Column By: BRIAN WALKER / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – PAIGE, TX – There’s no quit in Texas. Cotton Bowl Speedway, in Paige, TX, is a prime example of that.
It’s had to suffer rain, a pandemic and a severe snowstorm in the past two years, forcing the cancellation of multiple World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series events. However, its determination to host the World of Outlaws again has never faltered.
That Texas-tough attitude is bringing The Greatest Show on Dirt back to Cotton Bowl Speedway this Friday and Saturday, March 19-20, for the Drydene Texas Two-Step presented by American Lube Supply. This will be the Series’ first time back at the 3/8-mile track since 2018.
“It’s a shame the Series hasn’t been able to race at Cotton Bowl the past few years due to varying factors, so we’re excited to bring the World of Outlaws back to Texas this weekend for a fun two-night event,” said Carlton Reimers, World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Director and Texas-native. “Cotton Bowl Speedway is a great facility and its team did a good job getting it ready in a short amount of time to allow for this weekend to happen.”
Rain plagued the Series’ return to the speedway in 2019 and then hours before the start of the event in 2020, the growing emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the event. Knowing the level of interest from the fans and the track’s ability to produce thrilling racing, the World of Outlaws worked with the speedway to create a doubleheader event this year in February. Then, as Mary Ann Naumann, the owner and operator of Cotton Speedway called it, “Snowvid” hit Texas.
A massive snowstorm, accompanied by record-setting freezing temperatures, hit nearly the entire state, creating hazardous conditions. Millions were initially left without power. Thousands were stuck in their homes. And a few deaths were reported.
Cotton Bowl Speedway was prepared for the storm to hit, according to Naumann, but no one expected the impact to be as severe as it was.
“We really prepped the track really well with the plumbing and everything like that,” Naumann said. “We were completely ready. The first night of the storm, we lost electricity. So, we froze almost from the first night. Then, we couldn’t get to the racetrack. When the water finally unfroze, we had flooding issues. We had flooding in VIP (suite) and race control. Flooding in the restrooms. We lost the ceilings in the restrooms in the pit area. Our concessions got flooded. It was really a nightmare.
“It’s been none stop for us. But things are looking up. We had a race last weekend, and everything went great. We were like, ‘How did we even do this?’ But we pulled it off. We’re excited. Everyone is excited.”
With the track crew’s ability to get the facility ready in time, and, coincidentally enough, the cancellation of the West Coast Swing due to COVID, the Series was able to push the Texas Two-Step to a new date a couple of weeks later.
The excitement for the event is growing among the local communities, Naumann said. Not only does the arrival of teams and fans bring in more business to the town, but the locals are just ready to see the World of Outlaws back at the speedway.
“I think even more so (this year) because the couple of years of excitement was there and then wasn’t able to happen,” Naumann said. “I know there’s been a lot of chatter going on in the town close to us, which is Bastrop. It has the haulers in there at different hotels and stuff. The excitement is even more because they see the big haulers and everything. I think the community is excited. We love that we’re an outdoor venue and blessed that we’re able to do this. And that people get to be out and about and be safe at the same time. I think they can have good family fun and see exciting action on the racetrack.”
Fans could see multiple historic milestones reached at the track this weekend. It starts with the doubleheader being the Series’ first two-day event at the track. Currently, the Series has only made two visits to Cotton Bowl Speedway – in 2016 and 2018.
Two-time defending Series champion Brad Sweet picked up the win in 2016 and 2019 Knoxville Nationals champion David Gravel won in 2018. A win for either of them at the track would be their 60th career World of Outlaws victory. Both have one win this year. Gravel is the most recent winner, outdueling Sweet for the win in a spectacular race at The Rev.
Another milestone win could come from 10-time Series champion Donny Schatz. He’s on the verge of his 300th career World of Outlaws victory.
Aaron Reutzel, of Clute, TX – less than 3 hours from Cotton Bowl – will be on the hunt for his first home-state win with the World of Outlaws. The leading Rookie of the Year contender picked up his third career win, and first of the year, at East Bay Raceway Park, by following the driving style of his idol and fellow Texas native Gary Wright.
So far, in six races, there have been six different winners in 2021. That streak could go to seven and eight this weekend – a streak that hasn’t been reached since 2015.
“I’m so excited,” Naumann said. “I’m excited about the double night. The enthusiasm is great. We’ve worked really hard on the track even though we’ve had to overcome a lot of objectives. But the track looks good and we’re so excited.”
If you’re unable to make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision with the annual Platinum FAST PASS subscription for $299/year or the monthly FAST PASS subscription for $39/month.