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Auto racing: Track owner mulling offers to sell MIS

Track owner Terry Kunes is mulling at least four offers to sell Madison International Speedway.

“I would like to have a deal done before the end of December,” said Kunes, who has operated the town of Rutland track for 11 seasons.

At last week’s track banquet, Kunes discussed his options, which include possible sales to Madison Area Technical College and a promoter who would continue a racing program at the track.

In the wake of the banquet, two more prospective buyers have come forward.

Kunes, 77, listed the track for sale more than four years ago, and his initial intent was to sell the facility to a person or group wanting to continue the 4½-decade racing tradition in the Madison area. He took MIS off the market for a time but became more aggressive this year in seeking a buyer. The asking price, including equipment, is $1.3 million.

Kunes and promoter Gregg McKarns drew up a 20-year, lease-to-own agreement in August, but that deal stalled in October when MATC officials wrote a more favorable offer.

“My hope is that it stays a racetrack, but a full cash offer would overshadow any finance offer at this time,” Kunes said.

MATC has rented the property for several years for use with its police and fire training program. It’s not known if the college would maintain the facility as a racetrack.

“I’m not in a position to get into where we are in that process at a specific level,” said Tim Casper, senior executive and special assistant to MATC president Jack E. Daniels.

“We’re in the process, trying to identify a permanent location for this activity, so we don’t have to be in the business of renting for these activities.”

McKarns worked as general manager and promoter at Rockford (Ill.) Speedway for more than a decade, and he now promotes races at La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway.

His late parents operated the ARTGO Challenge Series, a popular Midwestern-based stock car division that competed at Madison when the track was known as Capital Superspeedway.

“Madison speedway is, and can be, a showplace, and it’s a great place to put on events,” McKarns said. “There is just something magical when cars hit that track.

“I just want to see it remain a racetrack. I don’t know if it will be me who comes back with something else but I think now that this story is out there, other people with better financial means might be able to put this (sale) together.”

The track has an intriguing history and has become one of the premier short-track facilities in the Midwest.

Wausau’s Phil Bartus built a quarter-mile oval at Capital Superspeedway in 1963 and replaced it with the half-mile in 1969. Among those who raced at the track were future NASCAR drivers Alan Kulwicki, Dick Trickle, Mark Martin and Ted Musgrave.

A handful of owners ran the track after Bartus sold it in 1980, and the venue switched from asphalt to dirt and stock to sprint cars in 1987 when a Milwaukee ownership group changed the name to IMPACT Speedway.

The track closed twice, first in 1983 and again from 1989 until 1992 when Wayne Erickson bought the facility, got rid of the dirt and came up with the Madison International Speedway name.

Erickson sold MIS to Jerry Fillner in 1996, and Kunes took ownership in 2002 after the Fillner family declared bankruptcy.

On Kunes’ watch, elite drivers such as Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch have competed in special races at the track.

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