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Sycamore Speedway celebrates 50 years

Published: Friday, May 24, 2013 11:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, May 24, 2013 11:47 p.m. CDT
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Caption
(Gary L. Gates for Shaw Media)
Midget car driver Bob Adams loses control around turn four during qualifications on Saturday at the Sycamore Speedway in Maple Park, Ill. Saturday, May 18, 2013 Maple Park, Ill.

Roger Myers was sitting in the stands for the inaugural races when Sycamore Speedway first opened on May 30, 1963.

The now-81-year-old DeKalb resident can’t recall many details about opening night, but 50 years later, there isn’t much that’s happened at the speedway for which Myers hasn’t been present.

After an accident ended his racing career more than 30 years ago, Myers has been a regular at the track and a part of the safety team, riding in the ambulance that runs each weekend to help drivers with minor injuries.

“I just love it. I enjoy the races,” Myers said. “I enjoy the people, the atmosphere and everything.”

This summer Sycamore Speedway is honoring its 50th anniversary and next weekend will be its big celebration. On Friday, the Speedway plans to bring back a 50-lap Spectator feature race, something that used to be popular in the 1980s and 1990s, and a demolition derby.

“It’s definitely something that has been a lot of trial and error and a lot of, sometimes, anxiety,” said Tiffany Gerace, the Speedway’s general manager. “We’ve all stuck together and [kept] working.”

Gerace, a granddaughter of one of the Speedway’s original owners, said that balancing old traditions with new technology has been one of the keys to the Speedway’s success. The Speedway tries to draw younger fans while keeping in mind the interests of fans like Myers, who have been attending races for years.

Since its opening, the Speedway track has undergone small changes while keeping its original feel. A smaller track has been added and the oval has recently been resurfaced with more clay. In order to attract new fans, the Speedway has added new classes of racing, including the Super Late Models.

However, the Speedway sign off of Route 64 that was built in 1980 remains there today. The main building entrance to the speedway is the same one erected in the 1970s. According to Gerace, they provide a familiar sight to those fans who have been coming to the Speedway for years.

“They appreciate some of the technical things in the cars,” Gerace said. “Some of those rules that they ran in the mid-90s, we are still carrying some of those rules currently. We’ve tried to hold on to the nostalgia of older race cars and it’s worked well for us.”

Myers said he’s had tickets to the Daytona 500 since its inception. He goes to racing tracks throughout the winter when he’s in Florida and often frequents races held in Rockford and LaSalle. He even remembers going to DeKalb’s old Prather Speedway, which was in operation before Sycamore Speedway even opened.

While he’s seen many changes over the Speedway’s lifetime, Myers can’t imagine doing anything else on his summer weekends.

“I’ll probably do it until they either kick me out or I die,” Myers said. “One of the two.”

Shaw Media videographer Morgan Ellingson recently paid a visit to the track to capture this must-see video.

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