There are a lot of people who build a reputation in the community, or build a metaphor for a bridge between people, but the Estevan Motor Speedway’s newest member of the Wall of Fame actually helped physically build the track.
James Gustafson described some of the process as he accepted the award Saturday night at the EMS’s annual awards banquet and dinner.
“It feels really good to be acknowledged,” said Gustafson, also a former president of EMS. “I’m not the kind of person that needs acknowledgement but it’s nice to have.”
Since helping build the track nearly 20 years ago, Gustafson has seen a lot of the changes that have gone on and how the track has grown.
“It’s an ever-growing thing,” he said. “I think we’re very fortunate to be licensed under IMCA. They’re an organization that really helps us with the rulings and that kind of thing. That’s always changing with the way the engines and all that have changed. They’ve got to be on top of that all the time.”
The racers ultimately know what kind of racetrack they want to be on, Gustafson said, and that was their goal when they built the track.
“Three components make a racetrack run,” he said. “That’s the workers and volunteers, the fans and the drivers. And you’ve got to keep a balance among all three of those.”
He said there were years when the track wasn’t as good as it is now. There were years of experimentation and with better equipment, it’s been made tremendous.
“When we started, a lot of the racers liked a tacky track and some still do,” Gustafson said. “But for the most part a lot of them like a dry slick, and to get that in place where it’s not dusty and is a good racing surface. Smooth… that’s what really makes good racing.”
As someone who started from the ground up, Gustafson liked the construction part of the track, but a highlight for him was to have different people come together when it happened.
“It was just good to be with all these different people who were all experts in their own field,” he said.
Gustafson said travelling to Minot, N.D.’s race track was a good experience and he didn’t think they could replicate that in Estevan.
“I think we’ve actually surpassed it,” he said. “Other than the east winds we get all the time that fills the stands with dust, there’s nothing more enjoyable on a nice summer evening than to sit there and watch these guys compete.”
Gustafson still loves the sound of the engines and the smell of the fuel and the competitiveness of race day.