Belle-Clair Speedway in Belleville, IL
Dirt tracks are typically buried off in the hills or standing alone while surrounded by corn. That’s not the case in Belleville, IL.
Belle-Clair Speedway is a badass 1/5 mile high-banked bullring. It’s been here awhile. So long that it still has wooden walls. The dirt track also happens to sit inside of a relatively populated town that has grown around the racetrack. How large? The town is home to 42,034 residents.
Instead of the dirt track neighboring corn stalks, homes bump up against the complex. A McDonalds sits across the street.
Dennis Tribout runs the show at Belle-Clair Speedway when Kevin Brown busy on the POWRi side. Dennis used to be a racer himself. Thus, he’s known to the local racers as “Big Daddy” Tribout.
I visited Belle-Clair Speedway recently. I was curious to hear how well this situation works out with the city itself.
Dennis Tribout declares with a smile, “That’s a tough proposition. We’ve been here since 1953, I believe. Or maybe the late 40’s.”
“It started as a midget track. The city has grown around us. Now, we’re under a strict curfew now of 11PM.”
Typically dirt tracks will have a very small nearby population to draw from. The end up spending a bulk of their campaign budget, if there is one at the closest city. Sometimes, that city could be 20 minutes away or more.
At Belle-Clair Speedway, the track is in the city. Simply the sound of the cars is a weekly advertisement for residents. But, I see disadvantages to this very situation.
Advantages? Dennis talks crowds and sponsors, “A lot to draw from, that’s correct. A lot of sponsors to draw from [too].”
That’s something I hadn’t considered at all. It’s not just a large population to occupy the grandstands. It’s also a city full of businesses to fill the billboards that rest behind the wooden walls.
What happens if you go over curfew? Slap on the wrist? “The police will show up and shut us down. That’s the way it happens.”
Has that even happened? “Only once. We had 158 cars that night.”
Author: Shane Walters