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Changes at Madison International Speedway

I'm not the kind of guy who frequents auto racing events. My second-ever speedway experience happened a few years ago, when a friend invited my son and me to Madison International Speedway, on Sunrise Road in Oregon.

Back then, Terry Kunes owned what's known as "Wisconsin's fastest half-mile oval." He operated it from 2003 until last month.

That's when Gregg McKarns, who owns the ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) Midwest Tour, purchased the track.

My experience there was much more favorable than at another racetrack in Dane County (during which my son and I were pelted with flying pieces of track in the concessions area, conveniently located near one of the turns. No wonder people around us clutched large plastic shields.)

The only thing that hit me that first night at Madison International Speedway was the realization that I actually kinda like auto racing.

So when McKarns told me last week why people who have never attended an event at the speedway should check out the racing this summer, I could relate.

"Whether you enjoy our sport on television or just enjoy being thrilled, our show is a three-hour adrenaline rush -- tires squealing, sparks flying, all-out competition -- that you can't find on the Internet," he says. "You can sit down with family and friends in a clean atmosphere and enjoy everything happening in front of you, instead of what is on a screen. It is real life, full of real emotions that trigger all of your senses."

In addition to retaining the speedway's longtime Friday night tradition of spring and summer racing, McKarns says he plans to add more events and develop thrill shows.

Madison International Speedway, built in 1969, has undergone significant changes before, including a new name (it was called "Impact Speedway" in the 1980s), and was closed from 1989 to 1992. Matt Kenseth and Dick Trickle have raced and won there.

ARCA ranks among the leading auto racing sanctioning bodies in the country, and McKarns plans to make Madison International Speedway an integral part of the ARCA Midwest Tour circuit. The track's new era will begin May 3 with the Joe Shear Classic 100 super late model event. Also in action will be Mid-American Stock Car Series and Midwest Truck Tour.

A new website for Madison International Speedway is expected to go live soon:

Michael Popke


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