A NEW ERA: COPELAND'S ROLE IN REVITALIZING SILVER DOLLAR SPEEDWAY
2022-04-23 14:41dirtFan website https://dirtfan.com/dirtfan/assets/graphics/dirtfan-200x200.jpg
(4/22/2022 - Alex Nieten)... When the NARC Fujitsu General Sprint Cars arrive at Chico, California's Silver Dollar Speedway for the David Tarter Memorial next Saturday, it won't be just another race for the series and racetrack.
While the sanctioning body has made more than 200 trips to the historic facility, April 30th will mark NARC's first visit since SLC Promotions took command of the bullring. Last November when it was announced that the group composed of California-born racers Kyle Larson, Brad Sweet, and Colby Copeland would collectively handle promotional duties, a palpable excitement swept across the Nor-Cal sprint car scene.
The trio have set high expectations for themselves with ushering in a promising new era at Silver Dollar Speedway and helping the racing landscape in its entirety. With their racing schedules taking Larson and Sweet across the country throughout the year, Copeland has been spearheading the hands-on efforts over the past few months and looks to continue doing so for the foreseeable future.
For the Roseville native, an important role at the Butte County facility that has close ties to his family and helped shape him as a racer is a special opportunity.
"It's been cool. My dad was actually real close with Alan Handy and John Padjen," Copeland explained. "So, I actually started racing in the outlaw kart there in the pavilion at Silver Dollar Speedway... Justin Grant and I would race there every weekend, and I'd go back and forth with him.
"The outlaw kart deal kind of moved out of there," Copeland continued. "And then when I started racing sprint cars that was where my first race was when they did 410 Friday nights at Chico. That's where we mostly ran."
As he progressed through his early racing career Copeland developed lasting friendships with both Larson and Sweet. The three grew an interest in promoting as an avenue to get more involved in the racing scene of their home region. Copeland dabbled in promotion on a smaller level, and the desire to try more intensified.
"I've actually done a couple of outlaw kart races up there at Red Bluff," Copeland said. "It turned out really well. There were great car counts. The events were cool, I thought. It's cool to try your different ideas and see them come to life."
When it comes to ideas for Silver Dollar Speedway, SLC Promotions has wasted no time in making some of their visions a reality. After the deal became official, the new crew surveyed the facility and immediately got to work.
"It was a lot of clean up at first, trying to organize and just really see what we had bought and what we had. Those are the kind of upgrades a lot of people don't see but we see, just cleaning and organizing," Copeland commented. "And then we got the new fencing going and brought in some new dirt. In the concession stand we bought new equipment and brought our guy Julio in to try and make the food better. Those are definitely a few upgrades, I think, that have helped and made that area more inviting."
Copeland and company have no intentions of slowing down on improving the Butte County bullring. They've prioritized hearing out feedback from both racers and fans and acting accordingly. Copeland says they're already focused another major project.
"One that we're trying to work on, but it's just so expensive is getting a new sound system in there," Copeland said. "The whole place is just hurting badly on sound. In the grandstands the amp gets too hot, and then the volume loses. It's got no bass. The pit speakers, we hear from everybody, are horrible. You can't hear anything in the pits to call races up or anything, so the sound system is another upgrade we're trying to work on. It's just super expensive, but hopefully one of these days soon we can get something new in there."
Another potentially beneficial element of Copeland's promotional style is his approach to race day. At the John Padjen Classic Silver Cup back in March, Copeland showed his intentions to be a diligent promoter that helps wherever he can.
On the first night of the Silver Cup rain pummeled Chico for about an hour in the afternoon. Once the skies cleared Copeland climbed aboard a tractor to help roll the surface in with the rest of his track crew. Over the course of the night, he jumped around wherever he was needed in the pit area and helped check on drivers following crashes and assisted in the ensuing clean up. Copeland takes inspiration from the better promoters he's studied.
"People that see a promoter that puts effort into it, they want to support them," Copeland said. "If you get a promoter out there that's working hard, wanting a good track surface, wants the show to run great, smooth, and all that kind of stuff that's a guy that I want to go support."
On the actual racing side, SLC Promotions is shooting for the stars as well. One way they hope to help both the racing events at Silver Dollar Speedway and across the West Coast is add to the ongoing effort to build momentum for 410 sprint cars in the region. While all three of them have made plenty of 360 starts, the 410 division is what most helped their driving development, and it's seen as the premier class of sprint cars in the country.
They've already announced plans to revive the Gold Cup Race of Champions featuring the World of Outlaws into the hugely prestigious event it once was. On a more local note, they hope to heighten NARC's car count by offering more lucrative events that make running a 410 more worthwhile.
"We want to pay a respectable purse," Copeland said. "We want people to think, 'man, I'm going to move from the 360 up to the 410 to the next level.' That's the biggest thing is to try and get the car count up. I know the NARC series has seen some struggles but also the strides they've made getting more cars. So, hopefully at the show at the end of the month we can get a bunch of cars to celebrate the Brownell and Herseth Classic on Friday, and then obviously the David Tarter Memorial is usually pretty big for Saturday."
With all these new responsibilities and major aspirations for Silver Dollar Speedway, it begs a big question - when will Copeland have time to race? The 30-year-old proved just two weeks ago that he's got plenty of quality laps left in him by winning the NARC season opener. Unfortunately, there will be times where he's forced to miss an occasional race. Obligations in Chico would've kept Copeland away from Hanford two weeks ago even if dangerous winds hadn't forced the cancellation of the Anthony Simone Classic.
"I guess with Hanford being canceled I was probably the only one to be happy about that," Copeland said with a laugh.
Fear not, though, Colby Copeland fans. Even though he'll be busy with the process of revitalizing Silver Dollar Speedway, Copeland plans to strap into a sprint car any chance he gets with his sights on more checkered flags.
"I'm just going to try and race as much as I can," Copeland said. "I just want to support all the other tracks as much as I can."