Knowing it will soon close is sad, but for many area auto racing fans, seeing it all end at its peak is truly depressing.
Since purchasing Texas Thunder Speedway four years ago, track promoter David Goode has poured money, ideas and effort into the facility, making it an extremely popular and family friendly Saturday night destination. Despite a passionate fan base, the track is situated on leased property, which was recently sold by its owners, forcing the establishment to close its doors at the end of the month after operating for 41 years.
For many who have grown up around the track and watched it change hands numerous times throughout the years, Goode’s era as owner will go down as one of the most successful.
“Just in the last few years, a lot of improvements have been made,” said Shelley Cochran, who began attending races as a kid and now brings her grandchildren decades later. “The track is just beautiful. David has really put his heart and soul into it.”
Numerous longtime residents of the quarter-mile track at the intersection of West Stan Schlueter Loop and Bunny Trail agree.
“The track is in the best shape now than it has ever been,” former racer and current track announcer Tim Essenburg said. “David Goode and the whole Goode family have done a tremendous job. There is nothing else you can say except it is a prime facility now.”
Among other things, Goode purchased extra equipment, widened the dirt track, improved the racing surface, replaced fences, repaired the parking lot, installed new lighting, overhauled the stands and upgraded the sound system in an effort to enhance the overall experience. Additionally, Goode helped bring bigger racing series tours to Texas Thunder Speedway, while also promoting powder puff races for nonprofessional women drivers, and kids races, further increasing its reach and overall popularity.
With only three races remaining, Goode has mixed emotions concerning the track’s approaching demise.
“I believe I have moved in and made the best of everything that has been there for 40 years,” the former driver turned owner said. “I think you are better to go out on a high note. Hopefully, this track makes everyone remember the positive in it from here on forward.
“Then again, it is sad because it has improved so much and now it has to go.”
Less than a decade ago, Goode, who moved to Killeen in 1982, never could have imagined he would one day own the track he frequently visited while operating a wrecker for his towing company. His affiliation changed, though, when he decided to get behind the wheel and race.
“They always needed wreckers out there, and they’d let you in free if you showed up in a wrecker,” Goode recalled. “(One time,) I was inside the oval with the wrecker and just decided I needed to drive one of them race cars.”
Before long, Goode was offered a chance to purchase the track, which was originally constructed by Bill Barbee and opened as Stars and Stripes Speedway in 1972.
“He could see the size of the family that I have and the heart and determination that is within me,” Goode said. “He said he thought I could run this place a lot better than he could.”
Although many hope Goode will purchase a plot of land and recreate the essence of Texas Thunder Speedway elsewhere in the area, he admits there is practically no chance it happens.
“It just takes too much money to do it,” Goode said.
The decision means countless racing enthusiasts like Josh Kuhnau, who has been a regular at Texas Thunder Speedway since 1997, will be forced to travel to surrounding tracks to feed their addictions.
“It is a shame that it is going away because (Goode) has put so much time and effort into it,” Kuhnau said. “Everybody loves it. There are guys who come from out of state to race here. It is a tough deal. It is home.”