In recent years, we’ve seen several race tracks shuttered. Oftentimes, their demise is the result of the value of the real estate on which the track sits outweighing the potential to continue operating as an entertainment venue.
Brand new facilities being constructed has become a rarity. But, thanks to a couple of well-respected Indianapolis businessmen, Circle City Raceway will soon be in operation.
Kevin Garrigus and Jonathan Byrd II are teaming up to bring a new quarter-mile, semi-banked dirt oval to Indianapolis in time for the 2021 racing season.
Garrigus is funding the project, while Byrd is the track manager and will oversee and consult with Garrigus throughout its completion, then manage day-to-day operations.
The raceway is currently being built on the grounds of the 91-year-old, 123-acre Marion County Fairgrounds, on the southeast side of Indy, sitting on the corner of I-465 and I-74.
Garrigus is also the owner of the Indianapolis Speedrome, which he purchased in 2016. That fifth-mile, flat asphalt oval opened in 1941 and boasts a rich history.
The Speedrome is the birthplace of the popular Thursday Night Thunder series that once featured USAC midget events televised live to a national audience on ESPN in the 1980’s. It is the current home to the annual World Figure 8 Championship held each September.
When Garrigus purchased the Speedrome, it was in dire straits. Through two previous owners, the facility had deteriorated. In addition, the crowds and car count had slowly dwindled. Garrigus immediately upgraded the facility with new restrooms, concessions, upgraded food options, and upgraded seating.
He offered fans a low-cost ticket option showcasing weekly late model figure 8 racing and fans and competitors returned. Currently, the Speedrome plays host to healthy crowds and healthy fields of cars in the pit area each weekend.
Prior to purchasing the Speedrome, Garrigus was a late model figure 8 car owner.
Throughout his childhood, he had spent his Saturday nights crewing for his uncle, Donnie Garrigus, who competed at the Speedrome.
At age nine, Kevin’s son began racing karts at the Speedrome before eventually moving up to the late model figure 8 division.
The 44-year-old Garrigus has an eye for detail and his cars won some of the biggest late model figure 8 races in the country, including the World Figure 8 Championship.
Prior to being hired by Garrigus as the Speedrome’s track manager in 2016, Byrd had met with the Marion County Fairgrounds fair board regarding the possibility of building a quarter-mile dirt track on the property. Unable to secure enough funding to get the project off the ground, talks eventually came to an end.
However, early in their business relationship, Byrd found Garrigus to be immediately receptive to his suggestion.
“Me and Jonathan Byrd had been talking about it for a couple of years,” explained Garrigus. “We finally pulled the trigger and went over to the Marion County Fairgrounds. They told me they were getting ready to come talk to me anyway. Dirt racing is a big thing in Indiana right now. I wanted to bring something to Indianapolis and try something different.”
Garrigus had a rough skeleton to work with.
“The only thing there was a small, rundown dirt track that they did flat-track stuff with ATV’s and dirt bikes. The only other thing on the property is lights and a 3,000-seat grandstand,” said Garrigus. “I just purchased 2,000 more aluminum seats to add to it. We’re building two concession stands, restroom, ticket booth, and a scale house. Everything there is gonna be brand new.”
Those existing remnants were all that was left of the defunct Mid-America Speedway, which operated from 2008-‘19 and featured weekly motorcycle racing. It was seven feet short of being a quarter-mile and was relatively flat.
Garrigus considers the facility to be a long-term investment.
“We have a very long-term lease; I got a 30-year lease,” Garrigus said. “I’m all the way deep in it and I love it. I like owning the race track aspect of it better. I love helping the racers and the fans.”
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