This Saturday and Sunday, the seasoned dirt track will experience a first as it features horsepower in the purest sense of the word as the Midwest Chuckwagon Racing Association races along the three-eighths of a mile track.
"We are extremely excited about this opportunity," said Randy Mooneyham, owner of the Monett Speedway. "On Saturday, the chuckwagons will race for the first time under the lights on a permanent track. We wanted to feature this race in the cooler part of the day and under the lights."
"T.J. White explained the basics of the sport and I was blown away," said Mooneyham. "I really think this type of race could become an annual event and a feature event at the race track. Normally, the association races in an open field. The racers are extremely excited to have an opportunity to race under the lights."
For race cars, a hard, wet and tacky surface is the desireable standard, but for this race, a slightly different surface will be needed.
"The chuckwagon racers want a loose base on the track to aid sliding around the corners," said Mooneyham. "We are just going to put enough water on the track to settle the dust."
For White, of Purdy, the race is its own reward.
"I fell in love with chuckwagon racing the very first time I sat on a wagon," said White. "The adrenaline rush, the movement and raw power of the animals and the amount of skill it take to drive an unstable wagon makes it such an enjoyable sport. There is nothing that come closes to the rush you get when you get your wagon up to full speed."
The rules for chuckwagon racing are unique to the racing sport. Each race begins with three-man teams at the starting line. White's team consists of his son, Lucas, and Shawn Spurlock.
|The driver sits in the wagon, reining back the ponies, mules or horses. A "cook" stands behind the wagon, ready to toss a simulated bedroll into the back.||Another team member waits nearby with the reins of his horse in one hand and the handle to a "cook stove," typically just a box or satchel, in the other.|
|At the starter's command, the cook loads the bedroll and hops aboard the wagon. The starter fires his pistol, and the third team member, called the outrider, tosses his stove into the wagon before mounting his steed. Both teams must round a barrel and then proceed to race around an oval track. According to the rules of the sport, the outrider must cross the finish line ahead of the team's wagon.||"Your wagon can be the fastest wagon out there, but if that outrider's not ahead of you at the finish, you come back with no time," said White.|
Racers are matched based on the size and type of animals they drive. Categories include 46-inch mules, 46-inch ponies, 52-inch mules, 52-inch ponies, "big mules" and "big horses."
White has two-horse teams with which he competes: "Got the Runz" in the 46-inch ponies division and Kentucky Derby Rejects in the 52-inch horses division.
The pinnacle of the sport is the buckboard and classics division, which features traditional horse-drawn vehicles and full-sized animals and no ball-bearings to smooth the ride.
"Buckboard racing is definitely the most dangerous," said White. "We race for bragging rights, and the person who wins the buckboard race earns that honor."
Races are set to begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 9 and 1 p.m. on Sunday, July 10. Gates will open two hours before the race begins. Additional information can be found at the Speedway's website at www.monettspeedway.net.