By Jimmy Dearing – St. Louis, MO (December 10th, 2016) – Almost a year ago (back in February during Florida Speedweeks), Cody Sommer and Jeremy Burnett made the huge announcement that they were going to promote a huge indoor race for dirt late models and modifieds in St. Louis, MO at The Dome at America’s Center. Every since then, it has been talked about and debated by everyone in the dirt racing media along with drivers and fans. This coming weekend, what has probably been the most talked about event in dirt racing in 2016, will finally take center stage.
One fact we all know, it is going to be a huge event. There were 400 pre-entries and that is only because the promoters finally had to make the decision to stop allowing new entries. There will also be a lot of fans in attendance. The Dome at America’s Center (formerly known as the Edward Jones Dome) will seat just over 66,000 people. Of course there won’t be near that many people there, but one would figure there would be 15,000 to 25,000 on hand.
The Dome at America’s Center opened in 1995 for the St. Louis Rams as they made the move from Las Angeles to St. Louis (of course we all know they have since moved back to LA). The Dome at America’s Center has hosted everything from Pope John Paul II in 1999 to the NCAA Mens Basketball Final Four in 2005 to various concerts. But The Dome at America’s Center also hosts annual motorsports events such as AMA Supercross events and Monster Jam monster truck events. Now we get to have a dirt oval built on the floor of the dome and for the first time since 1982 (when the Super Bowl of Dirt took place inside the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit), we will get to see dirt late models and modifieds race inside at a modern facility.
Of course this event has had its naysayers out there in social media land. Those concerned about track size and ventilation. So lets address those two things here in this column. The track is small, it is a 1/5 mile. You say a 1/5 mile track is too small for late models and modifieds. Just across the Mississippi River lies Belle-Clair Speedway, another 1/5 mile low banked track that host weekly late model and modified racing along with a UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals event annually. Belle-Clair Speedway has also hosted the World of Outlaw Late Model Series in the past. Then just two hours to the northeast of St. Louis lies Macon Speedway. Macon Speedway is also a tight 1/5 mile dirt oval that hosts late models and modifieds weekly and has a UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals event annually and also runs a Lucas Oil Late Model Series event annually. So as far as the size of the track goes, we will see some tight, fender rubbing racing that should provide for some great excitement. Yea, there will be cautions and there will be some wrinkled up sheet metal, but I have no doubt there will be some great racing action!
Now the other big concern many have is the ventilation. Many people have been to other indoor events (primarily midget racing) and the fumes can be overwhelming at times. What does The Dome at America’s Center have over many of these other facilities? The Dome at America’s Center has a ventilation system that turns over the entire volume of air inside the dome every 20 minutes. So they can basically replace every bit of air inside the dome with fresh air from outside every 20 minutes. With the ventilation system constantly running, it should keep the fumes at an acceptable level.
Hopefully lots of fans will turn out to support this event so it can become even bigger and better in the future. If you can’t make it to St. Louis this coming weekend, you can still support the event by purchasing the PPV of the event from DirtOnDirt.com.
For those of you attending the show in person, a couple of things to keep in mind. The forecast for next weekend in St. Louis is for very cold weather with high temps in the 20s and low temps dipping near single digits at night. The race is indoors of course, but with the air handlers running at full capacity it will be chilly inside the dome. You will need a jacket or hoodie inside the dome. Bring appropriate warm clothes for when you leave afterwards. You will most likely have to walk a good ways to your car or hotel. Those of you traveling into St. Louis for the event and not used to the “big city”, be aware that there is no official parking lot for the dome. You will most likely pay for parking at a nearby parking garage or open parking lot. If you are staying at a hotel in downtown St. Louis, I would highly recommend you leave your car at the hotel and either walk, take a taxi or Uber to the dome (advantage of it being in the city is taxi and Uber service). Also keep in mind that the concessions in the dome are run by the dome and their contractors. Food and drink prices will be the same type prices as they are for other events in the dome (fairly high).
Those of you that plan to stay outside of downtown and want to use the Metro (train service), please note that the Metro pretty much stops running shortly after midnight each night. Just depending on where you are going as to the exact time of the last train.
There are plenty of things to do and great places to eat around downtown St. Louis. The Lumiere Casino and Hotel are across the highway from the dome and they are connected via a tunnel known as Lumiere Link. The tunnel is staffed 24 hours a day by Lumiere staff. If you have kids with you, they can go to the Lumiere Casino and Hotel, they just cannot go into the gaming area of the casino. Also near the dome is a section of town known as Laclede’s Landing which has numerous restaurants, bars and night clubs.
If your plans were to visit the famed Gateway Arch while in town, please keep in mind that it is in the middle of a $400 million renovation. You can go to the base of the Arch and such, but you will not be able to go up to the top of the Arch as it is currently closed as part of the renovation. Another great place to visit in downtown is the City Museum. If you have never visited the City Museum, I promise it is unlike anything you have ever seen before. It is also a great place to take your kids.
Now lets talks about some of the places to grab a great meal while in St. Louis. Some of my favorite places will require you to drive (or taxi – Uber) to them. St. Louis has two very top notch BBQ restaurants. The first one I will talk about is named Pappy’s Smokehouse. It is simply fantastic. Sharing the building with Pappy’s Smokehouse is another awesome restaurant for those of you who love Nashville Hot Chicken. Known as “Southern”, they offer 6 different heat ranges of classic fried chicken. They share the same dining area as Pappy’s so if going in a large group, you can all have different choices between the two restaurants. The other great BBQ “joint” in St. Louis is located over in the Soulard area of town and is named Bogart’s Smokehouse.
Just around the corner from Bogart’s Smokehouse is another St. Louis establishment that offers decent food and lots of adult beverages along with an adult atmosphere is The Social House. The Social House is a large sports bar with a twist, the waitresses are basically topless with creative body paint covering them. Of course this is an adult only establishment.
Another great fried chicken restaurant that is famous in St. Louis is named Hodak’s. Then there are a couple of fantastic sandwich shops as well in St. Louis, my personal favorite is the Blues City Deli but some other great ones are Nora’s and Gioia’s.
St. Louis is known for some great Italian food. There is the Spaghetti Factory located near the dome in the Laclede’s Landing area, but for those wanting a serious Italian flavor, you can visit the section of St. Louis known as The Hill. With some great restaurants such as Charlie Gitto’s, Rigazzi’s, Guido’s, Zia’s, Cunetto’s and Anthonino’s to name a few.
But we are all here for the racing! On Thursday, December 15th at 3pm, the Gateway Dirt Nationals get underway with qualifying followed by Non-Qualifier events! The on Friday night, late models and modifieds will each race for $5,000 to win followed by Saturday’s $20,000 to win late model event and $10,000 to win modified event!