Early Thaw founder Ernie Mincy to serve as grand marshal of 2017 Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout at Arizona Speedway

Early Thaw founder Ernie Mincy to serve as grand marshal of 2017 Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout at Arizona Speedway

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Sept. 29, 2016) — The man who launched the annual January migration of Dirt Late Model talent to Arizona that is now known as the Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout will serve as the grand marshal of the 2017 extravaganza of speed scheduled for Jan. 7-15 at its new venue, Arizona Speedway outside Phoenix.

Ernie Mincy, 64, of Casa Grande, Ariz. — the first promoter to lure well-known Dirt Late Model drivers from across the country to the Grand Canyon State for a winter racing meet with the Early Thaw series he founded in the early 2000s at his hometown’s Central Arizona Raceway — will visit the 3/8-mile Arizona Speedway in January during the six nights of Wild West Shootout Dirt Late Model, USRA Modified and X-Mod action to chat with fans, meet winning drivers in victory lane and relive the event’s history.

“I like the idea of doing it a lot,” Mincy said of serving as the 2017 Wild West Shootout’s grand marshal. “I think it’ll be neat, and it’ll be good for the fans to hear about when the big names started coming out to Arizona. I’m looking forward to getting over there (to Arizona Speedway) to see some races.”

West Coast short-track promoter Chris Kearns, who promotes the Wild West Shootout alongside Kevin Montgomery, couldn’t be more pleased that Mincy accepted the invitation to fill the grand marshal’s role that in recent years has been occupied by Dirt Late Model personalities C.J. Rayburn and Freddy Smith.

“I am honored to have Ernie be our grand marshal,” Kearns said. “The Wild West Shootout wouldn’t even exist without Ernie’s vision to start the Early Thaw and bring big-name Late Model racers out west. As far as I am concerned, Ernie Mincy is a legend amongst West Coast promoters.”

A native of northern Indiana who grew up watching relatives race at dirt tracks in the Hoosier State, Mincy relocated to the Southwest and, after taking over as promoter of Central Arizona Raceway in the late ‘90s, longed to see the type of high-level Dirt Late Model he had witnessed in the Midwest come to Arizona. He made that happen by traveling to tracks out east during the summer and recruiting drivers and teams to haul to Arizona in the middle of the winter for his Early Thaw series.

“I wanted to see the kind of racing I saw back east out here in Arizona,” Mincy said. “I wanted to get some high-tech Late Model racing going on out here. We had some Late Model racing (back in the ‘90s), but nobody was doing any good at it.

“When I went and talked to guys out east about running races in January in Arizona, a lot of them were real receptive to it and we got the Early Thaw going. Everybody was enthusiastic about having a place in Arizona to do some racing in January and try out some new things before they started racing back home … a lot of good, name guys came out and we had some pretty good races.”

Mincy, who operated Central Arizona Raceway for eight years, eventually sold the rights to the Early Thaw racing program to promoter Benji Lyons in the mid-2000s. He’s kept tabs on the growth of the January series that relocated to USA Raceway in Tucson, Ariz., in 2010 and, now under the direction of Kearns and Montgomery for the third consecutive year, has a new home for ’17 in Arizona Speedway, and he’s proud of what it has become.

“I’m glad to see it’s still going and fans in Arizona get to see some good Late Model guys from out east race here,” Mincy said.

The 2017 Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout kicks off on Sat., Jan. 7, and concludes with a Sun., Jan. 15, finale topped by a $12,000-to-win Super Late Model feature. Complete nights of racing will also take place on Sun., Jan. 8, Wed., Jan. 11, Fri., Jan. 13, and Sat., Jan. 14, and Sun., Jan. 15, with Saturday and Sunday programs going green at 5 p.m. and the Wednesday and Friday events starting at 7 p.m.

The January action expected to draw many of North America’s best dirt-track drivers. Over $200,000 in purses will be distributed to drivers in the three competing divisions over the course of the event, and Super Late Model drivers will have a shot at the Keyser’s Quarter-Million Challenge that offers a $250,000 bonus for sweeping all six races, $100,000 for capturing five of the six features and $50,000 for grabbing four victories.

Six-day General Admission tickets can be purchased for just $100, giving race fans and opportunity to enjoy all six nights for less than $17 per night. Single day tickets are $20 with the Jan. 15 Wild West Shootout finale priced at $25. Fans who take advantage of the six-day discounted pass will enjoy the final night of the Wild West Shootout absolutely free.

Advanced tickets may be purchased online at: http://www.wildwestshootout.net/schedule/ and ticket pricing/purchasing information can be found online at www.wildwestshootout.net or by calling the Wild West Shootout office at 520-664-2074.

Arizona Speedway is located just minutes from Phoenix. From Phoenix take U.S. 60 East to Ironwood Dr., turn right (south), go four miles and the track is on the right hand side.

For more information, visit www.wildwestshootout.net or call 520-664-2074

The Wild West Shootout team would like to thank our 2017 partners Keyser Manufacturing, Black Diamond Chassis, Club 29 Race Cars, M&W Transport, Mesilla Valley Transportation, Border International, FK Rod Ends, Karl Performance, Hoosier Tire, VP Race Fuels, Bad Boy Off-Road, Earnhardt Dodge, AR Bodies, RHR Swag, Barnett Harley-Davidson and The Courtyard by Marriott.