Renovated Barberton Raceway Park Set To Open
A staple of northeastern Ohio short track stock car racing opens its first season as a NASCAR-sanctioned track Friday, April 20.
The newly enlarged and renovated Barberton Raceway Park is the fifth NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track in Ohio. The .300-mile paved oval is located near Akron in Norton.
The track features Late Models as its top division as designated by first-year owner and promoter Jacob “Jake” Francis. Francis, 22, of Leroy Township, Ohio, is one of the nation’s youngest short track operators. He has charted an aggressive rejuvenation program for the facility.
Francis shifted Barberton’s weekly race night to Fridays beginning this year. The shift creates a two night NASCAR circuit with Lake County Speedway, a .200-mile paved oval in Painesville that operates on Saturdays. The Lake County track opens April 28.
“Barberton Raceway Park is a great addition to NASCAR’s presence in northeastern Ohio,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR vice president, regional and touring series. “The cooperation between officials at Barberton and Lake County benefits fans and race teams from Akron to Cleveland.”
Francis recently completed a massive improvement program for the 64-year-old track. The back straightaway was widened, expanding the racing groove and distance.
“We’ve built a new experience for drivers and fans alike,” Francis said. “On the competition side, the back stretch is kicked out 16 feet and the entire track has new pavement. For our fans, we renovated our main grandstands and gave the facility a whole new look. We’re excited about finally opening the gates Friday night.”
Francis has worked as an engine builder for Francis Engineering which is owned by his father Dale. The company builds race engines for a variety of race cars and trucks. As a driver, Francis has a diverse background that includes racing Legends cars at Barberton, touring Super Late Models and the ARCA Racing Series.
“I’ve competed at Barberton but I’ve never won a race here,” Francis said. “We have a great track and we’re looking forward to the next 20 years.”
Other NASCAR-sanctioned divisions at Barberton include Sportsman, Hobby Stocks, Pure Stocks and Mini Trucks. Legends and Modifieds will make frequent appearances. The track will also host non-NASCAR sanctioned truck and tractor pull events on selected Saturdays.
Barberton Raceway Park’s 2011 champions include Jesse Adams (Late Models), Keith Henline (Sportsman), Adam Arrington (Hobby Stocks), Jake Emerling (Pure Stocks) and Keith Paulick (Mini Trucks).
In addition to the Barberton and Lake County tracks, other NASCAR Whelen All-American Series speedways in the Buckeye State include Columbus Motor Speedway, a .333-mile paved oval; Kil-Kare Speedway, a .375-mile paved oval in Xenia; and Limaland Motorsports Park, a .250-mile clay oval in Lima.
NASCAR-licensed Division I drivers are eligible to compete for NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championships and point fund awards at the track, state or province, and national levels. Track champions receive customized helmets. State and province champions receive driver uniforms from series sponsor Whelen Engineering.
NASCAR-licensed drivers in each track’s NASCAR-sanctioned support divisions compete for points in the NASCAR Finalist program. The program brings added recognition to drivers in NASCAR Divisions II-V. Points are kept separately for asphalt and dirt tracks.
Barberton’s track website is www.barbertonracewaypark.com.