Popular West End Thunder drag races roaring into Forks airport again
Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News
Drivers line up their cars last year as they wait their turns to race at 2013's West End Thunder in Forks.
By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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One-eighth-mile drag racing, a classic car “show and shine” and food vendors are planned at the airport on South Forks Avenue today and Sunday.
“It's good fun that's family-oriented. You get to see lots of neat cars,” said Dan Anderson, a founding member of the nonprofit, all-volunteer West End Thunder drag-racing club.
Racing will begin at 10 a.m. both days, with gates opening at 7 a.m. for drivers and at 9 a.m. for spectators.
“We usually get anywhere from 90 to 100 racers,” said Cary Bourm, president of the West End Thunder club.
“I've had racers contact me from the Seattle area to come over.”
The car and motorcycle show will be from 9 a.m. to whenever the races end, probably about 5 p.m. or so, said Bourm, who expects somewhere between 25 and 40 cars to be displayed.
Spectators will pay $10 each day. Children 12 and younger will be admitted free.
Registration for the car and motorcycle show is $15 each day. Drag-race registration is $30 daily.
Overnight camping for $10 a spot is available for those who want to stay overnight near the track. Electricity and water hookups are not available.
Tickets will be for sale for $1 each for an ongoing raffle for small car-related items.
A larger grand prize may be available each day if enough tickets are sold.
The event attracts a wide audience and show and race participants.
“People come from all over the Northwest,” Anderson said.
A typical race weekend includes people and cars from British Columbia to Portland, Ore., he said.
West End Thunder has conducted the summer event at Forks Municipal Airport since 2006.
The race series requires a special exception from the Federal Aviation Administration.
FAA policy prohibits airports with grant obligations to close for non-aviation uses. The city airport has such obligations.
The city, which owns the airport, and West End Thunder were granted an exception in August 2006 and extensions after that.
In 2010, the FAA denied the city's request for an extension and was told the 2011 season would be the last.
Since that time, the city, West End Thunder and the FAA have worked out agreements to allow the races to continue, said Rod Fleck, city attorney.
“We have some obligations, some repairs and improvements to make. And the car club had to change the schedule a bit,” Fleck said.
The event is weather-dependent — a challenge for the Forks car enthusiasts.
“It's our biggest downfall,” Anderson said.
Three of the four scheduled race weekends in 2013 were canceled due to the weather on the famously rainy West End, he said.
The National Weather Service has predicted a 30 percent chance of rain Saturday and a cloudy but dry day Sunday.
“We've had a month of good weather. It was supposed to rain this week, but it seems to have gone around us,” Anderson said.
Rain or shine, the weekend will be a memorial to Arlen Pearsall, who died Feb. 7 from complications of a single-car wreck on an icy road south of Forks at the end of January, Bourm said.
Pearsall, who was 78 when he died, had been a founding member of West End Thunder.
He was the club's tech inspector, who looked over cars before they raced to make sure they were in good shape, Bourm explained.
“He was a really neat old guy,” Bourm said.
“He was kind of a father figure to us all.”
More drag races are planned July 5-6, Aug. 23-24 and Sept. 13-14.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Managing Editor/News Leah Leach contributed to this report.
Last modified: June 14. 2014 3:45AM