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PGARA Speedway hit by wire theft

Non-profit Prince George stock car racing club scrambling to make repairs in time for first race meet May 25

Less than two weeks before the season-opening Turgeon Memorial race meet, the city’s stock car racing community is in shock after it was discovered Saturday that all the wiring at PGARA Speedway has been stolen by copper thieves.

Aaron Conn, a director for the not-for-profit Prince George Auto Racing Association, learned of the theft over the weekend after a driver wanting to test his car for some hot-lap time on the three-eighths mile oval track noticed the cut wires dangling from the flag stand.

Conn and PGARA Jamie Crawford visited the track and discovered all the wiring that connects the track lighting, the electronic timing system had been cut and stolen. The club also lost its public address system speakers and electrical lines.

“They got all the wiring all around the race track, everything,” said Conn. “Talking to (a scrap metal dealer) they got probably a couple hundred bucks of copper but it’s probably going to cost us at least $20,000 to replace that and we’ve got to do it in the next week and a half to get the race track up and running.”

The May 25 meet is the first of nine weekends of racing at PGARA Speedway this year.

Conn said they could run the season-opening races without the track lights and possibly use the labour-intensive manual timing/lap counting to replace the MyLaps computerized system that works on a transponder and chip attached to each vehicle.  

“Last year we spent thousands to get the MyLaps system up and going and now they’ve cut the wire close to the wall so we might have to put a new wire in the track, we don’t know that yet,” said Conn.

“We have to figure this all out. It’s a sensitive wire and we don’t know if we can splice it back together.”

He said before the first meet the club needs to have public address system working. They also hope to have the FM radio broadcast system restored for the racing play-by-play for fans watching the races from the stands and parking areas that overlook the track.

Based on photographs taken by other drivers testing their race cars in recent weeks, Conn said the theft occurred sometime between the last week of April and the first week of May. He estimates it would have taken at least a couple hours to snip all the wires. The main entrance road that leads from Highway 16 is blocked by a gate and there were no signs of forced entry.

The club stored plywood and lumber under the stands that overlook the front straightaway and most of that was also taken.

The track doesn’t have a surveillance or alarm system and it’s not the first time it’s been vandalized. Two years ago, all the glass windows of the timing booth were smashed, the fence was broken and graffiti was painted on the walls.

“It just pisses you off,” said Conn. “This group, the board of directors and members, has worked so hard to get the race track cleaned up and fixed up with the new pavement (three years ago), new fencing, new signage and everything working right.

“Being a non-profit organization we’ve done it out of our own pockets, besides sponsorship and people coming through the gate to watch the shows. This is a real kick in the butt. All it takes is one jackass and we’re $20,000 in the hole, and that’s a low estimate right now.”

The latest theft has been reported to the RCMP and the club is discussing with its insurance company whether to make a claim or not.

Started in 1952, PGARA is one of the city’s oldest sporting organizations and it has about 250 active members.