.

There are also numerous racing organizations including the Fairbanks Racing Lions, Alaska Sports Car Lions Club, the 49th State Street Rodders, the Midnight Sun Street Rod Association, the Alaska Miata Club, Elite Car Club of Alaska and the Greater Fairbanks Racing Association. There are at least a dozen car enthusiast clubs in the Mat-Su Valley alone.

Fur Rondy 1977. Courtesy of Shepard Family Photos. All rights reserved.
Fur Rondy 1977. All rights reserved.

While motorsports have yet to become an ubiquitous state pursuit (like dog mushing), it is a sport that has deep roots in Alaska. With its scenic highways, dirt byways and a thirst for competition, it is only a matter of time before Alaska’s love affair with motorsports becomes well-know. In time it may even become standard; like a hula girl on a dashboard.

For now, the rev of the engines may be lost on the wind, but the locals know where to go to hear them. With so many miles of open road the roar can only grow from here.

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