by Ryan Isley
NORTON, Ohio – It was a beautiful fall evening for racing on Saturday night in Norton, Ohio. The problem for the last few years is that there wasn’t a place for that racing to happen on a night like this. That all changed this weekend when Barberton Speedway reopened.
The speedway is hosting the First Annual Cavalcade this weekend, with Saturday night seeing qualifying and heat races for Late Model, Modified, Street Stock and Compact divisions and then full shows for the Legend Cars and Bandoleros. Sunday will have features in the Compacts, Street Stocks, Modifieds and Late Models.
The thirst for local racing was evident from the moment you pulled into the parking lot. The lots were filling up fast and people were even forced to park across the street from the track at other local businesses. Once you parked and got into the track, it was wall-to-wall people who were expressing their excitement that the facility had reopened.
Brothers Mike and Patrick Mazzagatti bought the track earlier this year with the expectation to put on a full season in 2016. The two brothers have worked together on every decision pertaining to the track, something that has made them successful. Even if it seemed like a bad business decision at the time, there was no way the Mazzagatti’s could do anything but what they did.
“I have so many memories here,” Mike Mazzagatti said. “I wanted to make sure it didn’t die. We were the last hope and we share everything 50/50, even our own personal car.”
It turned out that the Mazzagatti’s weren’t the only ones who had memories of the track that they wanted to relive. A crowd of nearly 2,500 came through the gates on Saturday night, even without the main events that will take place on Sunday.
“It’s unbelievable, just unbelievable,” Mike Mazzagatti said. “We knew the city, the drivers and the fans were behind us, but this is probably the biggest turnout (at Barberton Speedway) in 30 years.”
In attendance for the big event was Norton Mayor Mike Zita, who addressed the crowd prior to the races to express his excitement that racing had finally returned to his city. Zita then went from the tower down the flag stand, where he waved the green flag to start the new era of Barberton Speedway.
The track announced a car count of around 100 for the event on Saturday night, a number that had even the most optimistic of people surprised. Among the surprised people was Mazzagatti.
“I knew everybody was behind us,” Mike Mazzagatti said. “I was excited that the fans and drivers were excited. This is the best car count I have seen at any track I have been to this year.”
It seems safe to say that under the watchful eye of the Mazzagatti’s, the magic will be back at Barberton Speedway for a long time.