September 09, 2016
Summary: Spurred by a Convergence Design recommendation to eliminate the racing oval at the Allegany County Fairgrounds, a group has proposed an alternative form of motorsports to keep the track operational.
CUMBERLAND — Two local men are working to bring an alternative style of racing to the Allegany County Speedway.
"It is going to be fun and it is going to be a show, and that's going to be whether you're driving or you're watching," said Corey McKenzie, who hopes to bring folk racing to the track.
The form of racing originated in Finland in the 1960's and is widely known throughout Europe. Race speeds rarely exceed 60 mph and the sport is less financially draining on both racers and promoters, McKenziesaid.
"We want it to be very, very cheap," he said. "I want anyone who has aspirations to drive a race car to be able to afford it."
Last month, Allegany County officials announced the possible elimination of the racetrack based on a recommendation by Convergence Design, an architectural firm based in Kansas City, Missouri, hired by the county to generate an economic blueprint for the fairgrounds.
The firm suggested elimination of the half-mile track because it hasn't hosted a race in four years and doesn't generate revenue for the county.
McKenzieandCorey Zinkhan saw the track's possible elimination as an opportunity to start the entry-level form of racing locally.
"It's their property and they (county officials) don't want to see it just sitting there and not getting used," said McKenzie. "They'd definitely rather be making something out of it and holding events there, I think, regardless of what the events are."
The races have the blessing of county officials, as long as McKenzie and Zinkhan secure the proper insurance and pay a fee to rent the speedway.
"I'm happy they stepped up and I hope they can make it successful," said Jake Shade, commission president. "The county will be working with them to help any way we can."
Zinkhan and McKenzie are currently looking for an insurance agency willing to cover the minimum $3 million coverage required by the county before starting maintenance on the fairgrounds to remove rocks from the oval dirt track.
Zinkhan said folk racing features four-cylinder vehicles such as Dodge Neons or Chevrolet Cavaliers. The cars must have a cage and other safety features.
Zinkhan and McKenzie plan to use the center of the track, providing a course complete with obstacles that would include dirt jumps and a "whoop" section — track sections formed into the shape of waves for driving.
Up to six cars may compete in any folk race race and the winner receives a prize.
Due to the low speeds and track layout, steel guardrails — which the speedway doesn't have — aren't required.
"We don't have to mess with the walls at all," said Zinkhan. "We are controlling the speeds with the track layout, trying to keep it at 60 mph at most — that's pushing it."
According to Zinkhan, tires will be installed around light poles for extra safety.
"I take the safety thing very seriously and so does Corey (McKenzie)," said Zinkhan. "There's been stuff that has gone on at that track previously that has got it to the position that it is now, point blank, and we're not going to allow any of that to happen."
Zinkhan and McKenzie plan to host about five races per year. They said they would be willing to work with any additional promoters as well as cross promote any racetrack events.
"We don't want to interfere with what they (promoters) are doing," said Zinkhan. "It's what they've been doing. We just want to do something where we can go out and have fun and put on a show for people that come out to watch and make it incredibly affordable."
Follow staff writer Heather Wolford on Twitter @heatherbwolford.