NEAR SLIDELL — Could a racetrack located just southeast of Cooke County have as much effect on FM 51 weekend traffic as Texas Motor Speedway has on Interstate Highway 35?

Eagles Canyon Raceway, located 15 miles west of Sanger on FM 455, near Slidell, and south of Era on FM 51, aims to draw in 80,000 people to events at some point in the future.

“We’re building an international racetrack,” said Jim Humphrey, a Southlake resident and vice president for Eagles Canyon. “But it’s not going to be another Texas Motor Speedway.”

In an interview last week, Humphrey said the raceway is the dream of David and Linda Cook, who invested about $3.5 million to build the track as a subsidiary of their Global Motorsports Inc. company.

“We’re already seeing economic impact,” Humphrey said.

Nearby property went up in value “significantly” in the past few months, he said.

“Not only will there be development right there around the track but it will affect Denton, Decatur and all the outlying communities, and even Gainesville,” Humphrey said. “There will be a lot of service industries.”

Situated on gentle rise on more than 400 acres in rural Wise County, the Cooks hope the track will soon become the premiere track built to Formula One specifications within several states.

Formula-style cars are known for featuring a single seat and an open cockpit, and can reach speeds exceeding 200 mph.

The track also meets Sports Car Club of America and Grand-Am standards, making it a proper racing course for road-legal cars, motorbikes, vintage racers and other high-performance cars. Humphrey said the track would not be for NASCAR races or heavy truck racing.

A small army of bulldozers and paving equipment carved out a pathway for a 2.6-mile track, which already had a test run in May, with about 100 club members who came to test it out.

“And we’re not even open yet,” Humphrey said, with a chuckle.

Racers who got the first taste of the track hugged 15 tight curves on 70 feet of elevation changes. A straight-away portion of the course is 2,000 feet in length allowing motorists to reach high speeds before reaching one of the most panoramic curves of the track.

Linda Cook said Friday the goal is not to build a gargantuan motorsports complex like Texas Motorspeedway, but a mostly outdoor place for racers of many varieties to compete, test vehicles and learn driving techniques.

Humphrey said the variety of motorsports includes high-performance motorcycle racing. He said there is a large demand for such a place in the Dallas-Fort Worth area — which he understands to be the fourth largest metropolitan area in the U.S. He said generational demographics, and not just population, will factor into the raceway’s success.

“The Baby Boomers are nearing retirement age, and they’re not content to sit around,” Humphrey said. “It takes time and money to buy fancy sport cars, but no place to drive them and learn competitive driving skills. We hope to provide that.”

He said membership-only race clubs are popping up across the U.S., and are drawing in weekend hobbyists, race professionals and people just wanting to do something new.

“We’re member based, but we’re not member-dependent,” he said.

He said the nearest club track that he knows of is in Cresson (south of Weatherford). But the nearest “true, permanent road course” is in Elkhart, Wisc., or Alabama, Utah, he said. He said those tracks are more promotional in nature than open to new members.

Cook said she and husband David looked for a tract of land to host the raceway for many years, but most were “flat and boring.”

She said when the couple met with a real estate agent to view the Slidell-area property, they were eager to sign a check for it almost immediately.

“God did not design this property for ranching,” she said. “It’s made for racing.”

She pointed out several vantage points along the course which provide a view of the entire track, including a man-made hill where a clubhouse will be situated.

Drought conditions over the past two years allowed for rapid progress on the track — until recent months. Cook said in last week’s storms parts of the track were washed out, and repairwork is underway. She said the rain this early in the track’s operation was advantageous, as crews are placing drainage ditches and culverts along low points where the water came over the way, and are reinforcing the clay underneath the perfectly beveled, Formula-spec pavement.

Bob Smith, of Bob Smith Coachworks, a restorer of high-performance sports cars in Gainesville, said he had not heard of the track when asked Thursday.

“How can something like this be in my backyard and I not even know about it?” he said.

Smith said similar tracks can draw large, international crowds, which would in turn help the local economy.

“It could cause people to want to build hotels and restaurants, which may help our area out financially,” Smith said.

Humphrey said the track is not licensed by Formula One racing’s governing body, (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, based in Paris), and that would not be the goal, as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is sufficient for Formula One activities in the nation. He said, in theory, it would take decades for the Eagles Canyon Raceway to reach the prestige of the Brickyard.

Smith said car shows have their Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which he said is the premiere car show in the U.S. Formula car racing has their Indy 500.

“You shouldn’t mimic it,” Smith said, “They’ll have to stand on their own.”

On the Net:

Eagle’s Canyon Raceway: www.eaglescanyon.com

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr@ntin.net

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