There’s something about Flat Rock Speedway. Jack Wyman knows this as well as anyone.
One summer evening 60 years ago, the Carleton resident who played multiple roles on the track was counting gate receipts after completing a race card.
“These guys in a red Corvette showed up while the track gates were still open,” Wyman said. “They went onto the racetrack at (turn) #1, exited at #4 and exited and back onto Telegraph Road.
“I don’t know who it was. I never saw them again.
But they, like many “car enthusiasts”, couldn’t resist the lure of the freeway.
The quarter-mile track celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. First conceptualized by a group who wanted to turn farmland into a race track, Flat Rock Speedway came to life under the direction of Sheldon Hayes Sr.
Hayes’ paving company laid the quarter-mile track which completed the grandstands, restrooms and other newly constructed features, and by 1953 the downriver speed factory was operational and crowned its first late model and its figure 8 champions.
“Dedication, I guess,” Wyman said when asked why Flat Rock stood the test of time.
Ron Dreger, who bought a percentage of the track in 1982 and has been its majority owner for several years, said the size of the running surface is ideal for competitors who don’t have deep pockets.
“If you do a wreck, you don’t kill a car,” Dreger said. “You don’t need a monster engine. You don’t usually blow up engines here.
Pat Moran, owner of a racing team that has multiple sponsorship deals with the track, said integrity is another key.
“They should be proud because they put on a clean show,” the car dealership said. “They run honest tech. It’s regular week after week.
“They don’t move the goal post when you enter the end zone. Everyone must play by the same rules.
Moran Chevrolet is a late model division sponsor of Flat Rock. He was also a sponsor of Saturday’s Stan Yee Memorial 150, the track’s flagship race.
“We have locations in Taylor, Southgate, Clinton Township, North Clinton Township, Port Huron and Fort Gratiot,” Moran said. “We cover I 94. People sitting in these seats also cover I 94.
“It’s a good combination. It’s a good partnership. It has value for us.
Defending ARCA Moran Chevrolet Outlaw Super Late Model Division Champion Eric Lee resides in Macomb Township.
The five-time champion’s father and crew chief, Steve, raced at Mount Clemens Race Track.
The Lee’s story is not uncommon.
Several other families who ran at Mount Clemens turned to Flat Rock when the MCRT closed in 1985.
“That was the next track that everyone migrated to,” said Stan Yee Jr.
Dreger is still struck by the impact of runners at Mount Clemens roots.
“We’re talking about two generations now,” he said. “It’s amazing how many legacy Mount Clemens runners, fans and families are traveling this far, battling traffic and road construction to get here.”
Yee Jr. worked in several racing-related roles for his late father, who owned a Macomb County collision shop and owned several racing cares. Young Stan fixed cars and fitted tires, and he’s been driving in Flat Rock since 1992.
“I’ve been here forever, since I was 6 or 7,” the 2003 model champion said. “It’s been a big part of my life.”
Yee Jr. remembers sitting next to Wyman and watching 8 races when he was a kid.
And he looks forward to his son’s imminent riding debut in the enduro or factory stocks division.
“I have a lot of history here,” he said.
Dennis Strickland is reducing his racing schedule.
But like the men in that Corvette in the early 1960s, he still feels a love of speedway riding.
“I’ve been walking through that door since 1979,” said the Carleton resident. “I saw a lot of changes, a lot of different riders.”
Strickland, 64, won late model championships in 2007 and 2013. He has won 12 distance races in the division.
“This race track is known to change from weekend to weekend,” Strickland said. “If I have a really good race and the car was phenomenal, then next week it could be junk.
“There have been two repaves since I came here. Every time it’s repaved, it’s extremely fast, then it gets rough and slows down. This makes it a challenge over time.
Saturday’s card has the number 8, street stock and factory stock splits in action starting at 7 p.m.
Midget cars, karts, street stock and late model cars race on August 5, a Friday night lineup.
Championship night is August 27.