Flexibility, Innovation, And Consideration For Others Help To Overcome Unexpected Challenges

Flexibility, Innovation, And Consideration For Others Help To Overcome Unexpected Challenges

Bob Austin explains how attitude is everything in this article. He demonstrates, using a real-life case study, how flexibility, innovation, and consideration for others can help overcome unexpected challenges.

Robert Austin
Robert Austin

Les Phillips is the President of Buttonwillow Raceway Park, a facility that features a fabulous 3.1-mile road racing course for people who wish to race automobiles, motorcycles, or even go-karts.  In addition, the 3.1-mile course can be reconfigured into a series of smaller tracks to host multiple competitive events and even accommodate high-performance driving schools at the same time. Located about 125 miles north of LA and a few miles west of I-5, this beautiful motorsports complex is an enthusiast’s dream.  According to Phillips, the facility was used 326 days in 2020.  They could not accommodate any more business, and it tore him up to have to turn people and events away.  Expansion looked like the proper solution.

There was plenty of land for expansion adjacent to the existing facility.  But as you might expect, getting permission to build or extend a facility that will exist to enjoy motor vehicles is not an easy task.  As you can imagine, there are many environmental hurdles to clear and lots of regulations from the Federal Department of Fish and Wildlife which need to be satisfied.  Phillips found a piece of land right next to the existing facility and came up with the idea of creating a Buttonwillow Track 2.  It made a lot of sense.  The overall location was well known and popular, and it was situated right off a major Interstate highway.  The land had the right basic contours, and it seemed like the logical way to go.  So, the land was carefully surveyed, examined by all of the appropriate government agencies. Just as the new track layout was being created, a call came in from the Federal Department of Fish and Wildlife that changed everything!

The Appearance Of A Giant Kangaroo Rat

Buttonwillow’s consulting biologist had discovered that right in the heart of the new property lived a single, male bachelor of the endangered Giant Kangaroo Rat species!  These animals are indigenous to some remote areas, but not the Buttonwillow parcel.  It remains a mystery how a lone GKR found its way to this land that was not a natural GKR habitat.  The land is permanently designated as an "endangered habitat" due to such a discovery, making development nearly impossible.  The consulting biologist was able to locate the center of the bachelor’s home.  Armed with that knowledge, Buttonwillow offered up 9.78 acres as a permanent homestead for the GKR.  This act of mitigation allowed the development of the remaining and surrounding acreage for the new track.

Once that had been established, it was merely a matter of designing the new track to surround the Kangaroo Rat “forever home” habitat with adequate margins.  So you might think the most significant single influence on the design of the new track was the Giant Kangaroo Rat!  You might also say that the Giant Kangaroo Rat in this particular community will have the front row seat to some of the best motorsports activities in the entire world!

When interviewing Phillips for this article, I could hear the smile on his face through the phone.  He loved the idea of a headline that would read, “Giant Rat designs racecourse.”  But, the fact of the matter was this could have shut the entire project down.

Finding A Solution

Phillips and his team worked very closely with the government officials of California and Federal Agencies to reach a solution that would make all parties happy and that would have minimal impact on the environment and its inhabitants.  So, in addition to the shape of the track being wide enough to leave a safe margin around the rat habitat, many other quite notable environmental initiatives are being taken.

Buttonwillow is located just off Interstate 5, which was in the process of being repaved.  The concrete removed from the I-5 was ground down, screened, applied, watered, compacted, and then graded.  It formed a solid, totally recycled base on which to build the actual track surface. In the process, Phillips said the track was able to utilize 74,000 tons of the old I-5 concrete, saving it from being trucked a much greater distance for disposal.

Going The Extra Mile

The environmentally friendly efforts did not stop there.  The actual racing surface will be recycled asphalt with a unique formulation made right on-site in a portable asphalt plant.  When completed, it will be composed of 98 percent recycled materials, including asphalt ground off the surface of repaved roads and rubber pellets made from recycled tires (a mixture of 9 car tires to one truck tire). The only new material is a proprietary polymer oil that binds all of the other materials together, forming a new rubberized asphalt that is both long-lasting and stickier than the asphalt used on most roads today.  This is fantastic for a race track, and it may find its way into much broader use on streets and highways across our country and the world if it proves itself here.

Because of its proximity to the popular Interstate 5, which is said to have the heaviest traffic in the world of Tesla vehicles, the facilities at Track 2 will include 16 Tesla Supercharging stations.  It will also have parking for RVs and campers, and naturally, the facility will make extensive use of solar power.  Phillips explained that as long as you make a significant investment for the future, it only makes sense to invest in all of the best, most advanced, and most environmentally advanced concepts you can. And that is exactly what they are doing at Buttonwillow.  In October of this year, Track 2 will open.

Now you may be asking yourself, if all of these race cars and motorcycles burn gasoline, won’t they be outlawed in the future? Well, there is no guarantee that they will not be.  What is likely to be banned are petroleum-burning engines. There is no environmental reason to ban vehicles or people’s desire to enjoy the competition of speed.

As you read this story, there is already a racing series named Formula E, where all the racing cars are electric. They look like race cars, they perform like race cars, but I have to confess, they do not sound like the race cars we are used to hearing.  Yet, people have always been fascinated by vehicles, driving skills, and pure speed. That interest may never fade. And, whatever may power future cars, some people will want to race them, and others will want to watch.  And thanks to Les Phillips and his crew at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, and his Giant Kangaroo Rat community, the people of California will have a great facility to conduct and enjoy the competition.


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