From the air, there's nothing...
From the air, there's nothing unusual about Mottville Speedway. To get a picture of the track with no racing can be something of a challenge.
History shows that a Chicago area speedway ran 83 races in one season nearly a half century ago. It was a record, with emphasis on the word was.
It is common belief that a track in a warmer part of the country is more likely to break the record number of races in a season. But this is an incorrect assumption-the record is held by a track in southern Michigan. In fact, Mottville Speedway holds the record for most races and second most races.
In 2002, Mottville Speedway ran 85 events to establish itself as the titleholder. In 2003, it opened the gates for 88 events. It's a record that may never be broken. Mottville promoter Merle Holden isn't even going to try.
"We're only planning to run between 60 and 65 shows this year," Holden says. "Last year , the weather was horrible in March. It wasn't nice for any of the 10 days we had scheduled. It was cold and wet. December didn't help. It's been awful for the past couple of years."
Eric Root accepts another...
Eric Root accepts another checkered flag from track promoter Merle Holden. Root won 23 Mini Stock features in 2003.
This is a promoter who runs his show in an area where it's not uncommon to find tracks open only between Mother's Day and Labor Day. To schedule 88 programs over a 52-week period means you are running nearly constantly. "For 42 weeks, we ran every Saturday," says Holden. "Of course, we ran two nights a week for many weeks."
Mottville basically laughs at the idea of weather-related cancellations. The weather wasn't perfect for some of the shows, but the show must go on. "Twice, we had to plow the track," Holden admits.
Holden has been at the helm of Mottville for 13 years. His family promoted racetracks in the region. He became a car owner, did some driving, and worked as a track announcer and public relations representative. This was all happening while he was building a successful career in insurance, one which he maintains today with more than 30 years of service to Nationwide. Despite his commitment to his "day job," Holden knew he had to become a racetrack promoter.
"It was a rough first year," he recalls. "There are few who can believe I still own the track. That year, there was a bridge coming into Mottville that was torn up, so people had to take a detour around town to get to the track. That first year, it made sense to me that if I was paying taxes on the place and fixing it up, I should be running two nights, so we were racing Saturday and Sunday. It was horrible in April and May, so we dropped Sunday.
Drivers come from throughout...
Drivers come from throughout the region to put on the show. The group of drivers may be smaller in number than some area tracks, but their dedication has proven itself to be the backbone of racing at Mottville.
"The second year, I was super cautious. We ran 38 nights. It was Saturdays and a few Sundays. We started building up the dates as the seasons went along."
The track does not appear on the schedules of touring sanctions. There are special shows, but they are devoted to the racers who support the track on a regular basis. This facility is devoid of some of the pitfalls that have caused other tracks to fade from the landscape.
"We found we can't run the expensive classes," adds Holden. "It doesn't pay. We're driven by the back gate. That's not to say we haven't tried it. We've run Late Models, but we dropped them in 1996. I've soured on outside shows because few of them deliver. The worst night I ever had was bringing in a traveling Sprint series. It was the Fourth of July and we lost more money than any other time, yet because we had our biggest crowd, people thought I'd made a mint."
The bulk of the racing activity is confined to classes that would be second or third tier at many facilities. Street Stocks have been a mainstay. Mottville was the first track in the region to embrace the Mini Stock class in the mid-'90s. Growing classes include Mini Thunder cars and Karts.