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Go-cart reaceway provides thrills for all ages

Monday, June 7, 2010

(Photo)
Twister Alley Raceway provides a great place to watch motorsports, featuring go-carts, winged sprint cars, motorcycles and even fourwheelers. All ages watch, and all ages race. It's the best family entertainment around for $3. [Times Photo by R.K. Wilson]
BUTTERFIELD -- Hidden on the southeastern edge of this hamlet, located between Purdy and Cassville, is a pocket of motorsports fun for racers of all ages.

Created by Tony Cope, Twister Alley Raceway is a dirt oval go-cart track that runs an eighth of a mile. What started as a simple need to fulfill a hobby has evolved into a regional draw for aspiring racers and enthusiasts, including entire families.

Piece by piece, Twister Alley has taken shape since its inception six years ago. After exposure to a go-cart racing event at Cassville's rodeo arena, Cope, 50, who happens to be Butterfield's mayor, dedicated a parcel of land he's owned for several decades.

With a track design supplied by a local auto parts supplier, the idea for a racing venue soon took shape. A friend in the grading business carved a track out of the field. Continual improvement and upgrades have been underway ever since. A true community enterprise, Twister Alley's infrastructure of lights, poles, wiring and bleachers were donated, including labor.

"It's not a business for me," said Cope on Saturday afternoon. "I wanted a place for me and my son Dillon to race. I did this for fun."

The inaugural, informal events on Sunday afternoons shifted to Friday nights, before Saturday evenings became the sweet spot. Two weeks ago, a record 71 racers competed. With spectators, Butterfield's population doubles in size on race night.

With other go-cart tracks at a distance in Springfield, Bolivar and Warrensburg, Twister Alley filled a niche, becoming a colorful attraction in an otherwise quiet community.

Twister's food concession stand is another testimony to free enterprise, featuring outstanding Mexican food with items for a buck or two to go along with the typical fare of snacks and soda.

Once spectators get situated on blankets, lawn chairs or in the bleachers, they witness competition from a racing bill made up of a dozen different classes of vehicles for three different age groups. Kids, grouped in ages 5-9 and 10-14, race for trophies in six-horsepower go-carts.

Adults race for modest cash purses in a variety of machine classes, including the 30-horsepower Briggs and Stratton cart class and modified class, sporting stock-appearing cars zooming around the eight-degree banked track. The winged sprint cars rachet-up the intensity with 500cc engines that push speeds past 50 miles per hour. Motorcycles and four-wheelers (ATVs) also race in their own separate classes.

The entry fee for kids' racing is $10. Adult racing for those 14 and older is $20. Admission for spectators is $3.

Twister Alley came into its own when an original track-building participant, Rob Wolf and his wife, Marci, brought a professional approach to the raceway. Wolf's construction business had supplied the clay surface, and two years ago, he struck a deal with Cope to manage the track's operation.

A generation or two ago, the drive-in movie theatre represented a passive weekend outing for families. In today's interactive era, Twister Alley presents a live-action attraction, which is relatively inexpensive to participate in and costs next to nothing to watch.

Families and other racing fans come together to share a unique bond when the assorted machines rev up and take to the track for the qualifying heat-races, leading to the roar of the class finals, known in speedway parlance as feature races.

From kindergarteners to retired stock car racers, the appeal is broad.

Brandi Morrison, 18, of Pierce City, is good example of the racing hobbyists. She's serious minded in her desire for speed, skill and machinery -- but it's driven by wanting to fully engage life in a mental and physical combination. With a family lineage racing stock cars, she's always had a penchant for motorsports and the attendant thrills.

"Most NASCAR drivers started with go-carts," said Morrison. "It's about smoothness, and with the economy, it's an affordable way to race."

A go-cart can be had for $1,000 or less, and with the other necessary gear, it's an expense that seems no greater than the stream of electronic gadgets that dominate teen life today.

Before discovering go-carts, Morrison was all about ATVs and the four-wheeler rodeos at Mt. Vernon. Her brother then expressed a desire to explore the mini-car version of racing.

"It didn't look fun to me," she said. "But then I tried it."

That led to acquiring a go-cart of own, and with a victory her first time out, she was hooked on the sport. This new venture introduced her to new friends and the hobby has now taken on a life of its own.

Twister Alley Raceway is located in Butterfield between Cassville and Purdy. From Highway 37, go to Route U and head east a mile and a quarter. After crossing railroad tracks, turn left on Maple and then take the first right. The gravel road is unmarked, so look for the stadium lights.

Admission is $3 for Saturday night events, which run through September. Hot laps start at 5 p.m. and the heat races follow. For more information, call 417-847-7158.



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