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Dirt racing returns: Empire Mine Speedway welcomes Dwarf Class, Outlaw Karts

Racing fans cheer on their favorite Dwarf Class kart competitors Friday at the Empire Mine Speedway at the Nevada County Fairgrounds Arena.
Photo: Elias Funez

The stadium lights shone, the crowds cheered, and the checkered flags waved as dirt track racing made its return to the Empire Mine Speedway at the Nevada County Fairgrounds Arena Friday night.

After making a brief return in 2019 with Vintage Duels racing at the fairgrounds, the event returned for 2022 and has also paved the way for Outlaw Kart racing, which will return to the speedway July 22 as well as Wednesday night at the upcoming Nevada County Fair.

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

Thomas Moss in his 38v Dwarf Class kart, gets a little wall ride as he is signaled for his last lap during a heat of the Vintage Duels race Friday at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
Photo: Elias Funez

“Racing started out a little slow, but then they really started banging each other and racing really hard.”

Husband and wife duo Patrick and Kathryn Weger have payed homage to the history of racing in Nevada County with the creation of the Empire Mine Speedway, a tribute to the former Glenbrooke Raceway of the mid-1800s, and the Ernie Purssell Raceway, which operated at the fairgrounds arena until the mid-’90s, including those who dedicated their lives to it.

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

“It definitely creates people to have to work hard for what they want, you got to put a lot of effort into it and it’s good for the kids to focus on,” Weger said.

Driver Tyler Quilty lifts his Dwarf class kart Friday in between heats at the Empire Mine Speedway Friday.
Photo: Elias Funez

Both Outlaw Karts and Dwarf Class karts race at the 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 wheel base, 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 the larger Sprint cars — aside from suspension and overall horsepower — many drivers that 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 make their way around the Empire Mine Speedway during Friday’s competition.
Photo: Elias Funez

The 1000cc street bike engines in the Dwarf karts utilize in-line four cylinder engines with custom exhausts and drivelines that provide a lopsided power to weight ratio that can be challenging for racers to master.

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

Eight lap heat races or 10 minutes, are followed by the B Main(s) 15 laps or 10 minutes, then the A Main(s) 20 laps or 20 minutes.

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

After a racer is bested by their opponent, they leave the track, then get in line to try to challenge the top racer left in the arena.

Race fans cheer on racer Dan Geil as he prepares to re-enter the Empire Mine Speedway for his heat during Friday’s Vintage Duels.
Photo: Elias Funez

“And the guys who were out 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 as they both eliminated each other once, with “Spanky” Mike Grenert in the 12n car rounding out the top three drivers of the evening.

“It seems like the two events that we’ve put together have been entertaining to the crowd,” Weger said.

“Hopefully, it is something that will stay around and can expand outside of the county. The format is easy to follow for those who aren’t race fans.”

To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez email, efunez@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

The checkered flag waves for Brenden Shrum in the 50n car while Dan Geil in the 32n car follows closely behind during a heat of the David Pettis Memorial Vintage Duels II dirt track racing event held at the Empire Mine Speedway at the Nevada County Fairgrounds Friday. The event is just one of a handful of scheduled racing events at the fairgrounds.


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