Farewell Race City

Posted by: Kenny Chan onMarch 23rd, 2012

I started my dream with my hands gripped on a Canon 20D. Being a diehard fan of motorsports, cars, tuning and the entire scene it created it was only natural that in 2006 I stumbled into the gates of Race City with a shiny new Canon DSLR.

What I found was a plethora of activities in front of me. A magical mist of petrol, melted rubber, and air purified by the smell of race gas and burning tires lingered over the entire facility. Straight ahead of me was pro-stock racers powering their machines down the lustrous 1/4 mile, to my right was a group of cas cars roaring in the oval and the stands full of spectators taking in the days events. If you’re a car guy like me, then you’ll know the feeling you get the second you come through the front gates. Your trek through Calgary’s large urban sprawl was rewarded with the grace of love, power, scent and freedom.

I spent the next 4 years honing my skills as a motorsport and automotive photographer. I experienced every type of event possible at this race track and documented it with this Canon 20D to share with friends and family once it was over. Everything from drag racing, lapping track days, CMRA, CCRA, Spec-D, DMCC, Chump Car Racing I was in and around it like a kid on a cupcake. A true motorsport enthusiast does not judge, does not pick and choose which events to watch and participate in. A true enthusiast enjoys them all, and will do everything in their power to see it all. This was me, it did not matter what engine, how big or small the wheels nor how many wheels there was I loved it. I was at home. You can ask anybody who has ever come to Race City with me how big my smile was when I arrived to the track, ask them how bright I became and how happy I was.

Racing is, and was my life. I’ve not always participated but I’ve made it a part of my life to attend, and photograph these events. It didn’t stop at Race City either but spread to Castrol in Edmonton and the small oval course in Penticton for the DMCC Drifting events. This is where I lay my head at night, the sound of cars swinging sideways into and around walls and tires screaming at the pain they experience. Race City had a nice oval back in the day, home to Cascar and other oval racing, like the big and huge semi truck weekends. However, those didn’t quite pump my heart quite like drifting did. There was something about the scene, and the people around it that made me really feel like I was actually home.

From 2009-2011 I spent 5-6 months out of the year at Race City, 6-7 days a week. We had all heard the news that Race City was closing down and the doors would be shut forever. With the news that home was being destroyed I made it my mission to be there as much as humanly possible. I would arrive at 9am with fresh memory cards, charged batteries and a cooler full of lunch and water. I was armed and ready to go shoot! I would start shooting around 10am after people arrived at the Road Course for lapping or track days and events and end up leaving when my memory card was completely full or batteries were completely drained. Many times meeting and creating new and lasting friendships with people from all sorts of professions and furthering my dream to be a professional photographer.

DMCC Came into full tilt here in Calgary as well as Spec-D in these later years. There was always drifting to watch, once or twice a week I had an ultimate purpose to shoot drifting and help these guys promote the scene. To make events bigger and better and show the world that we’re not just a dot on a map. I’ve met so many great people along the way, but those friendships seem to be extinguished as well as the flame in my heart. Race City is now closed, I used to practically live there. I’m not sure what to do now, seeing as a week from this post I would be shooting my first lapping day of the year, re-connecting with friends I hadn’t seen over the course of our long winter and getting amped for new shooting and editing styles and filling the Facebook, g+ and blog sites and forums full of new forums of this springs action. It’s depressing and humbling to go to Race City today and see what is left.

I did that today, went with a good friend of mine. We walked into the facility to find nothing left. The place is turning unrecognizable. The front straight where I used to shoot people coming out of the carousel is a stretch of dirt. Empty, broken and not the same. The tower beside the burnout box is littered with graffiti tags and cordoned off to keep people out of it. Going to the top of the tower to see down the 1/4 struck the biggest feeling of emptiness over me. To your left you see the bus stop, torn out and nothing but dirt. To the right, you see all the bleachers gone. The same bleachers where many of us spent years of summers growing up and watching. Sparking relationships and traditions with our family and friends. It’s all gone now, and it will never be the same.

The oval is completely dirt as well, the big tires are gone, the huge spot lights that were never turned on for drifting are gone. The walls are crumbling, the fence and bleachers are gone and it’s disheartening to sit and stare. I stood there for 5 minutes looking into the infield of the oval re-living moments gone past. Moments from practices, moments from events and moments from my first days there as a child with my dad.

So why is Race City important to me? It helped me decide what I wanted to do. Developed my skills as a photographer, networked me with amazing people and made me realize that we have to look around us and cherish everything we have, because one day it will all be gone.

This was originally written by Dave from Evolize Photography and has been reposted with permission

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