CORDOVA, Ill. – The 66th Annual O’Reilly Auto Parts World Series of Drag Racing is down to single-digits in it’s countdown.
Three days to be exact. And the staff at Cordova International Raceway (CIR) are coming into the homestretch for the event they prepare for all year long.
“Preparation,” CIR president Dominic Blasco said. “You’re talking about getting the facility ready, cutting grass that doesn’t get cut all year, doing all of that stuff. These guys … the phone calls coming in, the work setting up, the contracts to vendors, racers.It’s all so important.”
There’s a lot that goes into hosting the World Series every single year. Thousands and thousands of racers, vendors and fans flock to Cordova for the event, which Blasco likes to refer to as the “Woodstock of drag racing”. It all kicks off this Friday with the first spectator events.
But it started as soon as the last one ended. The planning and details that go into the event are endless. The staff started booking the show you will see at the starting line this weekend six months ago.
“We started booking those racers in February, CIR Director of Marking Brooke Posateri said. “Every single one you see here we’ve had to take the time to personally work with.”
Then, they had to find extra help. CIR has to call in both corporate employees and local staffers every year to help with the demand of the O’Reilly Auto Parts World Series of Drag Racing. Posateri says it’s never hard to find people who want to help out for the weekend.
“We’ve been really lucky the last couple of years,” Posateri said about finding staff for the weekend. “I just put a post on Facebook, and people respond because this place means so much to so many.”
There are also the people who come in from race tracks owned by IRG from across the nation. The last few weeks, IHRA’s Bob Fairey has been at the track, scraping it down and getting it ready. It’s the fourth year he’s come up from the headquarters in Palm Beach, Fla. to help with getting the track prepared.
“It’s paramount,” Fairey said about getting the quarter mile ready for the weekend. “Those cars are super demanding. Try to get something with 11,000 horsepower down the racetrack, it’s a challenge.”
Not only has he been out on the track in the weeks leading up, but he’ll be out there all weekend. It’s important for the events like Top Fuel and Jet Dragsters happening Friday and Saturday.
“The preparation that we’re doing right now is part of it, but I’ll spend the day on the track up to the day we have cars coming down the track, and then maintain during it,” Fairey said. “That’s just what we do. We pride ourselves on giving everyone a good show.”
Starting Wednesday, the staff at CIR will be welcoming in vendors for food, merchandise and novelty and beginning the set-up process. Then, on Thursday, the gates open for racers and campers. If you check back on Wednesday night, you’ll already see the line forming for the first-come, first-serve camping spots.
“It’s tradition for some of them,” Posateri said. “And for some they just want the first camping spot.”
By Thursday, everyone from the concession stands to the racing trailers are settled in. Gates open at 7 a.m. on Friday and there are races on the dragstrip by 9 a.m. After that, it doesn’t really stop until everything is done on Sunday.
For a lot of the staff at CIR, that means working until the early morning hours, and being back soon after the sun rises.
That’s a long weekend, but one that they love doing for the thrill of the event.
“There’s this adrenaline rush that surrounds World Series,” Posateri said. “Frankly, we’re running on zero. Come Saturday morning, the adrenaline is so real that we’re up and ready and excited to go. The energy is awesome. Come Monday, we’re begging for a day off.”