The high-pitch scream of the engines.
The haze of a low cloud of exhaust smoke filling the air.
The distinctive smell of the special and expensive blend of race fuel.
The buzz of activity filling the arena as racers and race fans alike scurry about.
The atmosphere surrounding race weekend inside the Arena at the Summit County Fairgrounds is as dizzying as the racing on the indoor track.
Thursday is a warm-up day for motocross and ATV racers to test out the indoor track and see how well their equipment and nerves handle the small and not-so-small hills and hairpin curves created inside the arena.
The real action takes place on Friday and Saturday nights when the winner-takes-all races are held.
A dirt track spans the entire center of the arena, while vendors and bleachers rim the outside edges.
The arena is typically home to dog shows and horse competitions, but for two weekends in the winter, it is home to dirt-flying, wheels-up racing.
While the track is a one-size-fits-all kind of the thing, the racers range from fresh preschoolers on tiny bikes to daring teenagers to thrill-seeking adults who ride scream machines around the course at break-neck speeds.
Mason Dix made his “professional” racing debut at January’s outing of the Summit Indoor Motocross event.
His dad, Matt, has been racing fast things for some 30 years or so. Mason’s previous experience was slowly puttering around the family’s property in Portage County’s Edinburg Township.
The track’s hills towered over Mason’s tiny 4-year-old frame and like-sized ATV.
His racing machine crawled its way up one hill after another while Mason held on tight.
Once his practice round was over and his ATV was parked on the back of dad’s pickup, Mason tenderly grabbed his dad’s hand for a walk back into the arena to check out some of the big boys and girls tearing up the track.
Mason, a youngster of few words, admitted the experience was a bit unnerving.
“I liked the flat parts,” he said with a whisper over the motorcycles roaring around the track.
Mason’s not the only racer in the family. His big sister Olivia, 7, also races.
“This is a family sport,” Matt said.
While the kids enjoy the competition — more so for Olivia at this point — it brings a mixed a bag of emotions for Mom and Dad.
“For my wife it is nerve-racking,” Matt said. “My mom closes her eyes during the races.”
Matt said he has confidence in his son — who ironically still has training wheels on his bicycle — when he climbs aboard his No. 66 ATV.
Mason is humble about his racing beginnings.
“My sister is a better rider,” he said sheepishly.
In all, some 350 racers will take to the track when Summit Indoor racing holds its races Friday and Saturday.
Organizer Bobby Noah said the adult racers run the gambit from doctors to lawyers to factory workers.
And the younger racers range from those as young as Mason to hordes of teenagers honing their skills.
“This is definitely a family sport for the younger racers,” he said. “It just takes the support of the whole family to do it.”
Among the teen racers is Maria Nuosci.
The 16-year-old Woodridge High School student has been riding ATVs since she was 4.
Being one of the few girls on the track doesn’t bother Maria.
“Once you are racing, everybody is the same,” she said.
The quad his daughter races on is a bit smaller than some of those of her competitors so Rocco Nuosci said it can be a bit unnerving to sit along an outside rail watching other racers soar high in the air on the big jumps.
“They literally go over top of her,” he said. “I just panic.”
Maria said she just worries about her own quad and has confidence in the ability of her fellow competitors.
“Inside tracks are a lot harder than the outdoor ones,” she said. “The racing is a lot more bunched up.”
But this also makes for some exciting action for spectators who can pay $15 to see the action.
There are some inevitable spills and an occasional racer who will literally lose the seat off a bike or ATV, but flaggers scattered throughout the course are quick to throw a caution flag to slow competitors down.
“Our crew is amazing,” Noah said. “They are spot-on with everything. Safety is important.”
Maria, who’s also an avid snowboarder at Boston Mills, said she has emerged relatively unscathed aside from a minor concussion once.
But after a weekend of racing, Maria said, she will be a bit sore and bruised from all the jumps.
“You just get used to it,” she said.
From the necessary equipment to the special racing fuel, Rocco said, racing competitively can add up, particularly if you travel to compete. A special racing shock absorber alone can fetch upward of $1,500.
“You could easily drop $10,000 a year,” he said.
Maria said she loves the sport and the excitement of race day is priceless.
“I’m a bit of a daredevil,” she said. “I like doing extreme things.”
Craig Webb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3547.